Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Formatives Moments in Fashion History: The Prom Dress

There are not many occasions more momentous than prom.  Maybe it’s the prom-themed Seventeen Magazine issue on how to do the perfect cat-eye, the racks of low-cut rhinestone pastel dresses lining the Macy’s junior section or the endless buildup by Hollywood producers: Regina George in a neck brace in Mean Girls, Drew Barrymore’s emotional breakdown after being named Prom Queen in Never Been Kissed or Brittany Snow escaping an ax-murderer in Prom Night.  It tops Homecoming, the Sadie Hawkins dance, even Halloween.

No, my brother was not my prom date -just a cool junior. Yes, his hand does look amputated.

And it all begins with the search for the perfect dress (three months in advance, mind you).
It’s almost hard to describe the significance of your senior prom dress.  It’s the Met Ball of high school.  Once the night ends, everyone is quick to navigate their Facebook newsfeed, creating an unofficial “best dressed” and “worst dressed” list in their heads and among their friends at brunch.  Not to mention the immediate reactions by your friends, family and faculty alike who line up to send you off in a ceremonial gathering akin to the red carpet.

Sure, you may consider yourself a prom vet, especially if you attended sophomore and junior years, but unlike other formals, prom demands floor-length dresses for senior girls, an unwritten rule passed down each year that underclassmen wouldn’t dare defy for fear of upsetting the social order or receiving a death glare from the senior girl who terrifies you.  And unlike mini dresses, for which you have your go-to designers: Alice and Olivia, Parker and Mason, gowns are a whole ‘nother ball game in which there is no middle ground between the $50 unflattering satin cutout and an Oscar de la Renta work of art.  And for some reason, the parentals were unwilling to drop $10k+ for the latter.  So, the search was on.

First, I perused Rent-the-Runway, which was currently making its rounds among the prep school set, promising you the perfect dress for the night, eliminating the tendency to buy a dress for one occasion. Just select a dress, yours for the weekend at only 90% of the retail value, and they’d even send two sizes to ensure the perfect fit.  But after a homecoming order gone wrong (somehow I deluded myself that I hadn’t actually gained the freshman 15, so neither sizes fit…oops), I was reluctant to hedge my bets and end up naked on prom night.

This led to daily online searches, rotating between Shopbop and Net-a-Porter, incessantly checking my shopping carts to see if any items went on sale, rendering the initial $1,500 price tag newly feasible.  No such luck.

“I’m going to end up showing up naked,” I had convinced myself after several trips to the Quakerbridge Mall were fruitless –unless you count the pit stop at Auntie Anne’s.  Willpower, what’s that?

But then there it was.  My dress.  Awaiting me in the “What’s New” section of Net-a-Porter, restocked every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A cream silk-chiffon maxi dress from Antik Batik with beaded shoulders that the description claimed “exudes Grecian glamour.”  

Add to shopping cart.
And I lived happily ever after.


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