Every year major web sites publish photo galleries of the "hottest prom dresses". Every year it's the same thing all over again: too-short, too-tight, too-low cut, sleeveless, strapless dresses shown on super-tanned super-skinny girls with perfect skin and hair. There appears to be nothing even remotely suitable for larger gals or those who prefer not to put that much skin on display - be it on the top or on the bottom. And where, oh where is a sensible young lady supposed to hide a serviceable bra under those weensy straps and barely-there bodices to provide herself with enough support to be comfortable? Even those sellers that do offer dresses that would work on a non-traditional-model size young lady show those pieces on their typical skinny models, which makes it very difficult to determine what it would actually look like.
Bodacious gals are not the only ones who have it tough when shopping for an evening frock. Those of us who are petite, pear-shaped, or hour-glass shaped frequently struggle as well, as everything seems to be cut for girls with all the geometric complexity of a ramrod. So, I spent some time today surfing the net to find some options for my size-, shape- and height-challenged sisters. While pickings are slim indeed, the situation is not entirely hopeless, ladies.
First of all, I would suggest ditching the trends. It should be of absolutely no consequence to you, what shape, size, cut or color is "in" right now. All we care about is what flatters your shape, what flatters your natural coloring, what is comfortable and what makes you look and feel utterly fabulous.
Second, screw designer this and that. You are not obligated to tell anyone, where your dress came from and how much it cost. If someone else is so insecure as to boost her self-esteem by boasting that her parents spent a mortgage payment on her latest whatever - fine. You don't need any of that. You are here to look gorgeous, and that's all there is to it.
Third, remember that more skin does not necessarily equal sexy. A more modest dress is an excellent man filter to separate idiots who are only looking for T&A from guys who are actually interested in your mind and your personality.
Fourth, do not rush to a tanning bed or reach for a can of spray-on tan. Study your natural complexion carefully. If you have beautiful peaches-and-cream coloring or a lovely pale porcelain look, then leave it where it is. Your normal skin tone is far more attractive and works better with your eyes and hair, than the "I have just been dipped in agent orange" look so many girls are in such a hurry to acquire.
If you are large-chested and need to wear a good bra under your dress, look for a frock with wide bra-friendly straps. It doesn't mean that you have to go to the prom looking like a nun from a very strict order. A dress with full-coverage bodice and wide straps can still look elegant via the use of color and decoration, sexy by throwing in a slit, and interesting by playing with length and texture, such as these creations from 7th Avenue, Chadwick's of Boston and eDressme.
All these dresses either have a little stretch to it or skim over the tummy. So, while the girls who fell for the fad diets to fit into their fad dresses continue to starve themselves, you can actually enjoy the buffet to give yourself energy for all the dancing later!
There are two things I love about old-fashioned paintings. One, they depict women of all shapes and sizes. Two, women are frequently portrayed with bare shoulders, reminding us how immeasurably alluring a woman can be without putting acres of cleavage and leg on display.
If you have beautiful shoulders, look for a frock that allows you to show them off. The two styles shown below still allow you to wear a bra for support while letting your lovely shoulders take center stage.
With a dress that has a lot going on with color, texture and cut, remember to cut back on the bling. Stick to simple earrings, one exquisite brooch or a couple of lovely bangles to show off your wrists.
A contemporary prom dress need not be full length. That said, it is absolutely not required that it falls into the micro-mini category. If you are not certain about your legs but like the convenience of a shorter length and really want to show off your pretty shoes, pick one that hits you just at the knee. The two Newport News dresses below are both very shape-friendly, comfortable, leave plenty of room for proper undergarments, have attractive but not-too-open necklines and allow you to flaunt your well-turned knees and ankles and shapely calves.
Before you go up in arms telling me that a little black dress is too momsy, too demure, too boring or too dark for the prom, please hear me out. LBD evolved far and beyond the little sheath that only ever looked good on Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy. These little numbers now come in all shapes, sizes, cuts and fabrics, bringing with them mystery, sophistication and very grown-up class. Besides, the right LBD creates the perfect backdrop to wear some stunning jewelry. This is the time to volunteer for some car-washing or house-cleaning duty with your parents to earn the right to those fabulous antique earrings or filigree bracelet.
Here are a few LBD options from Dresses.com, Mod Cloth and Midnight Velvet, combining old-fashioned understated allure with flattering cut and a bit of modern edge for an overall stunning look.
A touch of vintage
Vintage or vintage-inspired dresses are definitely worth your consideration when looking for a prom gown. Think about it: women wore them to dances and balls, to which they had to travel in uncomfortable carriages or on foot, and at which they had to dance for hours. So, the dresses were designed to be comfortable to wear and move around them. The ladies were often on a lookout for a husband, which implied pretty fabrics and lovely details like embroidery and a bit of sparkle. At the same time, there were the propriety norms to uphold, which means a contemporary vintage-inspired dress is probably not going to cause your parents a heart attack.
If you are like me and don't like to put too much on display, consider one of the lovely creations below from Recollections, Victorian Trading and (paradoxically) Group USA: they all have a bit of sleeve, but the sleeves are light and gauzy, thus giving the arm refined appearance without hiding it completely; they all have a cut that emphasizes the narrowest part of the body - the rib cage just under the bust line, leaving plenty of breathing room for everything else; the fabrics are soft and meant to skim rather than cling, creating beautiful waves and flutters when you move; the necklines are v-shaped, elongating the neck and showing off some of the shoulders without having to put all of your goods on display.
Once you have picked your dress, do a "dress rehearsal" with it - put it on with the appropriate undergarments, shoes, jewelry and hair. Try walking around, do a few dance moves and make sure nothing is rubbing, pinching, binding or squeezing. Remember, what feels a little bit annoying now, will be agonizing after a couple of hours on your feet in a stuffy room full of other people. Do your prep work in advance, and you'll be all set to feel great, look fabulous and have a fantastic time!
Images courtesy of 7th Avenue, eDressme, Dresses.com, Newport News, Chadwick's of Boston, Victorian Trading, Mod Cloth, Midnight Velvet, Group USA, Recollections.