Shelley Aquilante shares some parenting advice she learned the hard way: When it comes to shopping with a daughter for a prom gown -- take your time.
"Make a day of it. Don't be in a hurry. You can't rush it," said the Liberty woman of the hours she spent scouring rack after rack of prom dresses at MB Bride in Greensburg, with daughter Alyssa, 18.
"Tylenol and patience is the key," agreed said Teri Quiggle of Liberty about shopping and advising daughter Kaitlin, 18, who tried on 100 or so dresses over 31/2 hours as she got ready for this year's prom season, about to get under way officially.
The moms advised that shoppers be prepared to dig deep in their purse as well. While fashions chosen by girls in the South Hills range from demure to daring and are all over the color palate, the price for the once-in-a-lifetime gown this season is about $300.
Price tag aside, "it was a relief because our search had come to an end," said Betty Maize of Liberty, whose nine-hour odyssey included jaunts to Ohio and Sharon, Mercer County, so daughter Ashley Lunsford, 18, could find "something different and exclusive."
But despite the crowds, traffic, exhaustion and occasional clashing of wills with headstrong offspring, the moms agreed they would not have traded the afternoon for a day at the beach -- although such an image was appealing at times.
All of which goes to prove that prom shopping makes for memories.
"I liked the mother-daughter bonding. It was shop till you drop and have a good time," said Michelle Deliman of Liberty, who concluded her "girls day out" with Lauren, 16, with dinner at a fancy restaurant.
Mary Jean Donohue of Jefferson Hills said she cherished the "family time" spent at The Prom Shoppe in Uniontown, with daughter Meghan, 17, her mother, Rosemary Denne of Duquesne, and niece Maria Tomas of North Huntingdon.
"My mom is a spirited 83 and loved the travel and the chaos," Mrs. Donohue said.
Easing the sting of the purchase price was Maria, a practical sixth-grader. "She said, 'Don't worry about the cost. I'm going to wear it to my prom, too,' " Mrs. Donohue said.
"So, I think we'll get it cleaned and save it for Maria," she said.
For the prom goers, while appreciative of the maternal -- and oftentimes extended family -- involvement, it was all about the dress.
"I care about my mom's opinion, but it's my prom, not hers," said Lauren Deliman, who will don a "really elegant" full-length, black gown with silver flowers on one shoulder strap and in her mid-section for her first prom.
She will repay the $189 cost to her mother in increments from her new job at a KFC restaurant.
Before deciding upon a $450 full-length, black gown with animal prints and gems leading up the shoulder strap, Kaitlin Quiggle had the peace of mind of knowing no color or style was overlooked in her quest -- thanks to her mother.
"My mom had me try on dresses that were not appealing to me, but I tried them on to make her happy," she said.
But the hardest part of shopping for a prom gown is not pleasing a parent.
"It is hoping your date likes it," Kaitlin said.
To minimize stress, Ashley Lunsford and her mother, aunt, grandmother and sister set sail on their gown-buying journey last summer before the pre-prom crush.
While some disagreement prevailed about styles, "I put my foot down," said Ashley of a $432 white, strapless, knee-length white dress with white roses at the bottom and rhinestones around the top.
"It was a celebration when we finally found the dress," said her mother, Betty Maize, who paid.
Like Lauren, Kaitlin and Ashley, Alyssa Aquilante will attend the South Allegheny High School prom May 20 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel.
Her full-length, strapless, dark purple gown is puffy along the bottom with silver flowers on the left and right hips.
To offset the $375 tab for her mom, Alyssa will wear the silver shoes from last year's prom.
While Alyssa liked the way the dress looked on her more than the others she tried, it was not her mother's first choice. "The one that I really, really liked, she wanted nothing to do with. The best part is -- her friend bought it," said Mrs. Aquilante.
Marie Carroll, 17, who has yet to shop, said her gown "has to be comfortable and fit well." She also wants it to be full length and purple or blue in color.
While she will make the final choice, the Pleasant Hills senior said she will listen to comments from her mom and grandma.
Jackie Zumbo, 17, of Jefferson Hills, chose a full-length, strapless purple gown that fades into white on the bottom and has sequins at the top.
She said the hardest part of shopping is finding the right dress as the field is so competitive.
"You want to try to get out there first before other girls get the dress you want," she said.
Like Marie and Jackie, Meghan Donohue will attend the Thomas Jefferson High School prom May 19 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel, followed by the after-prom on the Gateway Clipper.
Meghan was not initially sold on the full-length, strapless light blue gown with a ruffled bottom and silver sequins on the bodice.
But her family entourage persuaded her.
"My mother was in her glory," Meghan said of the selection, which she now loves.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: email@example.com . First Published April 7, 2011 9:30 AM