Buying the perfect prom dress

When to shop for your prom dress

Shops that specialise in prom dresses will have a good selection all year round. If your prom is in the summer, the latest styles will arrive as early as October half term the year before your prom.. All the new styles tend to be in by the end of January in the year of your prom. So you can shop anytime you wish but once you have found your dress....stop looking!


Have some idea of budget in mind before you go shopping for your dress. Agree with your parents or whoever is buying the dress for you. Some shops – mainly the independent boutiques - will keep a prom log to record which dresses they have sold to each school. Some shops aim to not sell the same dress in the same colour to anyone else at your school. Others won't sell the same style to the same school. If you buy your dress from a high-street shop, you are more likely to see someone else in the same dress as you.

Also, be very wary of buying a dress direct from abroad. Many foreign internet sites do not fully disclose the cost of import charges. There have also been many horror stories of people not getting their dress or being charged a lot more than they expected to get it into the UK. Others have received a dress that looks nothing like the one they ordered. If you need to buy online, many reputable UK-based special occasion boutiques now have online shopping facilities.

Finding the perfect fit

Choose a dress that is right for your figure.

A bodice style dress is really flattering if you have a fuller figure. Bodices nip you in at the waist and if they have a lace-up back, allow a great fit around your bust.

Any dresses with overlay fabric or pleating detail around the waist help to hide a tummy.

Another very flattering style is empire line which falls from under the bust so doesn't cling to you tummy or hips.

If you prefer to always wear a bra – look for a dress with bra-friendly straps rather than spaghetti straps. Bear in mind that most strapless dresses will come with the option of adding straps.

For grown-up glamour, there are some stunning red-carpet prom dresses. These often have amazing low backs and beautiful beaded detail. They are more figure-hugging in shape.

Choosing the size

Be honest about your size. It is really common to go up one or maybe even two sizes in evening wear, especially when the dresses come from all over the world. Designers are yet to agree on a standard size for girls and women. Dresses are not sized like everyday clothes.

Who cares anyway what size you are! As long as you look gorgeous in your prom frock! No one has to see the label in your dress and you can even cut it out if you want to.

Getting it right

It is always better to have a slightly bigger dress that can be altered to fit you perfectly than try and squeeze in to a dress that is too small for you. Tight material and unattractive creases just make you look bigger!

Going short

It is fine to wear a shorter dress such as a cocktail or party dress to a prom. Floaty dresses that skim the ankle or slinky, shorter dresses are another option to the more traditional, long prom dress.

Short, flared 1950’s vintage-style dresses with lots of netting are also popular and very easy to wear for another occasion once your prom is over.

Dresses that are short at the front and longer at the back (high-lows) offer celebrity prom glamour.

Check with your school first – some have restrictions on how short your prom dress can be.

What shoes to choose

If you intend to wear high heels – try your potential prom dress on with them. This will give you a much better idea of how the dress looks and if it will need altering.

If you are happier in flatties – bear this in mind with the style of dress you go for. Fancy hemlines tend to demand higher heels whilst flared dresses and ball-gowns can easily take pretty slip-ons, open-toe shoes or even trainers.

Altering your dress for a great fit

Most prom dresses will need altering in some way. Altering the length, straps and area around the bust is quite common. Bear in mind when budgeting for your dress that there may be an alteration cost and this will also take time to be done. Most dressmakers like to allow three weeks. You should be able to find an alteration service online or many dry-cleaners offer this service. The shop you buy your prom dress from may also be able to put you in touch with reputable seamstresses.

The perfect fitting

Remember to take the shoes and underwear you are planning to wear with your dress when you have your alteration fitting.

Think about your underwear

There are lots of bra accessories you can now buy to wear with backless and strapless dresses. If you opt for a backless dress – make sure you take your normal bra off during the day of the prom to avoid unsightly red marks. Same goes for socks too. Red marks round your ankles are a real distraction to your glamorous gown!

Time to look fab!

How often do you get the chance to really dress up and go to town? Remember that your school prom only happens once. This is a chance for you to look and feel gorgeous and stand out from the crowd! Enjoy the experience of finding your perfect prom dress and have a wonderful prom.