Prom Princess or Porn Star? Talk With Daughters When Shopping for Dance Dresses

Filed under: Fashion, Teen Culture, Behavior: Teens, Gear Guides: Teens


This one-shoulder, long dress from David's Bridal is prom perfection. Credit: David's Bridal

Short is cool. But so is long. Pink is definitely trendy. But don't discount the popularity of blue, either. It's hard to go wrong with a princess style. But shining in sequins? Well, that's just beyond awesome.

Colors, lengths and details have certainly changed since our own prom night fashions from (gulp) decades ago -- when the pouf of our dresses was matched only by the pouf of our Aqua Net-enhanced hair. For prom 2010, versus, say, prom 1986 -- or even prom 1996, dresses are so much shorter. They're a whole lot sexier. Heck, some prom ads we've seen even border on something you'd see at the Adult Movie Awards -- not the high school gym.

Nope, Moms, this isn't Molly Ringwald's "Pretty in Pink" prom. Today's teens want grown-up glam. But, as parents, we want our girls to look more lady than vamp -- to look like prom queens, not porn stars. So despite the plethora of prom styles showing off daring décolleté, cutouts more appropriate for a pole dance than a school dance, or styles so short your daughter won't be able to sit down without pulling a Paris Hilton, be sure to talk with her about your concerns before you hit the stores.

"This is a decision between Mom, Dad and daughter," Joanne Stoner, CEO of fashion site Edressme.com, tells ParentDish. "What may be too revealing in one community may be quite acceptable in another. We often receive calls to our call center where we act as the referee and guide all three parties to a consensus. Families frequently shop together in our showroom so that everyone weighs in on the purchase of the dress."

Just remember choosing this dress is, like, a really big deal for your not-so-little-anymore-little-girl.

"This is an opportunity for this girl to really dress up – maybe for the first time," Adam Moon, fashion director for juniors for Macy's Inc., tells ParentDish. "So she wants to make it count and be pretty and elegant. ... Somewhere between a short party style and a long dress is where the newness is."

Designer Nicole Miller, known for her flirty styles, tells ParentDish her own prom dress was a light pink, full-length empire number with a bow -- sounds very Ringwald-esque to us. But she says sexier styles are fine, "so long as they stay away from those bare midriffs."

Miller says teens and moms out shopping should look for dresses in shades of salmon pink or cornflower blue and in fabrics such as silk georgettes and satins.

"(Styles) are short for this year, and a little more flirty; less vampy," she tells ParentDish. "Strapless is big."

As for her prom dress, Stoner says it was "white lace, long with a delicate pink ribbon. It looked like a wedding dress – a conservative wedding dress, which is why my parents probably approved of it."

Nicole Miller says blue is trendy for prom 2010. Credit: Saksfifthavenue.com

So, whether you decide it's OK to let your daughter show a little skin, or insist on coverage that's Mom- and Dad-approved, here are some trends to look for as you shop:

It's all in the details: "This season, details and embellishments reign supreme," says Sinead Kasch, prom style expert for David's Bridal. "We're seeing everything from sleek, one-shoulder gowns and short, flirty silhouettes to layers of ruffles and tiers and trend-right floral and animal prints."

And Kasch says embellished dresses and accessories are all the rage this season.

"Top trends include layers of ruffles, bows and tiers, three dimensional flower embellishments, bejeweled necklines and all-over sequin options," she tells ParentDish. "Prom girls can accessorize these stylish dresses with strappy sandals, chunky stone necklaces, glittery handbags and sparkling headbands for that extra bit of glam."

Kasch says she chose clean silhouettes for her own proms in 1998 and 1999.

"For senior prom, I chose a full skirted tea-length pink dress -- a la Audrey Hepburn -- and styled it with silver-gray accessories and a tiara," she says. "Did I mention I wasn't even prom queen? If I were to go to prom in 2010, I would definitely go for the short, full styles we are seeing today. A layered tulle skirt with an embellished bust would be so fun to style, and I could show off some great shoes."

Let it shine: "This year sequins have been very strong for prom," Stoner says. "All over sequin dresses are one of the strongest trends we have seen. There's a glamorous feeling to these gowns and a red carpet appeal for young girls."

Moon agrees.

"It's pailettes, it's sequins -- but maybe done in an unexpected color or done as an all over embellishment," he says. "Maybe it's just a simple sequin shift dress but overlayed with tulle or lace so it kind of tones it down. Ruffle details are still important, too."

Go short, go long: Stoner says this season offers a mix of long and short styles.

"Short prom dresses have been growing in importance over the past few years," she tells ParentDish. "Programs like 'Dancing with the Stars' have highlighted dancing. Young girls gravitate toward short dresses so that they have freedom of movement to dance. However, long still trumps short representing about 60 percent of all prom sales."


XOXO's pink, strapless and in-between short and long prom dress hits all the trends. Credit: Macys.com

Color story: "I'm kind of obsessed with all the blush colors you've seen on the red carpet," Moon says, adding that fuschia, blue and turquoise are also important colors for prom dresses. "There's been a lot of shine fabrications, whether they be silks or satins, but we're also seeing tulle overlays that have a little sparkle. And hammered satin feels kind of new and pretty."

But there's still a place for the Little Black Dress, as well, Moon adds.

"Black is always going to be there," he says. "But the newness is that it might have some origami treatment to it or rosette details or maybe a bit of shine through pailettes or sequins to really make that black dress special."

And Stoner says metallics are big for prom 2010, as well, with silver and gold dominating the best-seller list.

Celebrity style: "Fresh off the Oscars and Golden Globes' red carpets, go-to prom designs include glamorous ball gowns, stunning one-shoulder dresses, goddess-inspired gowns and stand-out styles with bold ruffles," Kasch says.

Stoner says what is seen on the red carpet is frequently interpreted into affordable and chic fashions that appeal to women of all ages.

"Not only is direction set with silhouettes -- as in the one-shoulder gown -- but also in color, as in the predominance of blue and the statement of the print gown that emerged at the Oscars," she says.

Related: Color Us Happy! Spring Fashion Trends for Kids are Bright On

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