Last Updated on March 11, 2024

One down.

One to go.

Both of my girls need prom dresses this year. (Can you say double-trouble?) Now, let me be clear. I like a good girl-day of shopping just like the next mom. The idea of hitting King of Prussia with my girls and my mother-in-law is normally followed by a rush of estrogen-drenched dreams of Cheesecake Factory-sized lunches, a pedicure, and a car-load of shopping bags — that is, unless you are going to King of Prussia for the express purpose of buying prom dresses, which most manufacturers think equates to very small amounts of fabric and very large price tags. (I’m not alone in this. Last year, I blogged about it on my Secret Keeper Girl site and found it to be a hot-button from moms worn out by the slight porn-factor found on most prom dress shopping racks.) The day before I went, my hopes were dampened by a friend who had taken her daughter shopping and met with such bad attitude that they had to come home. I sure didn’t want that to happen. So, here are a few of my survival skills.

  1. Expect to Invest More – Autumn is the one who hit the bulls-eye on Saturday by finding a cute little faux zebra print dress with a royal blue sash. It didn’t come easy. She was magnetized by the tiniest and tightest of dresses. Out of desperation, I took her into a more expensive dress shop, and there they were: the dresses a mom dreams of! She was reluctant but tried a few on and fell in love. (I put one on hold, fearful that I’d be spending $200 that day. But I was willing to buy my way out of it.) We moved on and found one she liked just as much but for a little less. My point is this: expect to invest more. The more modest the dress, the higher the price tag. Don’t have the cash? You might not pay out. You could always invest by way of time if you have some sewing skills. But if you’re going to go modest, it’s going to cost ya!
  2. Show your Daughters What you Expect – The night before we revved up the engine to head to the mall, we talked prom dresses at dinner. It wasn’t just something that happened to come up. I planned it, and I had printed out pictures of dresses that I thought were modest. I asked Bob, my husband, to give a thumbs up to the ones he also thought were modest. My goal was to let the girls see what we were looking for, knowing it would be like looking for a chameleon in a field of fallen leaves. They needed to see the expectation — the standard — so we would be on the same page in just a few hours.
  3. Don’t be Quick to Diss Anything They Like – I learned this from my good friend, Kim. She never uses up any unnecessary “no’s.” She lets her daughter lead the charge in reflection and discernment of right and wrong and only comes in if the decision is going too close in the wrong direction. (She’s so smart.) So, I never actually used the words I was thinking (a good thing because they were not often very lady-like!). Instead, I let the girls say, “I’m afraid it’s going to be just a little too low-cut for me to modify.” (Music to my ears.) I even went so far as to let them put a few on hold that didn’t seem modest enough to me, but as the day went on, they came to see their decision wasn’t good. Then, I could praise them and tell them that I agreed and was proud of the decision, rather than controlling them and saying negative things.
  4. Redirect when Necessary – But not in the midst of trying a dress on.Autumn was headed down the wrong path almost all day. She was drawn to the tiniest of dresses. Since she’s a tiny pea of a girl, they were often easier for her to imagine herself in, but they still didn’t look like a dress for a 16-year-old. I waited until we were having a drink to say, “I’d really like to see you try on something with a little more of a flowing skirt, rather than a tight one. Those dresses seem more appropriate for a 20-year-old going to a cocktail party than a beautiful, princess of a 16-year-old going to prom. Would you consider trying some with full skirts?” She did. And she loved ‘em! The key is not to do it when you are in the moment, so no one gets hurt. (I repeat: when prom shopping, no one needs to get hurt!)
  5. Involve Dad in the Final Decision – Thanks to my phone, Dad gets to “go” shopping with us. I just snap a quick picture when a dress is in the running, and he’s quick to respond with a very unemotional “yes” or “no.” That takes a lot of pressure off of me. In one case, when Autumn loved an “almost modest” dress, he saved me! (And when he broke the tie between that one and the one she got, he saved us nearly $100! What a great bonus!)

It’s crazy out there, but we have survived. And the great thing is this: I’ve been training them as I go. They’ve learned discernment, been mindful of bargain shopping, and encouraging and truthful with each other as we’ve shopped!

You can do it Mom!

{Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on MomLife Today a few years ago. Dannah has such amazing wisdom in this area, we thought it wise to bring her five ideas to your attention and place it front and center this prom season!}

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