Yes, it’s Prom season. The time of year when young men rent their first tuxedos, when young ladies buy over-priced single-use gowns and spend hundreds of dollars on over-coiffed hairdos and porn-star makeup. For some, it feels like a dress rehearsal for a wedding, except, perhaps, for the fact that we’re far less particular about our Prom date than about our bridegroom/bride. And then there’s also the fact that a solid white dress at this senior year tradition is perhaps one of the biggest prom faux pas.
The truth is that I had no intention to go to my senior prom. It took a fair amount of convincing to get me to hand in my deposit, and even then I wasn’t sure I was going to go through with it. Since I was ambivalent about the event, I was ambivalent about dress shopping (imagine, me ambivalent about SHOPPING). But if you’ve ever wandered into the evening wear section of any department store, you know just how many dresses, mostly bad, there are to wade through. The task of finding a decent prom dress is daunting. Mission Impossible? Pretty much. I had visions of passing hours, days, even weeks trying on Jessica McKlintook monstrosities and finally having to resort to some sort of pink, multi-tiered confection of tuile and crinoline. No, no, no, no, no.
Determined not to show up at my prom in the same dress as someone else, I decided to leave the suburbs and try my luck at the Bloomingdales in Manhattan. I wandered around the racks of floor-length gowns, dumbfounded. A voice rang from behind me: “Why don’t we try couture upstairs.” Thanks, Mum. 5 minutes later I was in the dressing room, trying on a hand-beaded tea-rose pink silk dress made by a boutique London designer named Meghan Park. 15 minutes later, it was in a garment bag and we were heading upstairs to Le Train Bleu for lunch, my prom dress in hand.
It was the first dress I tried on. And it was an ace. A safe bet — the kind of dress that would look better if I lost 10 lbs, but didn’t demand weight loss to make me feel fantastic; the kind of dress I would wear again and again, for the next 30 years if I so choose. At the cocktail dress length of mid-calf it was nontraditional for prom. In fact, on the day of the event, there were only 2 of us who didn’t have something that skirted the floor. Today, there seems to be a split between the shorter numbers and the toe-hiders.The shoes were more of a challenge. Bergdorfs, Bloomies, Nordstroms, and Neimans all came up empty. Ironically, I found the shoes in Kansas when I was in Kansas City for a fencing competition. They were Stuart Weitzman and simple d’orsay pumps. Like the dress, they have been worn since (and modified to make them even more wearable). I also did my own makeup, and as for the hair, only curlers to enhance my natural wave,
It’s too late for me to lend any advice to the current prom-goers — dresses have been bought, appointments with the MAC cosmetic artists have been booked, and the updo already tried, tested and approved. Though I will say to current juniors starting to think about senior year, graduation and prom — ladies, buy a dress you’re going to wear again, and gentlemen, don’t try to match your cummerbund with her dress, you’ll just look like an idiot.