Local Dispatch: Picking prom dress is one tradition that never loses its style


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Well, it's almost that time of the year, for an event bigger in my house than the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas combined. This life-changing phenomenon is famously known as the prom.

Yes, I knew it was coming, but how in the world did it get here so fast? Wasn't she just playing dress-up with her Barbie dolls and pouring tea at our mid-afternoon tea parties? I could have sworn she just won "Pretty Pretty Princess" for the 12th time. And wasn't that her recently wrinkling her nose at the yucky thought of ever going out with a boy?

But somehow the years sprinted by. Now she's suddenly 17 and as effervescent and bubbly as a bottle of Asti Spumante on New Year's Eve, as the day for her first prom approaches.

"Mom, we have to go shopping for my dress," she says after receiving the ask from her date. It begins a search that makes me wonder what would happen if she spent as much time on her high school research papers as she does surfing for the perfect dress on the web.

I've decided to embrace this wonderful moment. I actually say, "Let's go dress shopping!" I grab the car keys and credit card. And wait, what was that streak of lightning that just whizzed by me? My daughter?

We set out on our adventure, and when we reach the store, I open the door to another dimension.

"Here for prom dresses?" the friendly woman asks as we enter this world full of racks and racks of wedding dresses.

"Yes!" my daughter says with all the excitement that that three-letter word can hold.

"Those are on our second floor," the woman answers with a smile.

As we climb the carpeted staircase, other mothers and daughters (dads seem to have lucked out of this one) are passing us with that look of either triumph or defeat in their eyes. And I think, it's just dress shopping, isn't it -- how hard could it be? Ha! I think I totally lost my mind there for a minute, because I'm shopping with a 17-year-old. Come on, girl, snap out of it!

Then another nice staff person introduces herself and has us fill out an information card listing name, address, type of dress sought. We fill it out, and after turning over the price tag on a gorgeous navy blue sequined dress on display, I wonder if we'll ever be able to afford food again.

"Jessica will be assisting you today," we're told, "and you'll be in fitting room 5."

Every imaginable color and style of dress hangs on the rows of racks on the second floor. They are protected in heavy see-through plastic bags as my daughter starts to pull some that she likes.

"Wow! Just a tad over our budget," I say. I never knew a prom dress could be so costly. My daughter agrees but says she'll try a few on.

The second floor is a vibrant place. The conversations between mothers and daughters, girlfriends and girlfriends and sisters and sisters fluctuate from entertaining, to comical, to joyful, to filled with disappointment.

"I know you like that dress, but we're not paying $999 for it!" one mother exclaims.

"This isn't your wedding!" another mother says as she looks at me and laughs.

"Why don't they have this in fuchsia, that's my favorite color!" a tall girl whines in front of the three-way mirrors.

"I think those shoes, purse and earrings would match this dress, don't you, Mom?"

And on and on it goes.

Amid all the activity, my daughter says she's found her dress. It's gorgeous on her. And yes, I think we may even have enough money left over for dinner tonight. Then she adds another prom thought.

"Hey Mom, what do you think about our group renting a limo?"

"What?"

It's the most wonderful time of the year!


Mary Lynn Davidek-Alpino of Plum, a staff member for a nonprofit organization, can be reached at alpino1@verizon.net.

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