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Proms Plus!
The Prom Advisor: Q&A on fashion, prom etiquette, asking dates, and going in style.

Dress length tells all
Submitted by: Bella from Ontario on June 11, 2007

Q: My prom dress is black, halter shows cleavage is tight and pretty short. I like it because it's cute and comfortable, but I'm worried to wear it in front of my boyfriend's parents. It's his prom, not mine, and I'm a year younger. I dont want to be called a slut or anything because, I'm not wearing it for any attention! I'm so worried.

A: There are two issues here: appropriate dress length for a Prom, and who thinks and says what.

Disregard, for a second, what is considered by others to be appropriate for a Prom. If you think that an adult you respect or are seeking approval from will not approve of your dress, then it is probably too short or low cut. Same goes for church, a job interview, or a shopping trip with your Mom. Nothing we can say here will change that. You could try adding a shawl or jacket to help cover up, but that will not help the length.

As we have said before, knee length is now appearing at proms. But above the knee, while cute, is not really a length most appropriate for a formal affair like Prom. Remember that the evening is all about dressing up and mingling with others. Choosing the right dress has less to do with how it looks to his parents, or any one person, than what it says about you and your ability to dress up for the evening.
Ask Early!
Submitted by: Mike of Lethbridge on November 1, 2007

Q. I'm just wondering how soon I should ask a girl to Grad (prom). I'm hearing everything from mid December to mid May. Our Grad is the first week of June. If it matters, the girl I want to ask is a friend of mine already, but were not super close or anything.

A. As soon as possible. Everyone likes to make plans. Mid-december is not too early.
Corsage Issues
Submitted by: Jennie from Queens, NY on June 11, 2008

Q: My prom is coming up and I got a dress and all. But my problem is that have never been to a prom before or even a school dance. I also have a date, he is my brother's friend and also mine. The prom is in my school, I paid for everything like tickets and limo. Do I have to get him any thing like a boutonniere. and if i do, will he get me one and what if he doesn't? is it normal to go without one?

A: It is considered polite and traditional to buy a boutonniere for your date, regardless of who purchased everything else. It can match the color of your dress or his shirt, if you like. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, just a nice accent to his tuxedo or suit. You should also certainly expect a corsage in return from the gentleman. This is considered a sign of courtesy, respect and appreciation. If you have any concerns about him not knowing or remembering the corsage, gently remind him something like this: "I will be getting you a nice boutonniere for your lapel, maybe in green to match my dress. What color corsage were you thinking of to bring me?" If you have a high neck dress or an accent jacket or shawl, a pinned corsage is fine. Otherwise, a wrist corsage is needed. Guide the young man in his selection like this: "You know, my dress is pretty low cut, so I'd much prefer a wrist corsage, is that OK?"

How early is early?
Submitted by: William from Las Vegas on January 30, 2009

Q: How early can it be to ask someone to prom? like a few months before or? and Can you give me some unique ways on asking my special someone to prom? I don't expect a full detailed answer, I would really appreciate just a few basic ideas or cute and special ways to ask her.

A: Presuming you are relatively close with someone, more time is better. Note: If you are not that close, read the spoiler alert below. Every girl needs and wants time to prepare. She will have time to look for a dress and plan and dream, etc. SPOILER ALERT: All the favorite dresses get snatched up in January and February, since many shops now track sales and avoid selling two girls from the same school the exact same dress. By the time you ask her in April, the best choices are picked over. Takes some of the fun out of dressing up, and it puts more stress on the student.

As for HOW to ask, well, that really depends on her and your relationship. Is she romantic? Will she get embarrassed if you ask in public? Will you get embarrassed? A note with a bouquet of flowers is nice. An invitation on her desk, seat, or in her car is cute. One guy spelled out "PROM?" in rose pedals, on the floor in school. How about a card in the burger box you gave her? Try a semi-date thing, with asking her out over dinner. Try it alone for more privacy, unless she's the public type (and you already know the answer!) Avoid emails, text messages and voice mails. They are too impersonal and she can't tell your level of seriousness. Better yet, do it in person, either hand her something in writing, say it in a nice setting, sing it to her (use a familiar tune, end the lyrics with "I'd love to take you to the Prom"), or be right there when she reads it on your car written in shaving cream.
White for everyone
Submitted by: Jen from Delaware on January 30, 2009

Q: I had a quetion about dress colors for prom. We found a beautiful dress that looks fabulous on my daughter, but her older sister was upset when we came home with it beacause it was white with silver accents. Her sister said that only seniors are supposed to wear white. This was never a rule when I went to school but that was a long time ago. Is it okay to wear white if youare an under classman?

A: The tradition is to wear white AT graduation, but some schools seem to have an informal understanding about seniors and white. We feel that if you want white, look good in white, wear white. But, if your daughter won't wear it, our opinion about what tradition is probably will not sway her. High school students are often influenced by social standards outside of what the rest of the world is thinking.
Not a Tragedy, but a Happy Dilemma
Submitted by: Nicole from New York on January 30, 2009

Q: My boyfriend of 2 1/2 years and I go to different high schools and both our senior proms are on the same night. Which one should we go to?

A:Sad, regrettable, but not a tragedy. Only you can pick it. Whatever the decision, you'll be together. How about going to your senior prom (girls tend to be a bit more sentimental than boys), and heading out to his After-prom party. That way you get to see both crowds of friends in one evening.
A Fun Date
Submitted by: Danielle from Columbus, OH on January 30, 2009

Q: There is this guy i want to ask to prom. I went on a school trip with him a week or two ago but i didnt really know him before that. He is a hilarious guy and i think he would be a fun date. Should i ask him even though i havent known him for very long?

A: Yes. Asking people you haven't known very long to Prom is an excellent way to get to know them better. And who wouldn't want to be with a fun guy? SPOILER ALERT: Fun guys are often hilarious because they want to meet you. No Kidding.
The dress question
Submitted by: William from Las Vegas on January 30, 2009

Q: I've been wondering. Is it tradition to buy the girl's dress for prom? It's just a question thats been around me lately and I have no idea what the idea of it is.

A: We get this question a few times a year now. The only time-honored tradition for prom is buy your date a corsage, she buys you a boutonniere. Everything else: the tickets, the ride, the meals, may be shared or you can pay for some or all. Or parents can pay for some or all. It depends on your exact relationship with your date and your families. If buying the dress will make her, and you, happy, and you can afford it, you are welcome to offer. (Note to all gentlemen: If you go with her to pick one out, it is safest NOT to have too strong an opinion. Each dress she tries on makes her look more stunning than the last. And stick to that story.)

And I would certainly test the assumption that "everyone" is doing it before you feel pressured to bear this rather large expense. Because these days, with the price of dresses, well, it's hard to believe that anyone except the most serious love interest would pay for their date's dress. In any case, let's hope that this is not a "Make or Break" issue with your date.

In any other context of dating, such a request would be considered unfair to ridiculous. Somehow, in the proms circuit, the word got out in some quarters that the dress is the date's responsibility. Probably devised by a clever dad. Good luck.
Table for 5?
Submitted by: Cassidy from TN on January 30, 2009

Q: What are some fun after prom ideas for a group of 5? There are 2 couples and one person going stag in our group. Prom ends around midnight and the girls want to flaunt their dresses around town (problem is, most things around town are closed by that time). The group is pretty high energy and are really just looking for some upbeat things to do to make the night forever memorable. Thanks so much!

A: The organized After-Prom party is your best bet. Safe, cheap, open all night. No After-Prom at your school? Organize one. Local merchants will help, parents will kick in and make it all worth while.

On the road? Stay off it, it's a dangerous night. Find all-night bowling, a diner, truck stop, or organize a party at someone's home.
Garter Traditions
Submitted by: Shena, Mt. Prospect, IL on June 11, 2007

Q: How do garters for prom work? What is the "tradition" exactly? Also, where do you buy a garter from. People say bridal stores but they charge way too much! Are there any stores which sell them for cheaper? Around $4-$5? Thanks!

A: Garters can be a fun way to add some color or splash to an outfit. They are not necessary, and you may not miss it. However, there just aren't any real traditions that have stuck. It was picked up from weddings, where the groom offers (and places) one on the bride. No such tradition exists for Prom, and many girls buy them for themselves as a memento or an accent. Some are available with the year on it. Check out, they are $7.00 each.
Happy Birthday
Submitted by: Andreina in Arizona on October 16, 2007

Q. Prom is next April but my boyfriend is turning 21 in February...can he still go? What should I do?

A. Unless your school has a prohibition against 21 and over, there should be no problem. Obviously, there will be no alcohol and he must follow all the rules that students are subject to. Go and enjoy!

The Corsage Thing
Submitted by: Christine from San Diego on January 30, 2009

Q: I'm not sure how the corsage/boutineer thing works. I know the guy traditionaly gets the corsage for the girl. How does the girl get the boutineer? Should they match? Or does the guy get the boutineer and the corsage? How do you plan that out?

A: It is considered polite and traditional to buy a boutonniere for your date, regardless of who purchased everything else. It can match the color of your dress or his shirt, if you like. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, just a nice accent to his tuxedo or suit. You should also certainly expect a corsage in return from the gentleman. This is considered a sign of courtesy, respect and appreciation. If you have any concerns about him not knowing or remembering the corsage, gently remind him something like this: "I will be getting you a nice boutonniere for your lapel, maybe in green to match my dress. What color corsage were you thinking of to bring me?" If you have a high neck dress or an accent jacket or shawl, a pinned corsage is fine. Otherwise, a wrist corsage is needed. Guide the young man in his selection like this: "You know, my dress is pretty low cut, so I'd much prefer a wrist corsage, is that OK?"
To Go or Not To Go?
Submitted by: Luke from California on May 8, 2007

Q. I'm a senior and my prom is later this month. I'm not planning on going because I have hardly any motivation to go except that I want to say I went. I don't have a girl friend right now, or anyone I'm interested in. My friends are going, but weather I'll have fun with them or not is unpredictable. My ex girl friends will be there which will be a drag especially since I would probably go alone to hang out with friends if at all. The only reason I still feel stressed about my decision to not go is that everyone says "go you idiot go!" why the hell is it so important, and is there any good reason that I should go? I doubt there is, especially since so much will change for me after high school is over, and the people I am so concerned about impressing will be forever in my past.

A. You raise an interesting point. Why on earth is this one night such an important event? Heck, in a couple of years the memory of prom will likely be faded into a few choice moments. Not to mention the strain on your wallet. But for better or for worse, prom is an American tradition (and a multi-billion dollar industry!).

It is a night to feel special. A night to have fun. A night to take more pictures than last year’s family vacation. This excitement is mostly attributed to the long-standing rituals associated with prom night. Prom is a teenage rite of passage created by the evening’s formal wear, social graces, and powerful camaraderie of a class about to disperse. These relatively unusual occurrences make for a rather thrilling atmosphere. Prom pushes the comfort zone of the average high school evening in an exhilarating way. That is why it is such a bonding experience.

I would not let your ex girlfriend, or the idea of having no date stop you from attending. Prom is more about having fun as a group of friends and classmates than anything else. Trust me. There is no one to impress. There is only fun to be had and memories to be made.

And when prom night is all over you may just find that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. But I think you’ll agree…there’s only one way to find out!

Look Who
Submitted by: V.S. from New Jersey on JUNE 1, 2007

Q. Hi, I'm a senior and my first prom is in June. My date and I barely speak in school. I chose her because all others were occupied. Please tell me what I should give her as present and what we should talk about during the prom. Thanks.

A. With a little preparation, you will have a wonderful prom night – even if you do not know your date very well. First things first, you do not have to give your date a gift, per say, but it is a traditional gesture to give your date a corsage (small bouquet of flowers worn around the wrist). It is best to order the corsage from a flower shop a week or two in advance, if possible. It is also best when the corsage matches your date’s dress. So be sure to ask her what color she will be wearing, and then tell the florist the color of her dress when you order the corsage. The florist can help you pick out a match. You will present the corsage to your date when you pick her up for the prom.

The answer to your next question is not exactly as cut and dry. There are plenty of things to talk about on prom night. And because you don’t know much about her, there is actually even more to talk about! I’d say it is best to talk about something you have in common – your school. Ask her favorite subject, ask which teachers she likes, and about her extra curricular activities. She will likely ask you the same. Also, since you both are completing your second half of high school, you can ask if she is looking at colleges, or what she may plan to do after high school. The prom night itself will also provide plenty of conversation material. Talk about the food that is being served and whether or not you like it. Also talk about the kind of music she likes/you like and whether or not you are likely to hear it at prom.

Beyond that, there is plenty of “getting to know you better” conversation you can try. You can ask if she has brothers and sisters, where she has lived, and if her extended family lives near or far. That should be plenty to get you two chatting. And if you both like to dance, you will spend a lot of time dancing instead of talking anyway.

One last point of conversation – tell her how lovely she looks! Have a great time.

Mother Knows Best??
Submitted by: Callie from Atlanta on May 5, 2007

Q. My daughter went shopping without me and came back with a short, tight fitting, white prom dress. YIKES!!! I am trying to explain that a long dress is the rule for prom night. She wants to be "different". Well, I don;t want her to look cheap nor do I want people talking about her behind her back. Am I being old-fashioned?? HELP!!

A. Well, Mom, I'm afraid you might be a little behind the times on this one - but not all wrong.

Janet Donahue of the Perfect Pear LLC informs us that "knee length dresses are HOT right now!" But she cautions that if you decide to go knee length, you must select something very dressy. The key is fabric, color and style. What you want is a dress that is elegant, with a more flirty style than a typical "cocktail dress" (which is usually very form fitting). Chiffon fabric is ideal for this. Don't go above the knee for prom. You want to look really dressy - not vampish.

So while knee length works, a tight white dress that lands above the knee is most likely inappropriate. Happy hunting!

Be Our Guest
Submitted by: Nicky, Philadelphia, PA on May 5, 2007

Q. My buddies and I are meeting at my house to take the Limo to the Prom. Is it up to my parents to provide a spread for my friends' parents who show up to take pictures? My friends think they should, but my folks are worried they might miss the latest episode of Lost. What do you think?

A. It is a lovely gesture for your parents to offer your house up for pre-prom pictures. If it was, in fact, their idea, then it would seem sporting to offer a little something for guest parents. After all, they don't have to drive somewhere to take pictures. Since there is no way everyone will arrive at the same time for pictures, it would be nice to offer beverages (clear liquids for those attending the prom!) while everyone waits and socializes. If your parents would like to put out hors d'oeuvres such as crackers or veggies and dip, then that is up to them. Unless putting out a full spread is a tradition in your area or your parents want to, I see no reason to go beyond providing beverages and possible light appetizers. Certainly nothing that requires plates or flatware!

On the other hand, if your folks are content with staying home watching TV, and this was your idea (YOU: Guess what? Everyone's meeting here before the Prom to take photos!), then perhaps you had better take a more proactive role in the "spread" (ie, take care of it yourself). Remember that your parents are still entitled to make decisions about their own home, even if you live there with them.

Old Dress, New Tricks
Submitted by: Hannah, Toronto, Ontario on May 5, 2007

Q. I need help finding a beautiful dress for my formal, which is in a month or so. I won't bore you with details of my social life, but suffice to say it is important that I look good. I own several beautiful vintage cocktail dresses that I inherited from my grandmother, but I'm terrified to wear them to prom!! I don't want to wreck them! Is it possible to either get them copied or find something similarly styled? They all have knee length circle skirts and corset bodices (huzzah for major flattery!) and I haven't been able to find a similar style that's formal enough!!!

A. I see why you are nervous about donning your grandmother's vintage threads on prom night. But, I do have to point out that beautiful dresses were meant to be worn!

If you are dead set on leaving those dresses in the closet on prom night, you just might be able to hunt out a few good replicas. Tonja Stevens, of Bridal Elegance in Eldersburg, agrees that corset gowns are in. If you are looking for the bubble skirt, then make sure to check out the bridesmaid gowns and not just the prom gowns. She notes, "No one is going to know the difference, and this year more bridesmaid gowns are being sold for prom than prom gowns!!!! Plus more color options to make those eyes POP."

One Time Only
Submitted by: Katelyn, from Elloree, South Carolina on May 5, 2007

Q. Do I need to spend a lot of money on a dress if I don't have a date and am only going wear it this one time?

A. Ah, one of prom's eternal headaches - how much to shell out on a dress whose public appearance is likely to be one night only. It really depends on your budget and basically, how much you can afford.

Tonja Stevens, of Bridal Elegance in Eldersburg, points out that date or no date, some girls will spend over $500 for a one night gown. But if you’re looking for cost effective gowns then make sure to have look at bridesmaid’s gowns as well as prom gowns. Tonja notes that bridesmaid’s gowns start around $135 and go $250+. Prom gowns typicaly start at $179 and go up, up, and up!

It is important to focus on your budget and not on the fact that there is no date to care about the color, style, fashion, and price of your dress. And most guys couldn't care less anyway!

Furthermore, college just might offer a formal event or two. I know that's where I got the second and THIRD use of my junior prom dress!

Pick a sensible gown, with a sensible price tag, and get ready to have some serious fun.

Submitted by: Emma from New York on May 5, 2007

Q. My date is from another who pays for what?! And how do I tell him if I pay for the ticket?

A. This is a common question among prom goers. Although there are no rules "set in stone", there are some typical guidelines. Since your date is from a different school, it is perfectly appropriate for you to pay for the tickets, as well as a boutonniere for him. He will rent his own tux and buy you a corsage. You two should split the expenses of dinner and limo (if applicable).

To start the conversation, bring up your dress color and say you will be getting his boutonniere to match. Then mention you will purchase the tickets for prom. Your date will inform you if he wants to pay for his own ticket. You won't know how he feels about prom expenses until you talk to him about it. So get it out of the way now, and start looking forward to prom night!

Its A Guy Thing
Submitted by: Trent from Austin, Texas on May 5, 2007

Q. I 'm going to my junior prom soon and, being a guy, I'm not sure how to accent my body type or choose colors. I am 6'1" 230lbs but I'm not fat, obviously I'm not a twig either, but I do have a gut, but it's not that big, I have a 46in. chest with barely any fat, so I'm just a big guy. Also I figured that I should go with a vest since I have the gut, but I don't know how to choose colors because I don't have a date. I thought that I was supposed to get them to match my eyes or something, I have green eyes hat sometimes look hazel depending on what I'm wearing. I have no clue what to do and my prom is on the 14th. Help!

A. Don't worry about a thing. You're a big guy looking at a big night. And Tonja Steven's of Bridal Elegance in Eldersburg has got you covered. She points out that instead of going with one lady; you're going with ALL the ladies. And that, my friend, means you can wear anything! Tonja's formal-wear expertise tailored just for you:

Pick a color to make your eye POP. If you're under 5’7" go with a stripedor shadow striped tux. This will give the appearance of more height. Hazel eyes will look great with green tones IF the hazel is more green. If the hazel is more brown, go with a bright/vivid color like turquoise, aqua, or any of blue-green combo colors. Don't go with the plain black and white. Don't be afraid to stand out. You don't need a date to make you shine!

As far as vests are concerned, most contemporary tuxedos will come with a vest. Remember, cummerbunds are a thing of the past. Vest s are a nice cover for the larger belly as long as it is a full back vest. A back-less vest may move and end up accenting your stomach when your jacket is off.

I have a feeling you’re going to look sharp as a tack this prom night! Have a great time.

What Prom is all about
Submitted by: Latonya of Farmington Hills on May 6, 2007

Q: My son was asked to go to a prom at another school. Both he and his friend are special education students. My son does not have any income, I offered to pay for dinner and corsage, but not the tickets. Its not his prom. Was I wrong?

A: There really is no wrong here, so please do not look for "right". Regardless of income or special education status, there are certain typical guidelines that apply, and a million instances that go against the guidelines. As we've said in the past, Prom trends change rapidly, and there really are not many "traditions" (corsage for the girl, boutonniere for the boy is one that remains). So who pays for exactly what in these circumstances is more a matter of what everyone agrees upon. That said, dinner and the corsage seem pretty reasonable, and if it is not his prom, the date, or her family, often do pick up the tickets. The way these things go, if the couple goes to his Prom as well, you would buy the tickets. Seems fair, no?

Now, that means that there are still plenty of occasions when that is not true, and this will depend greatly on how serious or "together" the couple are, how badly each party wants the date, income of the students, etc. Even parents' income, which should not be a factor, sometimes enters into it. Some parents, for instance, will pitch in and rent a limo, just to keep the students safe on the roads after midnight. At my Prom in 1974, I bought both tickets for a girl who did not go to my school. She bought the ones for hers the same year. We both worked, and we felt proud to do that for each other. A fews years ago, my daughter (in Special education since she was born) still bought her date's ticket by selling wrapping paper. The point is, it is a courtesy for your invited guest that makes him or her feel special, even if the net gain (dinner, flowers, rides, etc.) is zero.

But the experience of the Prom outweighs any of these considerations, regardless of who paid and how you got there. Special ed students, especially ones with cognitive or spectrum disorders, will offer a particular challenge because of their limited ability to cope with such pressures. Being a teen is tough enough, never mind the disabilities. So, you were not wrong, and if you sprung for the tickets, someone else wouldn't be right.

A Lengthy Debate
Submitted by: Linda, San Diego, CA on May 5, 2007

Q. What dress length is appropriate for prom? I want to wear this dress that is a little on the short side as far as prom dresses go. The hem hits 5 inches above the knee but is even all the way around. Otherwise, the dress is fairly formal, being sapphire blue, silk material and thin spaghetti straps. I'm also considering stockings because this dress is so short but I have NO IDEA where to start! Color? Sheer or Opaque? Garter belt? Please help! Another concern of mine is that the dress might be too revealing. When I wear a bra, my cleavage is heavily exposed. Should I go braless? I'm pretty well endowed at 120 lbs, 5'6 with a 34C bust and flat stomach. The dress is also body-hugging (but not tight) and I'm worried that it might be "too sexy" for prom. Any suggestions?

A. While long dresses used to be the only appropriate option for prom, there is more leeway in contemporary prom fashion. Knee length dresses have become quite popular, but above the knee is hard to pull off for prom. Furthermore, you should definitely wear properly fitting undergarments with your dress. Find a bra that fits and does not have any padding that will push your cleavage to an ultra revealing point. This dress does sound a bit risqu
The Dark Side
Submitted by: Misha of Tigard, Oregon on May 5, 2007

Q. I am having trouble finding a prom dress. I am about 5 feet 6 inches and medium size. I have dark brown eyes and black hair. The problem is that I can't find anything that would look good on my brown skin color and broad shoulder.

A. You are not alone. Many, many, beautiful girls have trouble deciding what gown is the best color and style for them. It is always great to take a trusted friend or relative with you on your hunt. Make sure you bring someone that will tell you which dresses looks fabulous, and which should go right back on the sales rack!

With regard to your coloring and build, Tonja Stevens, of Bridal Elegance in Eldersburg, does have a few general pointers. She offers one basic rule – the darker the skin, the more vivid the dress color should be. Compliment your skin and eyes with the dress color. Brown eyes and darker skin look great in Red, Purple, Orange, Hot Pink, or Turquoise. Remember it is more important to find a style that fits your body type before choosing your favorite color. If you have broad shoulders, you should try a gown with a sweat-heart neck line (narrows the shoulders), or a gown with a lower cut back. The higher cut back can accent your board shoulders, but the lower cut will narrow your shoulder and elongate your back.

I think there is nothing left to do but hit the shops. This year is full of vibrant colors, so get yourself in a dressing room girl!

Driving me crazy!
Submitted by: Billy, from Boston on April 22, 2007

Q: I recently got my license and it says I cannot drive my peers until 6 months after I get it. I have a pickup truck so I was going to pick my date up in the my dad's Durango, but I don't know if her parents would be mad about that, I know mine won't and I'm sure that no cop would pullover 2 kids on prom night.

A: Read some of the stories on this web site. Prom time is THE MOST DANGEROUS TIME OF THE YEAR FOR TEENS. Cops know this and will gladly pull over two teens going to Prom. And what a good impression that will be on your date! Distraction, the police and driving experts worldwide will tell you, is the reason you are forbidden to ride with your peers. Nothing against you, but you need more experience driving before you ride with others, and nothing is more distracting than a young lady dressed to impress. Get a ride or rent a limo. Safer and more fun. Present the corsage in the car to keep the conversation flowing.

Just My Type
Submitted by: Kelsee, New York on May 5, 2007

Q. Hi, I have absolutely NO idea what to wear for my first prom! Here's a little bit about me : I'm asian and my skin tone is yellow-ish brown. I'm 5'3" and weigh 110 pounds. Im having difficulty figuring out what to wear, most probably because I don't know what body type I am. I'm athletic and my shoulders are broad, but my bust is A. So I dont think I'm an "upside down triangle," or "v-shaped." My shoulders and hips are about the same length but I dont think I'm an hourglass because I'm not born with curves... And is 5'3" still considered petite? Please help me decide what type of dress would suit my body type!!!

A. The best thing you can do is get out there and start trying on. It is best to take a friend or female relative you can absolutely trust to offer HONEST opinions. Once the dresses are off the hangers and on your body, you'll begin to get a sense of what styles and colors look good on you.

For shorter girls, Janet Donahue of the Perfect Pear LLC suggests trying dresses with an empire waist. She notes, "This does not mean that the dress has to be cut 'full through the body'." Dresses with empire waists can also be form fitting to accentuate curves. With your skin tone, look for warm colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows.

Janet's last piece of advice to fire up your look? "Don't be afraid to go a bit bright!"

Common Question
Submitted by: Sabreana from Indiana on April 18, 2007

Q: I asked a guy friend from another school to go with me to my prom. What do I have to pay for??

A: COMMON QUESTION, BUT NO EASY ANSWERS. A typical scenario is this: You pay for the ticket and a boutonniere for him. He buys you a corsage. You share the ride, dinner, you buy your dress, shoes, etc. He rents the tux. If you are sporting, you may pay for photos to share, or a photo key chain, etc. He may appreciate your gestures, or he may be insulted because he wanted to at least pay his own way. This varies person to person. We can't tell from here, so you'll need to talk to him about this, and the sooner the better. Don't be afraid, just a short chat (in person, not IM) to clear things up, so you can relax and enjoy your Prom.
Here's to Tradition!
Submitted by: KD of Naples, FL on Aril 6, 2007

Q: I have never heard of this before, but my son's prom date told him that he should buy her dress. She said it is a tradition in her family. Have you ever heard of such a tradition? He already bought the prom tickets and the corsage.

A: I've heard of every tradition. That seems a bit much. On the other hand, I have two daughters. Why didn't I think of that?

Seriously, though, there really aren't any "Prom Traditions", since Prom has evolved even since you were in High School. And what kind of family tradition involves other people buying clothing for you?

If your son is truly in love, and he has the income, that would be a huge gesture. I suppose if they are engaged, her family will pay for the wedding, so a Prom dress seems minor by comparison. Most teens can't afford the gas to get to the store to help their dates shop for a dress, let alone pay for it. So if this isn't all that serious, or he doesn't have the income, then he should respectfully decline on that, citing other financial burdens. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you give him the money to do this. The gesture is hollow if the money doesn't come from him anyway. I answer questions weekly if the boy should buy the prom ticket, pay for the limo, etc., but this one is new to me.
The Spirit of Giving
Submitted by: John of Wilmington, DE on May 4, 2007

Q. I am a senior, and prom is a few weeks away. I'm not sure what to do about flowers for the evening. I know that I need to get a corsage, but what about a bouquet? I have heard that getting something small for her mother is good too. What would you suggest? Also, is it ok to have flowers delivered? (Except of course for the corsage). Thanks, John

A. My, you are quite the gentleman! And a knowledgeable gentleman at that. You are right; a wrist corsage is the traditional flower arrangement for you to give to your date on prom night. Be sure to ask the color of her dress so that you can purchase a corsage that matches.

As far as giving additional gifts or flowers, that is completely up to you (and your budget!). These extra goodies are not a part of universal prom tradition. But if you find yourself with the money to spare and the desire to give, then I’m sure they will be appreciated. If you would like to have flowers delivered to your date’s house on the day of prom as a gesture of enthusiasm for the evening, I think it is a fantastic idea. But flower delivery can get pricey, so do not feel obligated.

Much like the bouquet of flowers, a small present for your date’s mother is sweet but not necessary. If you are able to afford something small and want to do so, I’d suggest a small box of chocolate or perhaps a nice scented hand lotion and soap set. These gifts are generous, but not too personal.

Before picking up any extras, make sure that the traditional necessities like a tux, corsage, and tickets have been purchased. Also be certain that you have allotted a proper amount of money for customary luxuries such as dinner and the limo. Beyond that, it is your decision. Just remember – most girls are going to be plenty impressed if you show up clean, on time, and ready to compliment her appearance!

One Small Problem
Submitted by: Kelly, Brooklyn, NY on May 9, 2007

Q. Hey my name is Kelly and I’m Dominican. Most people call me “minnie me”. I’m dark caramel skin color and I don’t know what dress fits best with my skin color. I weigh about 110 pounds. I’m 5’1 and have dark brown hair. I’m a ballet dancer, so my body is pretty fit. I was thinking of wearing a beautiful corset. But I’m a size 32A. Yup...Yikes! Do you think my size is too small for a corset?

A. It sounds like you have a beautiful figure, and a beautiful skin tone. It will not be difficult for you to look fabulous this prom night. To compliment your dark skin tone, you should look for bright colors. Don’t be afraid to sport this season’s best and brightest lime greens, yellows, pinks, and turquoises. More typical gown colors such as black and red will work too. But bold colors are really going to flatter your dark tone. And, not everyone can wear these beauties – so take advantage!

As far as gown style, you can most definitely wear a corset dress despite your petite frame. Janet Donohue, of The Perfect Pair LLC, points out that corsets can work for nearly anyone, “The beauty of a corset style is that it can be adjusted to fit just about any body!”

Janet also explains that the trick of finding the right corset gown is to be sure that the corset part of the dress fits well on your torso. If it is 'hitting wrong' on your hips or not sitting right elsewhere, it is not going to look good. Or be comfortable. But once you find a dress with the proper corset length for your body, you will have a very workable style. You can adjust the corset to suit your body perfectly. “You may need it tighter in some places and looser in others - all accomplished with the ties on the dress”, Janet adds.

The only way to find the right corset is to get out to the stores and start trying them on. Make sure to bring a friend or female relative you trust to tell you the absolute truth. A second opinion will help you decide which gowns are IT, and which gowns to DITCH. Have fun!

Two Points More
Submitted by: Melani from Chicago, IL on May3, 2007

Q. Hey! Does the corsage and boutonniere have to match in color? I ordered my date’s boutonniere with a red rose but I’m not sure if he got a red rose. And when do we give our dates our garter? Do we just take it off in front of him? Help!

A. First things first. Your corsage does not have to have the same flower, or be the same color as your date’s boutonniere. A red rose should work perfectly for your date. It is a traditional boutonniere, and will match just about any tuxedo. To make sure that the corsage you receive will match your dress, it is best to let your date know what color your dress is a couple of weeks in advance.

Now, moving on to the second part of your question. In some parts of the US, giving your date the garter you wear on prom as a keepsake of the event is a tradition. If this tradition exists in your community, then remove the garter from your leg at the end of the night (or when you change for any after prom activities) and give it to him. It is appropriate to remove the garter in a private area and hand it to your date. Some girls may feel comfortable removing the garter in front of their date. It depends on what kind of relationship you have with your date and your own personal feelings about the matter. NEVER do anything that makes you uncomfortable or uneasy. There is no rule about how to remove your garter at prom – and in many areas this tradition does not even exist. So handle the situation the way that feels best for you.

Date Dillema
Submitted by: Kelsie from Gallup, NM on March 23, 2007

Q: There is this guy I want to ask to prom. I just asked if he was going, he said nah, I just wanna cruise around that night. He's a senior and I would really like to go with him but scared to ask! What do I do?

A: Short answer: Hold your breath and ask him. If you wait, he may decide to go with someone else who asks him first!

Longer answer: Just because he SAYS he doesn't want to go, doesn't mean he won't say yes when asked. After all, boys are often pretty shy about asking girls, and they take rejection as hard or harder than girls. So the "I'm just gonna cruise around" line could really mean, "I'll go if you go with me." You'll never know unless you ask.

Aren't they FREE?
Submitted by: Joe from Dallas, TX on Marck 19, 2007

Q: Whos is supposed to pay for the prom tickets?

A: There are no rules. The boy will pay if he offers when he asks a girls, otherwise the girl should assume she will need a ticket on her own. If a girl asks a guy, she should make it clear up front who pays for waht. If the boy doesn't go to that school, for instance, he might assume that she's picking up that cost. But communicate early about such things. Don't let these issues get in the way of a great time. Sometimes parents will pick up that cost, but it is not expected. You've got to ask well in advance, as parents often pick up other costs, such as dresses and limos.

Parents: Help with Who Pays For
Submitted by: Brian on February 6, 2007

Q: Brian of Orange Park, FL writes in frustration:

Ok help me out here!!! I am the father of a 17 yr old female senior and 18 yr old male senior. Please tell me who is supposed to pay for what because everyone is driving me crazy with this!!!!!!! They both want me to pay for everything!!!!

A: Our very own general manager, Jay Freedman, replies:

As a father of recent HS grads myself (20 yr old twin girls), I'll answer this personally. "Who pays for what" is supposed to be between dates, not parent/child. However, there are some guidelines to follow. First, before you agree to anything, get the boy and girl to agree with their dates who pays for what (dinner, limos, prom tickets). If they know you're paying, the other parents get off easy. Once that is established, there are no fast rules, because every family is different. But you can apply some rules, based on the way you've handled other requests in the past, and what your teens' situation is now. The first question is whether they are currently working. If they are both working, then there MUST be some contribution from them. This is in addition to car and insurance, cell phone, etc. If they are not contributing to those already, fine, but that's where you can draw the line. If they are contributing, fine, they should be used to it. Either way, you'll set some dollar limits that you are comfortable with and they cover the rest. So many factors affect the final dollar cost, including what the date is covering or helping with, how long and how serious they are as a couple, how they are getting to and from, and how expensive does that dress have to be, anyway?

Try this: Assuming both are working, set a dollar limit, after which they use their own cash. This might be easier for the boy, since an expensive tux rental is well below the cost of a cheap dress (never the one she wants). This also assumes that if there is a limo involved, each person pays his/her own share, which is pretty typical. Note: limos are not just a luxury item anymore, but a very practical way to ensure complete safety for the evening. You have to set that limit based on a comfortable amount for you, how much the kids can realistically afford, and what they really need. Or, you could offer to pay for the limo (note: the bigger the limo, the less money per person) or just the clothing (note to girl: dress only, plus basic shoes, accessories are on you). Now, when most of their friends' parents are doing the very same thing, I've found that some kids will actually report differently, such that you are easily the cheapest dad on the planet. Do not believe this. They will enjoy the evening regardless of how they get there. Even if you decide to cover the entire event, let the teens pick out and pay for thier dates flowers-the corsage and boutonniere.

Certainly hope this helps. Good luck! Let us know the outcome.

Ever too early to ask?
Submitted by: Kerri on February 6, 2007

Q: Kerri asks:
Is it ever to early too ask a guy to the prom?

A: You mean does it seem too desperate? September is too early. Not by January. Now is the time, before some else asks him. Because it can be too late to ask a guy to prom. Better to ask him, get it over with, than to wonder what if, until he already has a date. If he says no, then you've got time to ask someone else or be asked. If he says yes, you've got more time to be excited and plan. Either way, waiting will not help you here (and that goes for boys and for girls).
Dress For Success
Submitted by: Brittany of South Lyon, MI on 11/1/06

Q: Hey, I'm 14 years old, and I've been trying to figure out what style/color of dress to get for my school's homecoming dance. This is my first year going to one, and I have no idea what kind of syles people go for at our school. I plan on asking around, but first, I was wondering on what I should be looking for color and style wise. I'm pretty short for my age, about 5', and I have dark olive skin, with shoulder length dark brown hair, almost black. It has a reddish tint to it. I also have glasses, and very dark brown eyes. I'm a medium build, about 115 lbs. I was thinking of getting a kneelength halter dress, either dark, dark green, or a crimson red. Any advice?

A: Janet of Perfect Occasions Prom & Pageant Boutique writes:
Brittany - what an exciting time for you!

Definitely ask around to find out what direction your peer group is taking. But also you need to express your own personal style.

For Homecoming we're seeing more and more shorter dresses - cocktail type dresses in beautiful colors (no longer the skinny little black dress) often with fuller skirts.

Try on various styles because you may be surprised to find out that something you never considered could look terrific on you. A halter style would be the first thing I would suggest that you try!

Color is IN and with olive complexion, you can way many gorgeous colors. Don't be afraid to get a ravishing color that makes you really stand out.

Can you ditch the glasses for the dance? Do you have contacts?
You may feel more dressed up if you do.

Dress Trouble
Submitted by: Charlene from Queens, NY on 11/1/06

Q: I need some help. I'm a Senior getting ready for prom. Somehow I'm having dress trouble. I would like to get my dress made but I don't know where in NYC to go to get my dress made. Another problem is I want a dress with an open V-back that extends from under my arms to the top of my butt. I'm unable to find pictures of a dress like that to have some type of layout if I get some to make it. I want the dress to be an halter but don't know how I want the front to look. The last problem is that I don't know what color my dress should be. I'm a very elegant person when it comes to dressing up. Please help. I'm 4'11'' ft., close to thick(f lat stomach, a lot of breast, Butt, and hips), cup size: 36 D,and caramel complexion.

A: Janet of Perfect Occasions Prom & Pageant Boutique writes:
You really have several questions. Let's discuss colors first.

Carmel complexions look FABULOUS in colors like ivory, champagne and gold. Have you considered citrus colors? Stay away from colors like taupe, coffee, etc. because you NEED contrast and these colors can make you look washed out.

But over the internet, nobody can really tell you the "right" color - you have to experience this for yourself. What color really makes you glow and look terrific? You don't have to try on gowns to try different colors -even a fleece jacket can show you whether a color looks great or not.

Tip: If you look like you need more make up in a color, it's not the right color. Color is not only a function of your complexion - it's also a statement of your personality, and only you can decide what's right for you.

It's wonderful to know what you want but I have to ask you if the
style you envision is really appropriate? I've seen far too many young ladies feel that they are demonstrating their adulthood in a risqu
Clueless about dress style
Submitted by: Hannah (Lincolnshire, UK) on 6/23/06

Q: It's my Leavers prom soon and I'm unsure about what style/colour dress I want. I was thinking of a dress that flatters my figure and skin tone but I have no idea what would and wouldn't suit me, whether it be a floor length dress or something shorter, halterneck or strapless, bright or neutral colours. Im Clueless, please help! I'm 15, about average height (5 foot 6) blond hair, a light, pinkish complexion and an athletic build with broad sholuders and big bust.

A: Tonja Stevens (Bridal Elegance-Eldersburg, MD) responds: While there are a lot of different styles out there, your description of yourself leads me to believe you would look stunning in a halter stlye dress. You could go strapless if you are comfortable and sure that the "girls" will stay in the dress. Therefore, if your cup size is greater than a 'C' stay with the halter and have less fear. Remember that some halter styles can cover less, so always try on the dress (or one similar) before you buy. Long dresses are still the style for formal affairs. However, the right shorter dress like one that is shorter in the front then the back would be more than acceptable. If you have the truely broad shoulders, I would also go for a more open back to accent those beautiful shoulders. As for color, with light skin and blond hair - definitely go with loud, bright colors. Either a solid with a little beading or a broche, or mostly solid with two or three accent colors around the outside. A form fitting dress is always best if your stomach is flat. Otherwise, I recommend a cinched waist, (which is a gown that the material is pulled to one side.) Alyce Design, Tiffany or Showtime dresses would have styles to suit your needs. (There are many other companies with dresses to accent your beautiul figure as well).

Janet Donhue of Perfect Occasions by The Perfect Pear ( adds the following comments:

Things may be a bit different in the UK, but there are universal basics to dressing well that everyone can follow.

I hope that you have a some time to experiment trying on different styles and colors. Take someone with you who you can trust totally. This might be a Mom or Aunt, a sister or a best friend maybe - somebody who will tell you the absolute truth. We all know people who would love to make us look bad to make them look better and these are definitely NOT the ones to take with you.

Start trying on very different styles and colors and ask your companion for their honest feedback. If they take time to answer they're probably trying to find a polite way to say that it's not the best look for you.

A great color should make you look vibrant and your eyes sparkle. A poor color will do much less and a bad color may make you look like you need lots of make up or change your hair color. Avoid those colors at all cost!

Whether you wear a long or short dress will require a bit of homework - what is everybody else wearing? You don't want to be the only one wearing either - go with the flow.

I'm delighted to say that in most places the days of wearing as little as possible are past or at least fading quickly. Glamour is in and being tasteful always has the best impact. This still leaves a lot of room for personal expression.

We have several articles on our website on the subject of gown selection that you may find very useful:
Who pays?
Submitted by: on 5/9/06

Q: I am a junior and my boyfriend is a senior. We will be going to his senior prom. What is your suggestion as to who should pay for which expenses?

A: This is a tough one, because there are no hard and fast rules here. The fact that you are a junior and he is a senior is less important than who's prom it is and who asked whom. The panel's consensus is that, if he asked you, he should pay for the Prom tickets. If it was sort of mutual, then pay your own. If you are going steady, and you have discussed this ahead of time then don't stand on ceremony. Some boys will want to pay for the entire evening as a matter of pride. Others simply can't afford the entire bill and could use some help. You should buy each other a corsage and boutonniere. If there is dinner before, not at the Prom, tradition has it that the gentleman pays, but this depends on your exact relationship with him, and it is not unusual to split the cost of the meal Duthch-style (ie, pay your own check, or half of the combined bill). As far as a limo goes, if you are using one (and we recommend them, these days), girls more typically pay their own share as well. Frankly, unless the boy offers to pay, assume you will paying your fair share, and that includes extras like photos and souvenirs and after-Prom tickets. The best policy is to talk this over with your date before the Prom and assume nothing. If you have trouble starting the conversation, ask what color boutonniere will match his shirt.
Stocking Advice
Submitted by: Deborah on April 10, 2006

Q: My name's Deborah and I'm 16. My prom is coming up and I'm just about done getting my outfit together. I was talking with some of my girl friends, and we were comparing notes on dresses, shoes, hair and everything, but I noticed nobody was saying a word about stockings.

I decided to bring the topic up, since I had questions about the brand-- something simple you can get at a pharmacy, or a little more expensive bought at the department store? What would be the best shade: white to match my dress, or a neutral skin tone? Textured/patterned, or simple evening sheer?

They'd all seen the dress I picked out, so I started to ask them, "What style of pantyhose do you think would go best with my dress?" and that's as far as I got before I realized they were looking at me like I was nuts. Then one of them asked like she couldn't believe it, "You're wearing pantyhose to the prom?" I swear, my girl friends were all looking at me like I was a guy or something!

I said to them, "Of course I am, this is a -prom-, a -formal- dance! It's not afterschool art club! Aren't all our dates gonna be wearing tuxes?" They actually looked at me like I talked to them in Russian! Then they started to give me a whole list of why hosiery is no longer 'in,' including that no women on television are wearing them anymore, you don't even see ads for them on TV or magazines anymore, and my girl friends said they've gone dancing with each other and with their boyfriends countless times on dates at clubs and 'none' of the girls or women were wearing stockings.

I'm 5'10" tall (both my parents are pretty tall), reasonably athletic, and a little rosy but otherwise very fair in skin tone. My dress is gonna come to my knees so I felt hosiery was important to give my legs a little tone. My Mom thinks I'm right, but her prom was 24 years ago. If I quote her, my girl friends would call me decade-challenged. My date thinks I'm right, but that's a guy thing, of course a lot of guys think it's still 'hot,' lol! I started listening to conversations among a number of other girls in the senior class and well, I think I'm in a minority and that's not encouraging.

Who do all of you think is right? My girl friends, or I? Are stockings really that 'out' these days, even as formal evening wear?

Please help, I'm on the verge of exchanging my dress for something floor-length so none of the girls will notice what's underneath!


A:Tonja Stevens, owner of Bridal Elegance in Eldersburg, MD, says that you are right, stockings are very appropriate for a formal event like a Prom, unless you live in Florida, where very few women wear stockings at all. Your friends have observed correctly that stockings are not worn even in dress-up night clubs in NYC, but a formal affair is a step or two above that. Bare legs will be too casual. Choose stockings with a sandal toe, in a tone that matches your skin (nude for you). You may also need shoes that don't slip off with the stockings on.

Janet Donahue, of Perfect Occasions Prom & Pageant Boutique ( adds: "You're absolutely right, Deborah, and stick to it! Prom is a glamorous affair. It is a time for elegance and for looking your absolute best. You are making a statement to the world that you are mature enough to make excellent choices".

Janet also points out: "Sheer stockings are definitely the finishing touch that no formal affair should be without. There are regional trends developing against stockings - and in these cases they advocate using a skin finisher with color such as a liquid tanner. But a formal gown is never properly finished with bare legs! Bare legs would be the equivalent of wearing flip flops for shoes and likely where it began (though yes, we've seen that too).

"You will never be comfortable going without knowing that you should be wearing them. You want to be confident and not be thinking of your legs at your Prom.

"Select very sheer, high-quality stockings from a fine department store for this occasion. The more cling and stretch - the better. Select a color that enhances your legs but doesn't make them look like they're an entirely different color from the rest of your body."

Good luck, have a great Prom.

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