Prom Dresses for 2021: Shopping Advice

Dessy Twist Wrap Dress

Prom night is your night – make it great!

Your prom ight is a time when you deserve to look and feel like a princess! And you want your date to feel like a prince, too. You’re on your own for finding a great date, but here are some hints about finding the perfect prom dress, and other advice for a memorable evening. It’s YOUR night and it should be great!

Prom Dresses: Before You Shop

Take heart – there are sure to be several prom dresses for 2021 that could be great for you! Think about what you want. Are you looking for a once-in-a-lifetime fairytale gown? Or do you want something classic that you could wear again as a special occasion dress, perhaps with different accessories? Is your style sleek and tailored, or more lace and ruffles? As you shop for prom dresses, start with an idea of what you’d like but keep an open mind. Sometimes a dress that looks plain on the hanger can be stunning when you put it on.

For prom dress ideas, tour the bridal and formal shops, read prom magazines, visit designers’ websites. The directory section of BridalResousrces.com has links to hundreds of bridal and formal dress stores.

THINK AHEAD: Whether you’re shopping online or in a store in your area, or getting your gown custom made by a local dress maker, think ahead and allow LOTS of time. You’ll have a much wider range of choices if you shop early enough that there’s time for special orders.

TIP: Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off! Many salons ask patrons to remove their footwear when they enter the store, to help protect long skirts and fragile fabrics from picking up dirt.

Know What Suits You

Know what dress colors highlight your eyes, hair and skin tone, and what style lines are most flattering for your body type. The best way to hide flaws is to highlight your good points. So be sure you know what your good points are! (Too many of us are insecure about that!)

An A-line skirt with a bit of flare is flattering on nearly everyone. Be cautious about white or very light-colored prom dresses, especially if the fabric has a lot of shine. They reflect light and can make you seem larger, not what most of us want . Darker hues tend to have a slimming effect, but on the other hand you want a shade with enough life to flatter your own coloring.

If you’re drawn to prom dresses with a revealing or very tight cut, remember there’s a difference between looking sexy and looking cheap. The line doesn’t fall in the same place for everyone, but know where it is for you and don’t cross it.

Dress Size

You can look elegant at any size if the design has the right proportions to flatter your figure and you get a good fit. You want a fit that skims the body but doesn’t cling, with enough ease to move comfortably and gracefully. Formal dress sizing is often different from regular dresses so judge the dress by how it fits, not the number on the tag.

If your size or shape is not easy to find on the ready-to-wear racks, look into special ordering through your local bridal / formal shop. Many styles from top designers can be ordered in a wide range of sizes both large or small. Special orders need lots of lead time, so if you think this might be your best option you’ll need to start your prom shopping earlier than your friends.

Be Realistic About Size

Media emphasis on being thin can make perfectly normal gals feel insecure about their size. Don’t fall for that – have the confidence to celebrate yourself the way God made you! (Marilyn Monroe wore size 16.) Buy your prom dress to fit and flatter as you are now; don’t buy a smaller size planning to lose weight by prom night. If you do lose a few pounds it’s usually no problem to have the seams taken in a bit. But if you buy too small it can be difficult or even impossible to alter the dress to fit. There’s not much that’s attractive (or comfortable) about squeezing into a too-tight dress. A good foundation garment can help, but the most important thing is being realistic about size in the first place.

If you’re shopping online or through a catalog (for prom dresses or any other apparel), accurate measurements are critical. Don’t just assume you know what size you need; get measured by an expert then obey the tape measure. 

IMPORTANT: If you get your dress altered, be sure to wear the same shoes and undergarments to your fitting as you’ll wear on prom night. They can make a major difference to how your dress fits. Also, if you think you might need alterations, avoid dresses with beading near the seams, as this can be more expensive to alter.

“The best way to hide flaws is to highlight your good points!”

Dessy Ties - Dozens of Colors
Dessy Ties + Pocket Squares – Dozens of Colors

Plan Your Colours

Plan your prom colors with your date; it always looks good when a couple in formal attire plan their outfits to co-ordinate. Even if you keep your dress a secret until prom night, tell him enough that he’d be able to accent his tuxedo with your color if he’s not wearing totally formal black and white. It’s a nice touch if his tie picks up the color of your gown.

Shopping tip: Check out the men’s ties in dozens of colors at Dessy.com,. Dessy is famous for bridesmaid dresses and they also make men’s accessories to match. Perfect for prom too! Shop early in case your chosen color must be special ordered.

Prom Shoes

Good shoes are as important as your prom dress. It may take some hunting to find dress shoes or sandals that feel good for dancing all night, but comfort matters as much as good looks. Hey, if your feet hurt it ruins your smile!

It’s wise to wear your shoes several times before prom night to break them in a bit and be sure they’ll be comfortable. Resist the temptation of cute heels that are crazy-high. A low to mid heel is likely your best choice;. Another thing to be cautious about is thin straps that can dig in after a few dances.

If you think you have big feet, avoid white or very light-colored shoes; look for a color that doesn’t call attention to itself. A shade that blends well with your skin and hosiery tones can be an attractive look. Some stores selling prom dresses offer fabric shoes that can be dyed to match your dress, but consider whether a classic leather or subtle metallic look might give you more wear later. If you choose your shoes well you’ll be able to get good use out of them afterwards, as well as looking gorgeous on prom night. Reminder: If you choose sandals, make sure your pedicure is perfect!

Prom Flowers

Let your date know the color and style of your gown so he can order flowers to suit. For some prom dresses, a wrist corsage or flowers in your hair can be a good option. Amidst all your own planning, remember to order a flower for your date! It’s hard to go wrong with a classic carnation or rose for his lapel. This could be another place to pick up the color of your gown.

“Remember to order a flower for your date!”

Jewelry and Handbag

Keep things simple, and go for the look of quality. If you want to do something special, consider investing in quality pearls or other jewelry that you’d be able to wear for years afterwards, long after 2021 prom dresses are just a memory. If your family is likely to give you a graduation present, this might be something you could suggest. You can get the look of pearls or gold with costume jewelry, but it does something wonderful to you knowing that what you’re wearing is real!

Your evening purse should have just a few necessities, the fewer the better. Lipstick, a small comb, some blusher perhaps, some tampons if it’s that time of the month, and enough money for phone calls or a cab ride home. Give some thought to what you’ll do with your purse when you’re dancing, as this can be awkward. One creative girl I know sewed a secret pocket in the lining of her prom dress to keep a small comb and some money, got her date to keep her lipstick in his pocket, and didn’t carry a purse at all.

Prom Hair Styles and Makeup

Whether you choose a loose and flowing prom hair style or a formal updo, this is the night for something special. If you opt for an updo don’t let it be uptight; avoid too-tight styles with hair pulled tight back off your face. A bit of looseness around your face is usually more flattering. Make sure your nails are in perfect condition, fingers and toes. Buff them to a sheen with a good nail buffer, or choose an elegant polish. It might be wise to choose a fairly neutral polish color. If you get a chip it won’t show as much as with a dark shade. A lot of guys don’t like the “blood-red-talons” look anyway.

Use fragrance sparingly, just enough that when he’s close he’ll be aware of how nice you smell. Something to watch out for is deodorant that leaves white smudges. Choose the kind that goes on clear. Make sure your underarms are well groomed. Above all, remember that when you’re doing your makeup and hair, you want to look like a beautiful, enhanced version of you, not like someone else.

Undies

The right foundation garments can improve how your prom dress will fit and flatter. Choose your undies carefully to provide support in the right places and go with the cut of your gown. This is one time you absolutely don’t want elastic peeking out where it shouldn’t be. Like shoes, good undies can serve you well later. Remember: If you get your gown altered be sure to wear the same foundation garment and shoes to your fitting as you’ll wear on prom night.

HERE’S A CRAZY TIP: Consider getting one of those one-piece super-powered slimming swimsuits and use it for a foundation garment under your prom dress. It would support you in the right places and give you lots of wear out of it afterwards.

Plan for Bad Weather

Have a plan for how you’ll cope if the weather turns cold or rainy. For a spring prom, a pretty shawl or dressy sweater to ward off evening coolness might be all you need. Rain is harder to cope with when you’re wearing formal attire. Many rain coats don’t have enough volume to cover a really full skirt, so consider a nice cape or poncho. If it’s raining hard you might need to wear rain boots and carry your dancing shoes to change into.

Stylish rain gear could serve you for years, so if you want to be really prepared this is something to think about. But if the only waterproof boots you own look like something a lumberjack would wear, so be it; have a giggle and wear them through the puddles. Everyone will be in the same boat, after all. As long as you have your sense of humor, you can handle just about anything!

Plan Your Tan

Give some thought to your tan in the weeks before prom night. You don’t want strange tan lines distracting from your perfect prom attire! When you’re out in the sun use sunscreen and choose your clothes so you develop a smooth, even tan. Self-tanning lotions can help here, but only if you have used them before and know how they work for you.

Practice Walking in a Long Dress

Many young women are so used to wearing jeans they don’t have a good sense of how to move gracefully in a long skirt. Practice, practice, practice so you can walk with a smooth, elegant stride in your prom dress. The old modelling school trick of walking with a book balanced on your head is still a good one!

Dress Rehearsal

Get together with a friend and take pictures of each other in your prom dresses a few days ahead. Do a practice run on your prom hair styles and makeup for the full effect. Try different poses and expressions to see how you look your best. Models know that some positions appear more flattering than others. Hold your shoulders at a slight angle to the camera, then twist your hips a bit more sideways, away from the camera. It’s even good to practice your smile in front of a mirror!

Look After Yourself on Prom Night

You need your basic survival smarts even on prom night. Especially on prom night, perhaps. Don’t let excitement cloud your best judgment about things like alcohol, drugs, sex, or crazy driving. Sometimes parties and after-parties can get out of hand, and things can go in directions that are, um, unwise. Don’t let yourself be pressured into anything that makes you uncomfortable or uneasy. If anyone tries to talk you into something you are not absolutely sure is right for you, they do you no favors. It can be good insurance to have your parents or someone else you trust on standby to come and get you with a single phone call, no questions asked. People who truly care about you will support your resolve to make wise decisions. Okay, end of lecture. Did I say enough?

Prom Pictures

Capturing your prom night on video can be fun, but afterwards you’re more likely to look at pictures in an album. For the nicest prom keepsake, I think your best bet is professional-quality still pictures. Portrait photographers know what to do to make you look your best in your prom attire. By all means get video footage too if you want, but my suggestion is to do it in addition to good still pictures, not instead of them.

Look After Yourself, Starting Now

Eat healthy food, get good rest, exercise regularly, learn to find joy in daily living. The healthier you are are the better your attitude about life, the lovelier you’ll look on prom night. And the rest of your life, too!

Smile! You look wonderful!

— by Elisabeth Archambault — Copyright 2001 – 2020