We’ve met teens who started prepping for their proms as early as four months in advance. They scheduled tanning sessions and appointments for manicures and pedicures. And, of course, they dieted. They browsed magazines and hit the shops looking at cheap prom dresses, shoes, earrings and handbags. The time and effort these girls put into preparing their physical selves dwarfed anything their mothers did before their own weddings! All of this preparation costs money and heightens expectations. Can you imagine how disappointed these girls would be if they were not asked to prom? We’ve also met parents whose daughters, in teary-eyed tirades, pleaded for new dresses. But their pleas didn’t come until days before the big event. These last-minute surprises often forced parents into on-the-spot purchases that were expensive (“Just buy it; we don’t have time to find a deal”) and regrettable (“It’s so revealing, but that’s the only style they have”).
When it comes to your daughter’s dress, here are a few do’s and don’ts that can help tone down some of the extravagance and drama. By following these parenting tips, you’ll also help your daughter become a better consumer and a more grounded individual:
- Don’t be clueless about school-sponsored formals. Be proactive and ask around when prom, homecoming or other formals are scheduled. If it’s a school-sponsored event, don’t be afraid to call the school and find out if there’s a dress code or other guidelines. You’ll feel better because you’ll know what’s going on, and you can start talking to your daughter about her plans and clarifying expectations and rules for the evening.
- Do set a limit on spending. If your daughter needs a new dress, put a limit on how much she can spend. What’s reasonable will depend somewhat on your family’s financial resources. But you should encourage your daughter to think outside the box when dress shopping. There are other alternatives, often more affordable, than going to traditional department stores or boutiques. For example, many larger communities have vintage clothing stores that offer reasonable and distinctive choices. Other options worth considering with your daughter include having her swap last year’s homecoming or prom dress with a friend’s, making her own dress, or redesigning and altering an old dress to make it new and contemporary.
- Do emphasize comfort, not sexiness. When it comes to the dress, the overall goal should be to be fashionable, yet modest. If you’re shopping with your daughter, you shouldn’t be the one dictating all of the decisions. You should help her make the best choice she can. Think of the mom in the dress shop who was asked her opinion. She wanted to shout out how wrong the girl’s dress was. But rather than say something that would make the girl feel awkward or bad, she asked questions that made the young lady think more critically about her choice. When your daughter is picking a dress, she should ask herself:
- Can I dance in this dress?
- Can I get in and out of the car comfortably in these clothes?
- Will I spend the entire evening worrying that I might pop out of the dress?
- Will my date’s parents be embarrassed by how I’m dressed?
You don’t want to be the clothing police, but you do want to set some limits. You want to help your daughter look beyond the style or label and see the bigger picture. Help her to understand that if she wants to have a carefree evening with no regrets, her choices matter.
If you can’t be with your daughter when she’s shopping for a formal dress, most department stores will put items on hold for 24 hours at no cost. If she finds a dress, have her put it on hold until you have a chance to look it over. That’s better than being uninvolved or turning over the family credit card and leaving her to the whims and tastes of friends and strangers.