Fashion Tips for Prom / Semi-Formal Dress Shopping with your teens

Lisa Lehmann

Posted on October 29 2013

Dress shopping. Dress shopping with teens. Prom dress shopping with teens.
Do those sentences get progressively scarier? Or is that just me?
I think I have a fairly decent grasp on fashion. Therefore, when it's time to take my teenagers shopping I don't worry too much. In fact, I almost look forward to it.
Until. Until it came time for dress shopping for semi-formal. Semi-formal. Who made that action up? Truly it's the 'go-spend-money-on-a-dress-even-though-it's-not-prom'. Seems hallmark gimmicky ..but what do I know? As a mom who homeschooled for 1 million years this is a very new thing. Hold me?
So I prepared myself. I mean, other than wanting them to wear burlap sacks from neck to toe, how hard could this be. Ok, I knew I had to be somewhat reasonable, and open my mind…a little.
Off we went. Isabel - freshman age 14. Anneke - junior age 16.
My girls are very different. Physically and emotionally. Isabel is tall and lanky - even things that aren't short for most people end up being short on her long legged body. Anneke has a beautiful athletic build. This was not going to be easy.
BREATHE.
First store. Macy's. Does everything have be so short? Or tight? Or low? Jumpers? Aren't jumpers trendy?
Isabel found a dress I loved. She wasn't sold. My thoughts, covered on top and I thought a "high-low" would be perfect for her. Or in my mind a "win-win". Short in the front...teenager happy. Longer in the back...aka bend over safe...mama happy. We put it on hold.
Anneke. No. No. No. The attitude change was so thick you could feel it. Why me? Dress shopping and a discouraged teenager? Have mercy!
Moving on. Windsor. Now THAT is a lot of dresses. Most deemed inappropriate by moi...but I'll play along in the spirit of keeping everyone joyful...grab grab grab. Try them all I think.
Dressing room. I assume the position. Drop bags. Wait. And pray.
Grunts. Sighs. No.
And then I heard it...angel voices.
Anneke…"I like this one".
Black and white. Polka dots. Flattering. Cute. Needed some adjustments...like straps. But I was sensing joy...and it was pretty.
In walks sales girl - complete with devil horns headband - not kidding. Honestly? She was being helpful, and she was very sweet - the horns were deceiving (no pun intended). She had a suggestion. Another dress. We were skeptical...but hey, why not?
Door shuts.
Door opens.
It was perfect. Non clingy. Unique style. Great for her body. She looked amazing...and she knew it.
Attitude flip. Teenagers!
Best part of said dress? Last one of its kind. Sales rack. $8.00. Yes....$8.00.
One down. One to go.
Next store. Nada. Ugh.
Next store. Sears. Anneke and I were grabbing anything and everything for Isabel to try. She was resistant. No. No. No.
However, we did deduce what looks good and what does not. Back to Macy's to pick up our hold.
#winning
What I learned.
  1. Have an idea in your mind before you leave the house.
  2. Know - and make sure your girls know - what is acceptable and what is not.
  3. Set a budget.
  4. Be honest. If it does not look good...say so!
  5. Don't rush them. They need to process, and really look. I'm a fast decision maker...but teenage girls? Not so much. Be patient.
  6. Think about the "unmentionables". A good strapless bra goes a long way.
  7. Spandex under skirts that may rise is a MUST.
Remember...they are young girls...not 20. They should look fresh, and youthful. They have the rest of their lives to look old and - dare I even say "sexy"? - but not now. Not yet. And I agree….it's a tough line. But if you explain it…and not just enforce it…that goes a long way.
As for makeup, our plan is to go soft...dewy, light.
Shoes. Small heel...unlike mine that they tried on!!! And…I will teach them to walk like ladies. There is nothing worse than seeing a girl in heels trudge around like a farmer! Poise girls. Poise!
I'll be the very first to admit. I know nothing. This is all new territory. And. I'll make mistakes. A lot. Even as I look at their dresses…I think to myself. Are they ok? Should I have looked for more burlap? Geesh this parenting thing is hard!
Bottom line? We enjoyed each other that night. We had fun together. They respected my opinions and I listened to theirs. I'm very proud of my girls. I really look forward to being their friend…someday.
But right now? Now, I'm off to search for long, slouchy cardigans that button all the way up for them to wear over those dresses!
xooxooxoxox
lisa

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