Shopping for a prom dress can be just as life-altering as everything seems to be when you’re 16. My experience involved several frustrating trips to department stores and mall shops, where nothing felt as classy/grownup/pretty as I wanted, until I happened upon a semi-classic black beaded number with sheer cutouts and a side split (which I personally lengthened from knee-high to thigh-high) at dearly departed Parisian. I still have that dress.
While young folks today have more options than ever (thanks, Internet!), there are plenty of local IRL boutiques to shop for a dream dress:
Don’t freak out when you see the wedding dresses in the window; they carry age-appropriate formalwear for the 18-and-under set, too.
300 W Benson St., Reading, cincyclubdress.com
This OTR boutique is a good place to find body-con dresses, drape-y jumpsuits, and bold, unusual jewelry.
1315 Main St, Over-the-Rhine, (513) 421-8900
For the more casual girl, Curate is great for short dresses with modern cuts and details, like sculptural cocktail styles by lines like Cameo and Keepsake.
3433 Edwards Rd, Hyde Park, curateboutique.com
The ‘70s are back in a big way this season! For a true taste of the ‘Me’ Decade (or any other), tell owner Shawna Maria Guip what you’re looking for and she’ll help you find a vintage treasure.
2807 Woodburn Ave, Walnut Hills, (513) 240-4664
The entire front section of the shop is dedicated to the type of colorful, sparkly formal wear begging to be worn by prom queens and beauty queens alike.
9501 Montgomery Rd, Montgomery, kotsovosbridalfursandprom.com
The selection is tightly edited, but Marde’ carries fun fit-and-flare dresses in addition to slinky jersey separates. Hours vary, so call before you go.
2804 Woodburn Ave, Walnut Hills, (513) 888-2007
If authentic vintage is your thing, head to the basement at NVISION and prepare to ooh and aah over the selection of sparkly/frothy/foxy gowns from decades past. Remember: sizing was different back then, so ask to try things on.
4577 Hamilton Ave, Northside, nvisionshop.com
Sophisticated types will love Soho’s selection of mid-range designer dresses by favorites like Alice + Olivia and Shoshanna.
2757 Observatory Ave, Hyde Park, shopsohoboutique.com