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10 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Prom Dress

prom portraits at Duke Gardens, prom pictures during senior portrait session - photographer serving around the Raleigh area.
Raleigh portrait photographer

Prom is such an exciting time, getting all dressed up in a fancy dress, hanging out with friends - dancing, eating, taking pictures. Creating all those MEMORIES. But Prom also takes some planning to make sure things go smoothly. Be prepared to visit several dress shops to pick the perfect dress for you.

No-one wants to arrive to prom wearing the same dress as someone else. Be sure to purchase your dress from a dress shop that ONLY sells that dress to ONE person going to your Prom. Or shop at a dress shop a couple of hours away from your high-school to prevent matching. Before driving hours away, call ahead of time to make sure they have your size/color for what you are shopping for.

Here are 10 tips for choosing the PERFECT Prom Dress.

  1. Budget - Yes you have to consider the $$$$$ - you might need to save for a month or so to purchase that perfect dress. But you need to decide on what your budget is. Remember you will still need to purchase shoes, jewelry and accessories. Keep in mind you can always plan to sell your dress afterwards.

  2. Color - What color makes your eyes pop? What color works best for your skin-tone? If you went to prom last year, what color did you wear? You will most likely want to wear a different color this year if you went to prom last year. Pick 2-3 colors that you like so you will know what to look for when you go to the dress shops. When you arrive at the dress shop you should be able to tell the sales associate what colors and size for them to pull dresses for you to try on to spend your time wisely. Dress shopping can be over whelming so having a plan can help.

  3. Dance - Can you dance in the prom dress? Be sure to pick a dress that you can move around in and will allow you to have fun on the dance floor. Also consider how long the dress is, if it is too long you will have to deal with people stepping on your dress all night.

  4. Shoes - If you have purchased your shoes before your dress, bring them with you to try on the dress. Or at least bring a pair of shoes with you that will be the same height, so you will know if you will need to spend extra money in alterations. Some dress shops will have shoes in their stores - you can always try on their shoes with your dress to give you an idea.

  5. Dinner - Most likely you will be eating dinner on the way to prom or at prom. How tight is the dress around your waist? You want to make sure it's not too tight that you will not want to eat. Be sure to eat something so you won't get light headed on the dance floor. The dress should fit comfortably so you will enjoy your night.

  6. Multiple Proms - Are you going to more than one prom this year? If you plan on wearing different dresses to each prom - consider that when shopping to stay in budget.

  7. Used - What about buying a dress from someone who wore theirs last year? Especially if they go to a different school, most likely the dresses from one year ago are still in style. This is a great option if you are going to multiple proms to save $$.

  8. Online - Should you order your dress online? This might look like a great option - But Be AWARE - this is risky. Before you fall in love with a dress on a shop online, check to see where it will be shipping from. If it is China it will take awhile to arrive, even if you pay for expedited shipping. Also BE AWARE if they say Free Returns - what they are possibility telling you is that while it is free to return it But you will have to pay for the shipping. In some cases the cost of shipping the dress back is almost the same or half of what you paid for it. The one exception is ordering off of Amazon - if you read their return policy - they might have free returns. If you do order one online be sure you have time to get it altered incase it doesn't fit properly. READ THE REVIEWS!!! Be sure to read multiple reviews before purchasing anything.

  9. Bra - Do you need a special bra for your dress? Most of the time nice prom dresses will have a built in bra, this is mostly likely the best option for comfort during prom.

  10. Alterations - Is it too long? Too Big? Need bra pads added? A good seamstress can fix all of these issues for you including if your dress has beads or sequins. Just make sure you have planned accordingly and scheduled an alteration in plenty of time before your prom. Seamstress can get very very busy during the spring season with all of the local proms - so plan accordingly. BE SURE TO BRING YOUR SHOES. If you do have to get your dress altered - bringing your shoes with you is a must.

Other Things to Consider

  • Jewelry - Simple but beautiful! If you are going to multiple proms - consider wearing the same jewelry to save you some $$

  • Clutch bag - You will need something to keep your lip stick, phone etc in. Sometimes you can find a nice beautiful clutch at a thrift store to save $$

  • Spray tan - Yes or No? If you want to look like you have a tan there are a couple of options. Yes you can get a spray tan - BUT I recommend that your first spray tan is not right before prom. You want to know what color/darkness etc you want before your prom. Testing before is Key to liking your results. Follow instructions before spray tan for best results. Do not try to tan outside a day or two before prom and end up burnt and red all over! Pretty sure that isn't the look you are going for.

  • Hair & Makeup - Should you schedule an appointment for a professional hair and makeup for prom? This is a great option for you to make sure your makeup is applied properly and hair styled the way you want. You will want to make that appointment early to make sure you can get the time you want on prom day. If you decide to do your own hair and makeup - Test out everything in advance to make sure you like the results.

Prom portraits at Duke Gardens during senior picture sessions, high school graduation serving the Raleigh area.
Senior Photography

Now that you have done all of that prepping for prom - One more thing to Consider - How will you remember this night? Will you just have your friends take pictures on their phone? Will you have your parents take pictures of you on your front porch? How do you want to remember this night? Please listen to me here when I say it is important to ALSO get individual pictures of you in your prom dress.

Prom portraits in downtown Raleigh
Raleigh Photographer

I am a senior photographer outside of Raleigh, NC serving Fuquay Varina, Holly Springs, Cary, Apex, Durham and surrounding areas. I know how important this day is and how important it is to capture these memories. I also realize this is a busy day, getting ready, dinner, and driving to the location of prom. Sometimes scheduling an hour session to get pictures just doesn't fit into your schedule.

Prom pictures in downtown Raleigh during spring senior session serving Fuquay Varina, Holly Springs, Cary, Apex, Durham, Knightdale, Wendell, Greensboro and surrounding areas.
Fuquay Varina Portrait Photographer

One of the most popular options I give to my seniors it to use their prom dress as one of their outfits at their Spring Senior Session. Of course if their session is before their prom, I will not post any images of them in their prom dress before prom. This is a great way to get amazing prom portraits and not add in an extra item to do on prom night.

Please inquire if you are interested in a JMFHOTO Senior Experience Session around the Triangle Area.

Senior Portrait Photographer serving Fuquay Varina, Cary, Holly Springs, Apex, Lillington, Clayton, Knightdale, Wendell, Greensboro, Durham and surrounding areas.

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