Prom gown shopping with an offbeat teen

Guest post by Misty Brockway

Misty's sixteen-year-old daughter, Autumn.
When my 16 year old daughter came to me earlier this year and mentioned she was going to homecoming, I experienced a mix of excitement and dread. Excitement because I honestly felt like she’d never actually WANT to go to a high school dance, and I was looking forward to taking her picture and seeing her all dressed up. Dread because, well, her tastes are not like your average teenager, and shopping with her can be daunting.

Did I mention that she didn’t tell me about going to the dance until a few days before the date? Not much time to find the perfect dress for someone with such specific tastes.

We spent the evening wandering around the mall, hoping to find something. Definitely no sequins, nothing too lacy or skimpy and nothing strapless. Unfortunately, almost everything fit that description. We ended up finding an acceptable dress at Target, of all places.

Then we had to go shoe shopping. Ever since she began to have her own style and tastes, shoes have been our biggest obstacle. During her 7th and 8th grade years, there was only ONE shoe-style she would wear (Macbeth Newmans. I must have replaced those shoes 5 or 6 times.)

These days she’s branched into plain white canvas shoes, slippers and slouchy boots. Unfortunately, wearing slippers to homecoming wasn’t going to fly, although I suppose she could have worn them if she really wanted to. She didn’t want flats, but she didn’t want high heels. Low heels were also out of the question. Where does that leave us?

Our day of shoe shopping didn’t end well. I gave up and we went home. There were some tears, arguing and finally me BEGGING her to try again. Homecoming was now that very evening. She said “Maybe if a friend comes with me, I’ll find something.”

Well, we didn’t find anything. She is just too offbeat, so to speak, to find anything she likes in such a short amount of time at your typical stores. I’m sure if I had time, we could have searched on Etsy and found something unique and perfect.

So, while we stood there in the shoe department at Kohl’s, the three of us came to an agreement. I’d pay for them to go to a movie as payback for the money her date spent on the wasted homecoming tickets. Then Autumn and I can spend the rest of the school year looking for her perfect prom dress (and shoes!) so we don’t have to scramble at the last minute. Deal made.

But, I’m still wondering — where would you go to look for a dress for an offbeat teen girl to wear to a prom? There’s only a couple months left to shop!

Comments on Prom gown shopping with an offbeat teen

  1. Kudos to you on tackling shopping for formal dances. It seems to me like hitting your local vintage/used clothing stores might be a place to look for dresses! Lots of fun/unique styles, likely less skimpy and strapless-esque. Yea, it’ll be tougher to find something that fits because you won’t have one dress in multiple sizes, but if you get shopping now you might have time to find something fantastic.

    But the shoes? Oof. Where’s the middle ground between no high or low heels? Middle heels?

  2. I sewed all my homecoming and prom dresses myself. Of course that takes planning and some time, but I loved the whole process. Sometimes it’s easier to just borrow something from a friend. Does she have any older female friends she could borrow from?

    And high-top chucks go with all dresses, in my opinion. But for mid-level heels, try Aerosoles (I know they have the reputation of being old-lady, but they’ve come a long way recently). Their mid heels are very reasonable, and their ‘high’ heels are more like mid-heels. Plus they’re comfortable and durable.

  3. Ah, shoes, wonderful, special and higly Irregular shoes:

    and of course

    And maybe the best for an offbeat teen (oh, how I would have loved these in those days)

    (these are incredibly comfortable, wear them a lot:

  4. Wedge heels? I had the hardest time finding my wedding shoes so i feel her pain! I wanted vintage but settled for classic peep-toe heels i found at payless shoes! Anywho, def. or etsy for shoes, dresses, or even find two dresses and have a friend/tailor/seamstress combine them…?

  5. Etsy is actually a great option for buying dresses, too. You could even get a custom dress made from a seller there if you explain the time constraint.
    Many of the Offbeat Empire’s advertisers also offer custom work and off-the-rack pieces that WOW. Just be sure to be clear about your time issue.

    Has she thought about doing separates? A big skirt (which covers the shoes?) with a funky top can perfectly express her style without being as much fuss as looking for a total-package dress.

    • I love Unique Vintage! My prom dress was my mother’s early seventies handmedown. It had a hood! So I definitely endorse vintage, whether real or recreation.

  6. Modcloth is so awesome for dresses! You could also try they have some really cute dresses that might be formal enough for prom, and they are all vintage inspired and adorable. For shoes you could try, they aren’t necessarily an offbeat store, but they have a HUGE selection and you can search based off of heel height, color, style etc.

  7., of course, too, because if all else fails you might be able to get something custom (just give yourself plenty of time)!

    oh how i wish i had those options when i was in school!!

  8. i was picky about my prom dress too. i didn’t want anything poofy and princess-y, but i also didn’t want one of those slinky silky things either. Nor any of those styles with huge cutouts, anything two piece, and the list goes on. My mom and aunt took me to a regular dress store and the first dress I saw I fell in love with. I only found two dresses there that i liked, one was a form fitting, yet classy gray one, and the other was a poofy princess dress in black with a little lizard brooch thing. So i say its worth just popping into a regular dress shop and giving it a peek. there is always the internet too.

  9. On the shoe front, this is what fancy sandals are for! They’re flat and non-fussy, but don’t give you stump legs like closed-toe flats always seem to, and they come in a million styles. Homecoming would have been a bit chilly for sandals, but isn’t prom in late spring where it should be pretty comfy?

    There are some seriously bad ass beaded boho sandals out there

  10. One of my besties had a dress made for her kiddo out of all variety of red, white, and black ties (paisley, paid, check, houndstooth, patterned) and she wore a solid red tie as a headband and high top chucks…

  11. “I’d pay for them to go to a movie as payback for the money her date spent on the wasted homecoming tickets.”

    Why? I mean, it wasn’t your fault she decided she couldn’t/didn’t want to go.

  12. I’m glad you found a solution that’s happy for your daughter and your date, and that the OB community has so many excellent selections about where to look next time.

    As auntie to a couple teenagers, I’m curious about how the story ended. The way you wrote it, it sounds like your daughter concluded, “I can’t find the right shoes, so I don’t want to go to homecoming.” How would you have handled this if the challenge for offbeat self-expression came up against a required activity?

    • Well, when we were out shopping for some shoes, the dance was starting in literally just a few hours. We just didn’t have time to continue looking. I had suggested she just wear her boots like she is wearing in the picture I included with the post (I don’t think you can see them though) but at that point she just decided it was getting to be too much to pull off in a few hours and opted to not go. I suppose that if it were a required activity, maybe I would have known further in advance and we would have had more time to prepare and look around for things she likes.

  13. Know some one who sews? Do you sew? My friend’s grandmother made my prom dress for me. Your daughter can pick any print/texture of fabric and any style of dress. If the seamstress/taylor is really good he/she can make even fabric that isn’t “supossed” to be a dress into a dress.

  14. For my prom, I was determined to do something unique but also be comfortable at the same time. I bought plain white tennis shoes, painted them coral to match my dress, and added some glitter and adhesive gems. They turned out great, and I was the only one without sore feet at the end of the night.

  15. I bought my prom dress at this amazing vintage clothing store in RI called “Divas Closet.” It was a 1954 robin’s egg-blue explosion of tulle and netting. Beautiful, and went better with my 12-hole Doc Marten’s than anything else I had found.
    Since Diva’s Closet is out of business and you probably aren’t from RI anyway, try Salvation Army or Goodwill, Modcloth if you want to buy something new (but be prepared to order early and possibly return to get another size… it runs small), or even her school’s drama department’s costume rack (if she’s in with the teacher (and if her school’s lucky enough to have drama dep’t)).
    Shoes – wear anything you want! You can’t dance if you’re not comfortable!
    Good luck!

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