You Asked It

Damn Girl Ya Look Good

Prom edition!

Do you guys know any good websites to check out for prom dresses? I want to find something that no one else in my town will be wearing.

Ooh yes, girl. LET US STAND OUT. I had to buy my junior-year prom dress at Robinsons-May (a now-extinct standard mall department store)—imagine the diarrhea nerves I had worrying that some other girl would be wearing my same dress! QUELLE HORROR! (Relax, that didn’t happen—but I wasted a lot of time fearing that it would.) Avoid that kind of risky business by going straight for vintage, which cuts down your odds of running into a duplicate of your dress by approximately a million percent. If there aren’t any good thrift/vintage stores in your area, start by scoping out Etsy and eBay. Searching “vintage prom dress” on Etsy brings up something like 850 options. If you aren’t already sure what you’re looking for, flipping through those photos should give you some ideas. What style of dress do you want? Strapless with a big tulle petticoat? Something pink? For more ideas, take a lurk at the vintage prom dress guide I wrote last year. If you still haven’t found the dress of your dreams, just start Googling wildly. I searched for “vintage prom dresses” and found the Rusty Zipper, which has some cute stuff. Finally, raid the closets of your familia! Maybe your older sister or your auntie has a badass dress in their stash. That pretty much guarantees the uniqueness of your outfit, AND you won’t have to spend any money on a dress! Keep in mind that the sooner you start searching, the better, just in case you need to do any fix-up sewing or have something adjusted by a tailor. Good luck! —Marie

I plan to wear a dress that used to belong to my grandma. I don’t want to look like I’m in period costume. How can I “modern up” a vintage dress? —Lily

If you ever saw Pretty in Pink, you might remember the controversial scene when Andie (Molly Ringwald) cuts up her boss’s old ’50s-style prom dress and refashions it into a more modern-looking style (though “modern” at that time was the ’80s).

L-R: Before and after.

L-R: Before and after.

Lots of people cried foul and wished that Andie had left the dress as it was, a cute taffeta fit-and-flare number, instead of giving it a high collar and cut-out sleeves.

What’s this have to do with your situation, you ask? Well, both you and Andie want to jazz up an old hand-me-down. There ain’t nothing wrong with that! I wish I could see the dress you’re talking about, but since I can’t and my psychic powers are a little rusty, I will just make some general suggestions. If you are allowed to modify the dress, then we are GOOD TO GO. Consider cutting long sleeves off, into either cap sleeves or no sleeves at all. If the dress is long, shorten it! If it’s short, add some trim to the bottom to give it length and pizzazz. Speaking of PIZZAZZ (hey that word has the word pizza in it), why not sew sequins on the neck or bust of the dress? We can always use some sparkle!

If you don’t know how to sew, find a relative or a friend who can do the dirty work (just bake them cookies or take them to the movies to show your gratitude). Or, if you have a little $$ to spare, you can always take the dress to a seamstress or a tailor.

Keeping your shoes and accessories modern will help a lot, so don’t be afraid to go all out with either, especially since you’d be saving money on the dress. Have fun at prom! —Marie

I like long dresses, but they’re not so great for dancing, which is pretty much the reason I go to prom! I’m looking for a short dress that would be fun to dance in—something flippy or swingy, maybe? Prom is kind of getting close and I’m worried I won’t find anything fun!

Ahhh, I can totally relate! There’s nothing worse than wanting to dance at a party, but being stuck in a stuffy, structured dress. I think there are definitely some long, flowy dresses that allow you to move, but I love that you want to wear something short—I can’t get enough of short swingy dresses myself at the moment!

Whenever someone’s looking for something to wear to a fancy event, I always recommend the website Rent the Runway. Since most prom dresses—even the ones that are procured with the purest intentions to alter and/or repurpose them after the dance—end up in the back of the closet, never to be seen again, it’s much more practical to rent a designer dress for a few days and send it back when the dance is over.

Since I don’t know about your personal style (or how formal you want to be), I tried to pick out a variety of options that will fit a few different aesthetics—all perfect for a night on the dance floor:


All dresses from Rent the Runway. Costs are for four-day rentals. Top row, left to right: Grand Scheme Dress by Z Spoke by Zac Posen, $90; Moschino Time for Tea Dress, $225; So Fan-tastic Dress by Temperley London, $250. Bottom row, L-R: School Girl Gone Bad Dress, BCBG Max Azria, $65; Pastel Floral Fantasy Dress by Prabal Gurung, $250; Tibi Red Rococo Print Dress, $75.

How it works is you order the dress you want to borrow (you can even get a backup size just in case, at no extra charge), it arrives in the mail, you dance the night away, then you send it back in a prepaid box, sort of like Netflix before it was streaming.

But if you really want to buy something you’ll own for a while, I get that too! Here are some super cute, twirl-worthy dresses you won’t have to send back when prom is over:


Top, left to right: Little Mistress Sequin Lace Stripe Prom Dress, $125, ASOS; Opulence England One Shoulder Chiffon Pearl Flower Dress, $82.50, ASOS. Bottom, L-R: Step Up to the Plait Dress by Ryu, $70, Modcloth; “Marilyn” Short Convertible Dress, $195, Monif C.

Just from your question I can tell you are totally going to have a blast. —Gabi

I want to wear a tuxedo to prom. Where can I find a nice one that will look good on a girl? —Olivia

For a pro answer I took your question to my friend Rae, who runs the blog The Handsome Butch and fits suits on people all over the gender spectrum. Here’s what she said: “Without knowing anything about your body or gender presentation or budget, I’m going to suggest you check out Brooks Brothers boys’ department. Boys’ tuxes usually fit women’s bodies better than men’s suits, and plus they’re a lot cheaper (for comparable quality). J. Crew also makes a nice boys’ tux.” Rae warns against renting a tuxedo: it’s “weirdly expensive” she says—more per day than any of the dresses Gabi just showed you—and you can’t get it altered if it’s not a perfect fit (which it usually isn’t). Cheaper than renting or buying new is getting a suit from a secondhand/thrift store—but be warned that the cost of altering an old tux can wind up being more than the suit itself ($75 to tailor a $25 suit is pretty typical). —Lola

I have acne and a few acne scars on my back, and so I don’t want to wear a backless dress, or one with a low back. Do you have any suggestions for dresses that would be fancy enough for prom, but cover my back?

We have so many options, my sweets! Take a peek at just a few of these that I found on Pinup Girl Clothing, Modcloth, and Topshop:


Clockwise from top left: Looking Like a Million Bucks Dress, $80, Modcloth; Foil Bonded Lace Skater Dress, $120, Topshop; To Speech Her Own Dress, $100, Modcloth; Evelyn Dress, $120, Pinup Girl Clothing, [link: ], Isabelle Dress in Turquoise, $200, Pinup Girl Clothing.

All of these are perfectly fancy for prom and have good back coverage. How will you choose? I’d want them all! BUT let’s say you aren’t feeling any of these and by MURPHY’S LAW or whatever, you find a dress elsewhere that you LOVE, but it’s strapless. Yes, you can wear a shawl or something, but I’m telling you: nobody will give two dookies about your back, or even notice your scars/spots. And hopefully you’ll be having so much fun you won’t be thinking about them either! Hope this helps, chickadee! —Marie ♦

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  • Kaetlebugg April 2nd, 2013 11:37 PM

    wow, thank you so much for the rusty zipper! i must have gone through all of etsy by now searching . . .and now a fresh unsearched site, thank you!

  • Clairebearscare April 2nd, 2013 11:44 PM

    It’s okay though. I bought my dress (I actually bought two–still deciding on which one to wear) for ten dollars at a vintage store. It was missing a zipper, so it’s at the tailors right now. But hey!! Still under $50!! And the lady gave me a discount on the other dress, so I got another one for $20. Vintage stores are the way to go.

  • Vesperstar233 April 3rd, 2013 12:05 AM

    My dear, dear rookie,

    Could you give me any recommendations on where to find a 1920′s gown for prom? If I could have any dress in the world it would be this green one Kera Knightly rocked in Atonement:

    Please, if anyone can help me on my quest i know it’s you guys. Thanks so much for this awesome Prom Edition post :) Love you all.

    Your Faithful Reader,

  • SWIZZLEFAIRY22 April 3rd, 2013 12:22 AM

    I have a 1920′s theme for prom too and I know what style I want (black marchesa gown Stacy keibler wore to SAG awards in 2011) but my budget is 200(20max). I don’t want anything with a print and I’m dying hurrrrr. The struggle is real. Help!!

  • Lila Gracie April 3rd, 2013 1:05 AM

    last year i bought my dress from modcloth (it was so super gorgeous and perf, this is me in it over here ) but a friend of mine bought his suit from a secondhand store for $10, and he liked the paisley lining of the jacket so much that he wore the jacket inside out. and it worked, somehow. it was pretty amazing

  • teenidle April 3rd, 2013 1:06 AM

    A big help I had last year when searching for my dress was looking at Bridesmaids dresses! Anthropologie launched a Bridal site called BHLDN and their dresses are heavenly! Got mine last year and it was blue and poofy and adorable. I loved it.

    Another cool option I’ve found is renting a dress from Rent the Runway. Expensive gowns for significantly cheaper? Very good. I mean, most people only wear their dress once right?

  • NotReallyChristian April 3rd, 2013 7:13 AM

    So great to find new places to buy dresses! Also think about getting something made (or making it yourself if you’re handy!): find somewhere you can buy patterns (the haberdashery section of John Lewis is great, or online) and fabric, and then you can either find a seamstress or get all crafty or whatever. It’s perfect for vintage dresses: for my leavers’ ball from secondary school I had a 1958 vogue pattern in the colour of my choice and made to measure, which is great because vintage stuff doesn’t usually fit me.

    Also, there is a possibility you’ll need your dress again! I go to a very traditional university and we have a full-on ball every year and loads of semi-formal events each term; I’ve reused my dresses from my secondary school and sixth-form balls and had new ones made!

  • carogenous April 3rd, 2013 10:03 AM

    Just from experience, don’t worry about having the same prom dress as someone else, I PROMISE it won’t ruin your night/teenage years unless you let it! I had that happen to me the one time I went to prom, and maaaaybe the girl threw a little fit to her friends privately but it wasn’t the end of the world, we moved on and had fun anyway.

    The dress is only one part of the ~prom experience~, and the best part is bouncing awkwardly to Top 40 hits with your friends/date anyway.

  • zombiesockmonkey April 3rd, 2013 10:57 AM

    I’m loving how many girls here want to wear unique dresses (or tuxes even!) I regret going too normal for my school dances so have fun with it! You won’t regret it.

  • Mary the freak April 3rd, 2013 11:27 AM

    AAHH THANK YOU SO MUCH! my boyfriend is going to graduate and there’s a prom (we don’t have that regular prom thing here in Germany), and I am already very exited! I’m sure it will be great. And I am really nervous and exited about the dress.This was very helpful! Thank you!!

  • MabelEnchanted April 3rd, 2013 12:43 PM

    My ‘prom’ equivalent thing was last year but I seem to be finding more dresses I like for it then last year! They’re are so many nice things at the moment – don’t you worry! And everyone looks beautiful anyway, whatever happens.

  • Arabelle April 3rd, 2013 3:29 PM

    I also suggest playful promises’ tux playsuit — wore it to prom (college party themed prom) and it was the best THE BEST FIT and so great

  • 3LL3NH April 3rd, 2013 5:31 PM

    Two super swell and not that expensive places that I looked for grad dresses were BCBGMaxAzria and Free People, the online stores.

    I ended up with this beautiful thing:

    and my friend got this one:,default,pd.html?dwvar_LUB6W261-E3M_color=E3M&cgid=dresses-by-category-gowns-evening#start=37

  • Abby Powell April 3rd, 2013 6:03 PM

    I asked the question about short dresses and this helped a lot! I was already kind of looking at Rent the Runway and now I’m definitely going to use it! I’m also renting some sparkly jewelry from there because I’m dateless and on a mission to dress as gaudy as possible. Thanks a ton for this!

  • Orange You Apeeling April 3rd, 2013 7:57 PM

    Rookie! You should do an article on readers’ prom attire picture submissions, since it seems like a lot of us are going very unique :) I mean, I’ve still got to wait 2 weeks until my prom, but I’d love to send in a photo of my outfit because I believe it is like the best thing I’ve ever bought in my entire life… And, it includes a fuchsia colored wig!
    Just saying…. C:

  • kendraleigh April 3rd, 2013 8:22 PM

    Be creative with your searching! Sometimes your dream dress isn’t in the formal section!

    For homecoming I went to a vintage store and ended up buying an old figure skating dress from the costume section. It fit perfectly and looked like formal dress but was totally unique! Who else can say they wore velvet AND tie-die?

    (Velvet and tie-die doesn’t sound very pretty. So, to clarify, it had a dark blue velvet top and a soft lilac skirt that was SUBTLY tie-died the same dark blue. With rhinestones inconspicuously scattered throughout the skirt the dress, resembled water rippling under the moonlight.)

  • katiestarrynight April 4th, 2013 5:05 AM

    I don’t see the problem with re-wearing a dress for another occasion afterwards- less formal prom dresses make for amazing wedding-guest dresses. I’m not one to preach though, my beautiful prom dress is hanging in my wardrobe, unloved :( My friends and I are considering having prom again just with us so we can re-wear our dresses, as we only have prom twice in our entire equivalent of high school in England. Annoying, because it was so so fun!
    Katie xx

  • Sunshine April 5th, 2013 10:45 AM

    hey. so, in le summer time, you should totally have an article called “the best advice for 11th grade girls ever’…”‘

    because seriously, if you buy your prom dress in the summer, you’ll save TONS of money. I bought my dress from Dillards in the summer for thirty bucks. the same dress is now priced at 150 bucks. so, seriously. buy your prom dresses in the summer. almost every single store in the mall has prom dresses on extreme clearance that they’ll just mark up in the spring to normal prices. I always tell people about how cheap I get my dresses and they’re like NO WAY I WISH I WOULD HAVE KNOWN. So, Rookie…consider this your calling. :D

  • Kayla Moy April 11th, 2013 1:11 PM

    For both of my proms, I wanted a dress that wasn’t quite so OMG PROM, so I ended up in the women’s section at Dillard’s. I highly recommend it- yes, they have a lot of old lady dresses, but there are also plenty that are perfect for teens. Junior year I had a long red Calvin Klein gown, similar to the one Jennifer Lawrence wore at the 2011 Oscars, except mine wasn’t quite so Baywatch. Senior year I had a short black cocktail dress- all lacy, plunging neckline, way sexier than my dad would’ve liked, but PERFECT for dancing in. And bonus! They were both on clearance for like $50.