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the stylist’s notebook | prom

28 April 2009

Beware: Massive events call for massive posts!

‘Tis prom season, darlings! Junior proms, senior proms, balls, formals, and all that jazz. Also known as the time span between March and May when girls and mothers alike go crazy hunting for the dress, booking hair, makeup, nail appointments, and arguing with other mother-daughter pairs who happen to want the same dress for the same prom.

And I am hardly exaggerating. I breathe a rather loud sigh of relief, glad that I was able to get the actual dress shopping part over and done with quite early (and under half and hour too!). I’ve gotten quite a few emails requesting a what to wear post on, well, what to wear for prom – from the general to down the specifics. So here goes!


Leave behind an impression that will never be forgotten. (image source: tfs)

Find some inspiration. The easiest place to look for such inspiration is through magazines or online forums/sites on what celebrities have worn on the red carpet. Runway shows featuring dresses are perfect too. From there, gather a few images and decide on what kind of a look you wish to go for. Classic & sophisticated? Sultry & sexy? Eclectic unconventional? Ethereal? Etc. Or think about who you want to be for the night – after all, prom is the one night when a high school student takes a peak into the glamorous life. You can be that someone you’ve always wanted to be – prom is simply a great (and expensive) night of dress-up, no? Marilyn Monroe? Natalie Portman? Nicole Richie? Christina Aguilera? Scarlett Jo? The list goes on.

There is a point to gathering inspiration. Because when you start shopping, you know what you want. Which ends the trying-on of oh, say, twenty or so useless dresses, wandering, panicking, and what not. You will know when you see the dress. And all that’s left to do is trying it on and whipping out dearest mother’s credit card.


Various bits of inspiration: the sophisticate & feminine; the wildly sexy; classic; unconventional; more classic, and bohemian.

And now where to shop? It’s quite easy to pick out which stores everyone will buy their dress at. So to avoid that potentially awkward encounter where another girl is wearing the same dress, simply skip those places. Also try to skip those department stores; surely they have a large selection of dresses, but you’ll simply look like every other girl. All prom dresses are essentially the same, save a few sequins here and there. Shop at vintage stores or boutiques; eBay is your best friends; or various online stores (I absolutely love Nasty Gal Vintage!).

One night, only. [cue Dreamgirls disco version, as sung by Beyonce] Prom is supposedly one of the best nights of our high school lives; it is the cliche, epitome and end of our high school careers. But do keep in mind that it is simply one night – if possible, try to find a dress that can be re-worn for some other black tie occasion, or one that can be shortened for future use. The same applies to shoes and jewelry! It is, of course, understandable that you want to look and feel your best. But looking for equally beautiful but less pricey – or simply versatile – dresses and accessories are much more satisfying. Allot that money saved in that Birkin savings fund! This is the perfect opportunity to invest in that staple LBD or LRD (the little red dress).

Some rules. Rules, rules, rules. They dominate our everyday lives in every aspect (for better or for worse). The following are exactly rules, persay, but guidelines. Junior prom is generally less formal; so short dresses and cocktail dresses are perfectly fine, if not the norm! Senior prom is the big shebang. It is your moment to shine; pretend it is your red carpet moment, or your first attendance at a fabulous gala. Long dresses are preferable!

Be showstoppin’. And be you. Find a dress or a shoe that leaves a lasting impression, or surprises people. You can go for a simple dress, but let it hug your figure. Or a conservative front, but a low-cut back. A typical LBD with unusual cutouts. Or perhaps an unexpected 20’s fringe, or hand-beaded embellishment. Let you shine.

And now addressing the more specific questions:

I’ve written to you once before and this time I have two questions lingering in my mind. Prom is coming up really quickly and I only have until May 16 to have everything prepared and ready. I’m a senior and since this will be my first and last high school dance ever, I wanted to make it the most memorable one with all my friends and to add in; to be looking gossip girl-esque (haha) and just look as simple and elegant for that night. I was thinking of wearing a cropped cardigan over a strapless or one shoulder dress (haven’t settled with the dress just yet in either colors: navy blue, black, or dark purple) ’cause I know it’s gonna be a bit chilly out there at Universla Studios and bring it just in case.
So my first question is: Could I wear a cropped cardigan or some bolero or rather a short blazer of some sort over the dress without killing the appearance of the dress?
I also wanted to know if there were any mini dresses that weren’t too revealing in the front and back and yet a bit sexy. I was channeling for a blair waldorf sense of style. So my question is: Could you recommend any dresses for me that would be a bit on the conservative (meaning with short sleeves) and yet sexy and having that blair waldorf style?
I’m not so sure if that last question made much much sense, but I hope it works. LOL. Thank you so much for reading this and your blog has given me so much inspiration.

I absolutely ADORE your idea of a Gossip-girl inspired dress. Fabulous, tasteful, and different indeed!

On the question of cardigans and the likes over dresses… Unconventional? Yes. But why not? It is much better to stay warm than be shivering the whole night, no? So I do love your practicality. Cardigans are cute; perhaps look for ones with embellishments or pretty buttons (pearls, rhinestones, etc.) if you think regular ones are too informal. The blazer is quite the fashionable idea as well! I do, however prefer shawls and wraps – much more sophisticated, in my opinion. And they serve as lovely blankets on the ride home!

Conservative yet sexy, à la Blair Waldorf:


(1) Natalia Bandage Dress (Nasty Gal Vintage): Although this dress is sleeveless, the neckline, color, and fabric is quite conservative. The puckered material may seem unusual, but looks much like lace from afar. But it is the form-fitting shape and open back that is makes it demurely sexy. I would love to see this dress with a lovely floral headpiece of some sort! (2) TFNC Lace Open Back Detail Frill Sleeve Dress (Asos): It has sleeves! Simple, classic, and a bit unusual for prom. The girliness & lace overlay does remind me of Blair.

heart5 heart5 heart5

Hi! I am going to junior prom this year and am having trouble finding a dress! I want something classic, but also interesting… I am opting for something more fitted, although I am very open… Do you have any suggestions? Thank you!


Some of my favorite picks, as shown via a collage! From left to right: Monica Bodycon DressAsymmetrical Feathered Dress (reminds me a bit of something Carrie Bradshaw would wear!) | Oasis Peplum Dress (a bit like the Alexander McQueen dress down the Fall 08 runway!) | Bodycon Knit dress, with paneling like Herve Leger | Asymmetrical Grecian dress with a chain detail | Kate Moss for Topshop Keyhole Bodycon dressStylestalker One Shoulder Bow Dress

Happy shopping, darlings!


La C.

45 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 April 2009 8:55 pm

    Terrific post!

    I rathe like the red one 🙂

  2. Hannah permalink
    28 April 2009 9:44 pm

    Great post! I especially love the second Blair dress and the Natalie Portman gown. 🙂

  3. 28 April 2009 9:57 pm

    Great guide. As an alternative to vintage stores and the like, I got my prom dress at a fancy clothing store with lots of prom dresses, but I instead went with an unconventional colour (white). I think I was the only girl in white (out of like two or three hundred) and while there was a girl in the same dress in blue, I think I’m the only one who noticed and I loved mine waaay more.

  4. 28 April 2009 10:46 pm

    Great advice as always, La C. Man, this is bringing on high school flashbacks…

  5. kristine permalink
    28 April 2009 10:48 pm

    you always give the best advice! everything so so perfect, detailed, & just amazing. lol

    when can we see a pic? (;

  6. 28 April 2009 11:32 pm

    I so want to go to prom.

  7. 28 April 2009 11:40 pm

    Hello La C. That’s a great post. It’s been like 20 years since I went to the prom. I was recently thinking about the good times I had back then. I hope you have a great time yourself.

  8. 29 April 2009 12:00 am

    Vintage shopping is an awesome idea!



  9. 29 April 2009 1:25 am

    I love all of your advice on this subject; you have really done your research. In addition, the hair is the icing on the cake. An overdone up-do can ruin the effect of a great dress. Best to keep the hair simple and sleek. A low ponytail or long, straight hair with a side part would suffice. xo

  10. 29 April 2009 3:20 am

    Amazing post as always! (:

  11. 29 April 2009 4:33 am

    love the dress inspirations!!


  12. 29 April 2009 5:09 am

    Aw I wish I could get ready for prom again.
    I loved my dresses ♥

  13. 29 April 2009 5:41 am

    I never got to go to my ‘prom’! Left the country 2 days after my last exam and moved to Oz.

    LOVE the soundtrack to Dreamgirls (liked the movie too), and now have this song in my head all afternoon 🙂

  14. thebaglady permalink
    29 April 2009 7:25 am

    I wish I had this guide when I was going to prom! This is so thorough! Thanks! =]

  15. 29 April 2009 7:46 am

    Ah I skipped my prom cause I didnt have enough friends. Now you are making me regret!

  16. 29 April 2009 8:23 am

    I´d love it if we had the prom tradition here in Sweden too. It seem like so much fun! But I guess it can get hectic and hard to get the right dress and accessories 🙂
    Anyway, your tips works for an ordinary party too 🙂

  17. rossovelvet permalink
    29 April 2009 8:40 am

    Amazing post, now I wish I had prom… xD
    I’ll consolate me at boring vernissages, cocktails & co^^

  18. 29 April 2009 9:49 am

    I love the blair waldorf idea! The first dress from Nasty Gal Vintage is beautiful, but unfortunately, we don’t have proms. We do have a ‘dance’ but only with christmas. And yeah, off course, carnaval, dress code: anything that makes you look silly :(.

  19. 29 April 2009 9:53 am

    The dress are very cute and original

  20. 29 April 2009 10:43 am

    all of these options are fabulous. i’m still impressed that i somehow looked chic and classic at my prom when i had no fashion sense back then!

  21. 29 April 2009 12:14 pm

    As always great tip and fantastic post!


  22. 29 April 2009 1:52 pm

    Hi there-a great post, my fave is the Oasis peplum dress, lovely in red and so classic and stylish!

  23. 29 April 2009 2:27 pm

    Great post, now I wish I had a prom to go to!

  24. 29 April 2009 3:24 pm

    Great tips and tons of inspiration!

  25. 29 April 2009 4:37 pm

    Great choices


  26. 29 April 2009 7:08 pm

    Posts like this made me wished that we’ve got prom in SG(:
    It would be fab, to be able to dress up and let loose; that one special night of our life! 😀

  27. 29 April 2009 9:07 pm

    Not old enought to go to prom yet….but great ideas to think about!! Thanks!

  28. anonymous permalink
    29 April 2009 9:51 pm

    wow. you are probably the best blogger out there. you help every reader out with the BEST advice, whether it be life or fashion. everything’s so well thought out (& written, of course) and so thorough!

    haha you should charge for your services. i think you’d make a lottttta money! i think u’d make a great stylist. i’d hire you! if i had the money, that is.

  29. 29 April 2009 9:54 pm

    Great post! I don’t know if I’m attending my junior prom, but I’ll be sure to reference this if I’m going!

  30. 29 April 2009 10:09 pm

    I don’t know how you do it, but you write on such specific topics with such general appeal. I am almost tempted to send in a question of mine that’s been stewing in my brain for days now, a question inspired by our mutual love for V&R). But seeing that you are flooded with emails, I will hold it for now. (: Furthermore, I’ve not really thought through how to form the question.

    You write brilliantly, my dear! If only we shared this blog-gene as blogtwins! (:

    Love from the blogtwin,

  31. 29 April 2009 10:09 pm

    yay to the Blair Waldorf 😉

    nice topic and your layout is always perfect xo!!

  32. 29 April 2009 10:31 pm

    I kind of love the dress in the first pic… That would have been my dream dress for my prom! I love your advice posts. They’re so well-thought-out!

  33. 29 April 2009 11:31 pm

    Wow! Terrific post even though I’m not going to prom. HAHA. Gave me inspiration for other stuff.

    Thank you for the birthday wishes! =))

  34. 30 April 2009 12:01 am

    i love your posts!! i went for a little black dress for my grad years back…loved it 🙂
    xo k

  35. 30 April 2009 11:00 am

    Wonderful advice as usual, La C! And that first photo is amazing! Love what you said about finding an inspiration – oh, prom is so exciting!!


  36. 30 April 2009 11:35 am

    I love Blair’s style, and I do think your prom dress is a very important decision, so all the girls who still haven’t had their prom ball must be grateful to you for your wise advice!

  37. 30 April 2009 11:52 am

    great post!

  38. 30 April 2009 1:20 pm

    Fab post and I can definitely see Blair in that black number!

  39. 30 April 2009 1:58 pm

    A lot of inspiration, I like it!
    Why we don’t have prom ball in France?!

  40. 30 April 2009 2:02 pm

    your blog is amazing and so inspirating, j’adoooore!

    • 30 April 2009 7:38 pm

      La parisina: Aw, merci beaucoup, darling! You are too sweet for words!

      La C.

  41. 1 May 2009 3:34 pm

    love the prom suggestions, i hate when 5 girls show up to prom with the same dress

  42. abdcforever permalink
    2 May 2009 11:09 pm

    awesome suggestions, as usual!!!! ill def take this stuff into account when i go dress shopping.



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