Teen Talk

Too sexy? Too boring? Ground rules for prom dress shopping

Karri Pfutzenreuter gathers several prom dresses for her daughter, Danae, at the Snowline Hospice Thrift store in Folsom. This week, Kelly Richardson gives tips to young women regarding prom dress shopping with a parent.
Karri Pfutzenreuter gathers several prom dresses for her daughter, Danae, at the Snowline Hospice Thrift store in Folsom. This week, Kelly Richardson gives tips to young women regarding prom dress shopping with a parent. RBenton@sacbee.com

DEAR KELLY: My mom and I cant agree on prom dresses. It’s a nightmare. We hate shopping together, can’t get along, disagree on what’s cute or what’s appropriate, and pretty much fight every time. My friends post snaps like “shopping and snacking with my momma.” We can’t even tolerate each other for the shopping part. It’s a blow up every single time. I asked if I could just go with my friends and she said no because I would come home with something she didn’t approve of or was too expensive. Then the battle would be huge. She insists she has to be there, yet I can tell she hates it.

I want to just go with my friends, buy what I feel comfortable in and be done. The problem is once I pick the dress, we won’t agree on the shoes either. She’ll say the ones I get are too high, I’ll say the ones she picks are too old or boring, and we will never agree. It’s an endless cycle. I love my mom but we disagree on just about everything.

Any advice or help?

P.S.: I forgot to say that I have a really cool stepmom who would love to help me. I think we’d do great shopping together, but my mom hates my stepmom and would never allow it.


DEAR HEATHER: What you know: you know you love your mom. When in doubt, always refer back to what you know. When you argue, refer back to what you know. When you stress, refer back to what you know. Knowing that you love your mom is your launching pad and helps things move up, instead of down, when you disagree or get stressed.

Let me normalize your situation. It is very common for parents and daughters to disagree on what to wear to prom. Shopping for prom dresses is exciting and stressful. Parents want appropriate and daughters want grown-up. Mom might be thinking tasteful and daughter might be wanting sexy or sophisticated. Your scenario of dress shopping is familiar to other mother/daughters and rings true in many families. Since people are different, their styles are different and agreeing on clothing can be a tough task. What look are you going for and what is your mom thinking? Figuring that out can be a good first step to understanding each other and picking out a dress that satisfies both your needs.

To make the day more manageable, a few “agreements” should be in place. Did you establish the budget? Knowing your spending limits helps with finding the right dress. Perhaps you sit down with a magazine and look at dresses together, talking about which ones you like or dislike. Maybe she’s uncomfortable with dresses that show way too much skin or you want one you can feel comfortable dancing in. Look at pictures for like 30 minutes together and come up with some dresses you both like or at the least can agree to try. Or look online together. Many girls buy their dresses online because they are cheaper and can avoid the shopping fiasco and then just have them altered to fit.

Instead of doing lunch after, try lunch before. Being “hangry” (so hungry you are angry) is a terrible way to shop for anything – let alone trying to find “the right dress” for a night that feels so important like prom. If you are fed and full, maybe you won’t be so snappy with each other. Go earlier in the day so you aren’t too tired or dragging. Agree that you both can pick out five dresses and you will try them all on. No eye rolls or heavy sighs when she brings her picks to you. Be open minded and give it a whirl. Sometime we surprise ourselves by liking something we never considered. Set a time limit – like looking for 2 1/2 hours. If you can’t find anything, stop for the day. Grinding on and on makes the whole experience feel like a chore rather than an experience.

What if you brought a neutral party – a third person to help navigate and offer ideas to you both? Is there a neighbor, friend’s mom, auntie who can help? Perhaps having another person will help with a buffer between you and your mom.

If you still seem to struggle and the experience is more torture than enjoyment, change it up. Ask mom if you can go shopping with your friends, a friend’s mom or even your stepmom and narrow it down to five dresses. Take pictures of all five dresses and show her. If she likes one, go look at it together. Or maybe she picks her top two and you go look at those together. This will reduce to guessing time and you know that either dress she picks, you will be happy.

Relax. Breathe. You will find the right dress. It might not be the to-die-for-perfect dress but it will be the right dress for right now. The goal is to find a dress that you feel comfortable and pretty in and one that you can sit and dance in without fear of showing too much. Be careful of overspending on shoes because it seems like once pictures are over, shoes (especially uncomfortable ones) are kicked off and never to be seen again. Make sure you refer back to what you know: you love your mom and she loves you. Nothing matters more.