From the Boutique to the Ballroom: The Key to Prom Dress Shopping


Laure Schulders

Elegant Evenings in Geneva is one of the handful of dress boutiques in the area.

Laure Schulders, Graphic Designer

Prom, an age-old high school ritual, is full of traditions and planning, and for girls, a prom dress often tops the list of priorities. Now, decades later, dress shopping has evolved into one of the highlights of the event.

Prom dress shopping has taken many forms, but the tried and true method of in-person try-ons has remained a constant.

“I went to Woodfield and went to a couple of different shops with my mom and tried on a bunch of different styles,” said Clair Sollenberger, senior.

Being able to try on dresses ensures they fit properly, and can allow for exploration of different styles that people may not have initially preferred.

Arguably one of the best parts of dress shopping, trying on dresses allows one to know for sure that they’ve found the perfect dress. (Laure Schulders)

However, dress shopping isn’t just limited to the boutique. Online shopping provides a new way for shoppers to explore.

“Look online and see what you like,” said Ella Townsend, senior. Browsing online can also help girls determine what they like in dresses without needing to make any trips.

However, online shopping also has downsides; dresses can’t be tried on before being purchased.

“I’m hesitant with ordering online because of the sizing,” said Brigid Redmond-Mattucci, senior. What may look great on the model can look completely different on the customer.

One common method of prom dress shopping is browsing websites online. (Laure Schulders)

Prom dress shopping can be associated with a hefty price tag, as dresses can reach hundreds and even thousands of dollars for those with the room in their budget. But the high prices aren’t always the case, as many alternative options exist. Some seniors get creative with their shopping to cut down the price.

“I actually found one at the Salvation Army. I was looking for other formal dresses, but I found this red one that I absolutely loved,” said Sollenberger. “It was only $4.”

Prom dress shopping often starts months in advance to allow for proper planning. The early start is for a host of reasons.

“It’s very hard finding one you like,” said Sollenberger. “I think people need a little bit of buffer time in case they can’t find what they want.” 

There are many other reasons shopping starts early too, as dress availability and planning coordinating outfits factor into the schedule as well.

Once the dress is found, time for alterations and tailoring also has to be accounted for, since it can take a while to get the perfect fit.

“Sometimes dresses need a little bit of tightening and fixing,” said Townsend. 

Despite prices and complications, many look forward to the night of prom as an opportunity to adorn themselves in ornate attire, a rare occasion they are glad to celebrate.

“It’s just a day for us to get dressed up and feel like princesses with all of our friends and take pictures and make all those memories, which is something that’s really special to me,” said Redmond-Mattucci.