Prom Dress Life Lessons

A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of helping my niece Emmi shop for a prom dress. I say pleasure because we ended up with a dress she loved. Finding it, however, was … a bit challenging. Ok, excruciating. Our journey involved 6 stores, 2 meltdowns, one grumpy grandpa and, in the end five life lessons that can impact more than your prom purchase. Here’s what we learned:

Be open-minded:

Prom Dress Life Lessons

Emmi knew exactly what kind of dress she wanted: an emerald green, one-shoulder ball gown with a very poufy skirt. Similar to the one to the right. I knew exactly how much I wanted to pay – less than $200. We blazed through the first three stores without seeing anything close to what she had in mind. And she wasn’t about to budge on her wish list.

I suggested an A-line dress. No way.

Separates? You gotta be kidding.

In fact, every dress I pointed out that was anything but an emerald green, one-shoulder ball gown with a very poufy skirt was met with a one-shoulder shrug and a very pouty “eh.” Tensions began to run high.

LIFE LESSON: While it’s great to have a have a strong point of view and firm opinions, don’t ever become so rigid you’re no longer receptive to new ideas. Life has a way of surprising you – let it! That’s what makes it interesting.

Try stuff on:

Out of desperation, at store number three Emmi began to try dresses on a random just to get a sense of what size she might be. Dressing rooms are always dangerous territory because sizes can vary so drastically. And yes, there were the usual meltdowns. But there were also some surprises. Ball gowns aren’t universally flattering. Too much poof and you drift into Toddlers and Tiaras territory. Separates let you play with proportions. Red on a redhead can be gorgeous.

LIFE LESSON: Sometimes you have to try something on or out to see if it suits you. As Emmi heads off to college, I hope she tries a lot of new things (safely, of course) so that her horizons expand and she gets an education beyond her classroom. And I hope that learning mindset takes her far beyond college. That’s me, below, in my own emerald green prom dress. Suffice it to say, all these years later I’m a barely recognizable version of that girl. Thank the baby Jesus.

Prom Dress Life Lessons

Know your limitations:

At store number five, we were close to giving up. We hadn’t seen anything that we really liked, much less an emerald green, one-shoulder ball gown with a very poufy skirt. I called an upscale consignment shop just to see if they had any ball gowns in stock. The lady on the phone assured me they did. We trudged across town, with my dad (Emmi’s Granddad) in tow. He’s such a good sport about shopping with us, but even he was dangerously close to his limits. Luckily, as promised the consignment shop had tons of options. Ball gowns, A-line dresses, separates – pretty much everything. We packed that dressing room with dresses, including a bright green ball gown with plenty of poof. It was strapless, not one-shoulder and more turquoise than emerald, but Emmi was in love with it on the hanger. I wasn’t nearly as enamored of its $300 price tag. Would I budge if it looked fantastic on her? After striking out at so many other stores, I was really tempted.

LIFE LESSON: It’s one thing to be open-minded and willing to try new things, quite another to compromise your values. I’m not saying I absolutely wouldn’t have relented if we couldn’t find something comparable online or if the ball gown fit her like a glove. But it would have been very unlikely. At least, I think so.


Be adaptable:

Alas, the ball gown earned an “eh” from Emmi, from me and from everyone she Snap Chatted from the dressing room. The red A-line strapless number, however, won rave reviews. As did the black separates. In the end, the fact that the red dress had pockets –pockets! – tipped the scale. And that $89 price tag didn’t hurt either.

Prom Dress Life Lessons

LIFE LESSON: Adaptability is crucial not only for prom dress shopping but also for life. It makes you a happier, healthier person and a better employeeIt’s a critical coping mechanism that lets you respond appropriately to good and bad situations.

Listen to your Auntie:

No, really. She’s pretty smart sometimes.


Aunties don’t have to be biological relatives. She’s that trusted mentor who has some hard earned wisdom to share. We all have a tendency to bring our insecurities into the dressing room, so to speak, so finding someone you can get unbiased advice from is far more important than finding the perfect prom dress. And will be a lot more useful in years to come.

How about you? Did you find your own perfect prom dress? Do you have an Auntie you trust to help you make difficult life decisions? Tell me everything.


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