(From left to right: Helmut Lang Wrinkled Satin Dress, $207.50 on sale; McQ Alexander McQueen Jersey Baby Doll Harness Dress, $573.30 on sale; Diane von Furstenberg Tere Dress, $339.50 on sale)
I fear for my optic never every time prom season rolls around. Inevitably you'll always wind up with folks running to Windsor for some god-awful dress covered head-to-toe in appliques with a bubble hem, in a baby doll silhouette. Prom dresses such as those are, by nature, terrible wastes of time, money, and fabric. What good is it to dress yourself in a gaudy, lip-glossed version of yourself.
Of course, this gets to the very root of my problem with how many women dresses, that is by the fashion shown in the press and not by the style they inherently possess. Yes, Marc Jacobs showed surrealists shoes for spring. Does that mean you should wear one? I don't say "no" outright, because you should if you can. The lesson to be learned is that fashion should serve you, not the other way around. This is best illustrated in my own life. While I have noted the resurgence of distressed jeans on the runways, I will not be giving up my raw denim any time soon, by virtue of the fact that I look better in raw denim; it suits my body shape, my color taste, and my personal style far better than any distressed denim would. This, unfortunately, is often learned through trial and error. I'm looking at you, $200+ Slim Kims sitting in my closet.
So how does this apply to prom? Why, how doesn't it? I find how most girls style their hair and do their make-up to be absolutely absurd. Have you looked at the hair that some of these girls get? I remember thinking how damned flammable (or inflammable) our proms were, just by taking a head count. Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't get dolled up. Of course you should, it's a nice formal event. Go for it. Manicure, pedicure, new hair style, the works. But don't throw it up into a ridiculous mound on the top of your head that looks fit for nesting condors.
What we need a whole paradigm shift when it comes to the prom mindset. This shouldn't be an occasion to look as absurd as possible. Instead, why not use it to display your personal style at its best? And don't try to tell me that this is your personal style. Go ahead, I'll give you a minute to click and be thoroughly appalled.
I know, right? Who would wear that, much less stand like it? (Feel free to drop any mentions of Victorya's dress from the Hershey challenege here.) Dresses like that are why I insist upon shopping for something you would actually wear when some horny teenage boy isn't trying to paw his way past your bra.
We have excellent choices out there, ladies, and they run the gamut from something that will give your parents a heart attack to only slight hypertension. The Helmut Lang is a perfect example of a classic black dress given a chic, yet timeless, spin. The texture of the wrinkled satin and the length screams party dress, but the color and cut are modest enough for a school event. The McQ dress is a bit more daring, but no less appropriate. Jersey is a particularly forgiving fabric if you're going to spend the night dancing to poorly DJed music (I speak from personal experience, here), but the plastic harness gives the dress an interesting focus point as well as a contrasting shine and texture. Now, if you insist upon a bubble hem, then at least do a refined version of it, like the Diane von Furstenberg we've got above. Subtle banding gives the bodice a constructed silhouette that is a delicious complement to the skirt's shape and volume.
I hope we've learned something here: prom doesn't need to be hideous, fashion doesn't need to be (too) expensive, and it's never too late to get rid of their rayon/polyester number that you somehow convinced yourself to get.