prom dress shopping.
Ann Lloyd-James, the founder of Glitterati Prom, tells fully grown about the importance of prom and finding the perfect dress.
When I left secondary school, sometime in the last century, we celebrated by dropping balloons filled with water from the art room windows. We also sat through a relentless prize-giving ceremony. And finally, from 7 - 10.30pm (the extra half hour was the ultimate recognition of our new status) we had the Leavers’ Disco. We all wore jeans, but to mark the significance of the occasion, some of us sported a new t-shirt, or maybe a pair of wedges instead of the usual trainers.
The concept of a School Prom was stuck firmly on the other side of the Atlantic, blurring fuzzily with the strange dance-off in Grease and the mysterious category of ‘Americanisms’ which included Halloween and Thanksgiving. How times have changed. Now, the School Leavers’ Prom, which is usually celebrated after GCSEs, has become a Rite of Passage, marking the point where children become young adults.
Let’s face it, the Prom comes at the end of a fractious school year, following revision, mocks, more revision, arguments, power-struggles, more arguments... and finally, panic over, the exams are done and it’s time to party. No wonder, given the opportunity, parents and teachers will dangle the enticement of The Prom as a metaphorical carrot to incentivise school-weary teenagers.
Of course, everything is topsy-turvy at the moment. The class of 2020 have missed out on their prom experience, but there is hope for 2021 as we all learn to find ways of working within necessary restrictions.
So, you need a gown. The prom dress buying season really gets underway in the October half term, with early-bird purchasers bagging their favourite frocks before their classmates get to them - competition can be fierce. The season crescendoes to a peak in the February half term and then tails off towards Easter. Bearing in mind that most prom dresses are made to order with a twelve week lead time and that alterations are nearly always needed, it’s wise to buy early. And it’s such an enjoyable experience, a real bonding moment for (usually) mother and daughter.
From Mum’s perspective, she probably hasn't seen her daughter wear anything other than leggings, jeans, sportswear, crop-tops, etc, since she turned ten. Suddenly, at the prom dress studio, her daughter is transformed into a young woman. It helps Mum really see that her daughter is growing up, and this can be an emotional moment.
It’s equally significant for the daughter, as she tries on different gowns, noticing how different styles change both the shape of her body and the different messages the gowns send out. Invariably, Mum will want to see her daughter in a traditional ballgown, highlighting the Disney fantasy, and many teenagers are Cinderella-curious, so this is where most customers start their search. Many school leavers, however, also want to try more sophisticated gowns, habitually trying to look older than they are. Needless to say, this is where conflict can arise. It is the skill of the store assistant that enables a happy resolution to be found, by having in-depth knowledge of their stock and suggesting alternative options to find a perfect solution.
It’s quite poignant to think that this may be the last time mother and daughter will share such a pivotal clothes-buying experience until it’s time to choose a wedding dress! But buying a prom dress isn’t cheap, and so to avoid costly mistakes I always advise my customers at Glitterati Prom to consider some key points when choosing their gown.
So many young people only wear stretchy, soft, structureless clothes, so a properly designed gown with a built-in bra and layers of petticoats can be a shock. Customers need to consider whether they could wear the gown for six hours? Is it too heavy for them? Is it too scratchy? Is it too revealing for the event? Does it sit comfortably with their personality?
Can their budget cover the price tag? Don’t forget there may be alterations to pay for, as well as shoes. Then there’s hair, nails.... it all adds up. Can I wear it again? This makes an expensive dress cost-effective. Maybe the dress would work at a University ball, or could be shortened to wear to another event? Having a stunning gown in your wardrobe that can be pulled out at the drop of a hat is a smart-girl essential.
Of course, there are many other considerations relating to gown styles that suit different body shapes, but that is another can of worms that can be explored on another occasion. For now, let’s just hope that proms will return next summer, and keep in mind that buying a prom dress is a wonderful experience for parents and children alike, and we are proud to be part of this important Rite of Passage.
Ann Lloyd-James, Glitterati Prom - Located between Bath and Bristol, for the ultimate prom dress buying experience. Intimate and relaxed, by appointment only. 07790428721.