The do's and don'ts of prom dress shopping

It is officially...drumroll, please...prom dress shopping szn! The night you've been dreaming of since the first day of freshman year is almost here, and it is finally time to pick out the perf dress. Not sure where to start, or feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of buying *the* dress? We're here to help make your shopping experience an exciting and stress-free one.

Do: Bring a hair tie


Sometimes your hairstyle can totally elevate a prom look. A dress you weren't so sure about might suddenly look stunning if you pull your hair back and add a necklace. When you go shopping for your dress, be sure to bring a hair tie, claw clip or even a trendy coquette hair bow. You'll be able to quickly test out different hairstyles with each dress and better visualize which combos will be perfect for prom night.

Don't: Forget to check the dress code


Every school may have different dress codes for prom, so be sure to look yours over *before* spending your entire savings on an outfit. These rules might have to do with dress length requirements, see-through material, necklines and two-piece dresses. We don't want you to have to put a t-shirt over your dress on prom night because a code was violated, so keep your school's guidelines in mind while shopping.

Do: Check your school's prom IG


Picture this: You find the most beautiful dress ever, and then get to prom and see someone wearing the Exact. Same. Thing. To avoid a total catastrophe, check if your school has an Insta prom account. Lots of high schools will create new accounts for each prom and have girls send in pics of their dresses so that no one buys the same one. It eliminates some of the surprise element, but you'll be able to make sure you don't buy the same dress as your friend from homeroom. Instead, you'll get to wear something totally unique.

Don't: Restrict your style choices


There are so many options when it comes to prom dresses: A-line or mermaid? Silk or bedazzled? High neck or strapless? You might go on your shopping trip with a specific vision of your dream prom dress, but it doesn't hurt to try out other styles, too. For instance, you might be a Cinderella ballgown girlie through and through, but why not try on a super cute suit just for fun? You could even try out some of this year's trending prom styles, like floral prints and ruffles. You may surprise yourself with a new fave type of dress!

Do: Check out budget-friendly options


Hearing that your friend's parents dropped hundreds of dollars on her prom dress might make the shopping experience more than a little intimidating. We're here to tell you that dress shopping does *not* have to be super expensive—there are plenty of options that won't break the bank.

For starters, try looking through Facebook Marketplace and check if anyone has posted on IG about getting rid of their dresses. Lots of people take to social media to sell their prom fits, and you could snag a great deal. You can also check out apps like Poshmark and Depop—plus your neighborhood thrift store.

Don't feel shy about asking your older sister's friends if you can borrow a prom dress, either. Most prom fits only get worn once, so they'd probably be happy to lend you theirs for another magical night.

Don't: Buy something uncomfortable


The most important part of prom is having fun with your besties, but it's going to be a little hard to dance the night away if you can barely move in your dress. Be sure to buy something that allows you to breathe and doesn't have a super long train that will inevitably get stepped on (cute for pics, but hazardous on the dance floor!). Make sure your dress is comfortable, too—for instance, if a strapless mermaid dress feels a little awkward, go for something more you instead, like an A-line dress with a halter neckline.

Don't forget to think about footwear, either! The perf pair of high heels can tie your whole look together, but they might not be ideal for several hours of dancing. If you find yourself wanting to ditch the heels after pics are taken, try out a cute pair of Converse or some comfy flats.

Most importantly, remember that prom is your night to have fun, so choose an outfit that makes you happy and lets you have the time of your life with your BFFs.

Tag us in your prom pics on Insta @girlslifemag for a chance to be featured!

Want more prom inspo? Check out these articles:
✨How to dress gender neutral for prom night
✨Your guide to having a fabulous budget-friendly prom
✨We found a prom dress in every zodiac sign's power color

Top image: @shayrudolph
Slider image: @shayrudolph


by Maggie Salter | 3/13/2024