Shopping for a prom dress is generally no easy feat. Staying body positive when shopping for a prom dress? That's even harder. No matter your shape or size, most of us want to feel fabulous in our dressed-up ensembles for that defining moment of high school. Instead, we often end up bogged down by unrealistic beauty standards and stipulations that dictate that certain bodies should wear certain things. However, with some body positive prom dress shopping tips in your arsenal, you can hopefully ensure that your prom outfit is not only fabulous, but makes you feel fabulous, too.
The pressure of finding the perfect prom seems somewhat silly to me in retrospect. But during my senior year, it was all I cared about. And unfortunately, I approached the situation from all the wrong angles. I thought I had to wear a "flattering" dress (aka a dress that slimmed me down, rather than a dress I loved). I thought I had to suck my stomach in just to fit into a size two, rather than choose a dress in my actual size. I also thought I had to wear a dress that would look pretty in photos above all else, instead of making me feel good in my own skin.
I didn't have the most body positive prom dress shopping experience, but I learned a thing or two about it in the time since. With these 11 tips for staying body positive come prom time, I hope your time at the mall or online is far more confidence-inducing than mine.
1. Try Styles You Wouldn't Normally Go For
AX Paris Plus Maxi Dress With Embellishment, $77, asos.com
Maybe you always imagined yourself in a strapless mermaid gown for prom, but don't write off that asymmetrical mini dress just yet. It's important to step outside of your comfort zone and be open to different looks, even if you've never been fond of them before. Prom dresses are tricky things, so you never really know how they'll look until you try them on.
2. As Well As Colors
Sheath/Column V-neck Sweep/Brush Train Jersey Plus Size Prom Dress, $159.99, fabbeautydress.com
The same goes for colors. Just because black is allegedly "slimming" doesn't mean you have to wear a black dress. Try to keep societal standards and unnecessary fashion rules out of your head, and reach for colors you love. Maybe even try on shades that you're not too sure about — be it bright, dark, or pastel hues. If it makes you happy, that's all that matters.
3. And Prints
Adrianna Papell Floral-Print Illusion Gown, $329, macys.com
Once again, the same goes for prints. Just because you're not a fan of paisley in your everyday life doesn't mean it won't make for a gorgeous dress. Add embellished detailing and a hi-low hem, and you might've just found your soulmate.
4. Don't Rule Anything Out
Nasty Gal Lace Of The Ex Jumpsuit, $88, nastygal.com
Since you'll likely be trying on a ton of dresses, stay open to anything and everything — even if it's not your average prom look. Just as you wouldn't judge a book by its cover, don't judge a prom outfit by the way it looks on a hanger, either. Heck, don't even limit yourself to dresses. Fancy jumpsuits will make a statement, and an off-the-shoulder top with a coordinated skirt could be totally cute.
5. Don't Be Intimidated By Sizes
Eyelash Lace Bodycon Dress, $37.90, forever21.com
We're all unique, and it's important to remember that not all prom dresses will fit the same way. Make sure you opt for a dress in your size, rather than in the size you "hope" to fit in by prom. And don't be intimidated by the numbers or the words on the labels. Instead, focus on finding a dress that fits comfortably. If you happen to be between sizes and can't seem to find the perfectly-fitting outfit, remember you can take your dress or jumpsuit to a tailor.
6. Look For Inspiration
Taking inspo from your favorite beauty bloggers, models, and celebs is always a great way to plan for a special event and its accompanying ensemble. My current girl crush is curve model Ashley Graham. I'm loving how she exudes confidence and body positivity in all her super sexy and chic ensembles.
Don't be shy about sharing your inspiration, either. Customer service representatives at the stores you're shopping at might even be able to help you find something ideal once they know what you're after.
7. Take It Out For A Stroll
Sequin High Neck Prom Dress with Side Slit Skirt, $149.95, davidsbridal.com
The fitting room is a great start in terms of seeing how a dress fits and looks on your body. But be sure to take it outside the fitting room as well. This is a dress you're going to wear for a decent amount of time, and you'll very likely remember it forever. The best way to get a feel for it is by walking around the store, and truly experiencing it before taking it home.
8. Bring A Friend
Sensational Occasion Dress, $62.99, modcloth.com
In general, shopping with a friend is much more fun and helpful than going solo. Your BFF will be able to give you a different perspective, and probably a very honest one. You might be hesitant about how the dark blue maxi dress sits on your shoulders because you've been told you have broad ones, but your buddy will be there to tell you that you look gorgeous in it.
9. Remind Yourself That Your Body Has No Flaws
Missguided Plus Lace Prom Dress, $71, asos.com
So what if your hips don't fit through the biggest size in that crimson dress? Or you can't get your buff, athletic arms through the slits of that long-sleeve one? All of your so-called flaws are very likely what make your body beautiful and unique. Just because your hips don't slide through a jumpsuit, or your stretch marks are visible through a cut-out, or your legs are a little "chicken-y," doesn't mean you don't deserve a particular look. Just keep looking for your perfect outfit, and don't get disheartened.
10. Confront Yourself
Floor Length Off The Shoulder Plus Size Gown, $149, simplydresses.com
Before making your final decision about a dress, make sure you talk to yourself about it. Do you feel like yourself in it? Is it actually comfortable enough to dance in for seven hours straight? I didn't ask myself these things when purchasing my own prom dress, and it really affected the whole experience. Don't make the same mistakes I made, and make sure your choice is really yours.
11. Love Yourself
Hopefully the above tips will help you maintain self-love every step of the way, but it's also important to remember that no size, shape, or dress should ever make you feel less than incredible. Your body is uniquely yours, and that is beyond wonderful. When it comes to prom dresses, be mindful that it's a time consuming process and hardly anyone finds the "perfect" outfit right away (no matter how socially "perfect" their body might be). Don't get discouraged, and remember that your body allows you to do so many incredible things. Like go to prom with your best friends or high school sweetheart.
With these 11 body positive shopping tips in mind, I hope your special night's ensemble makes you feel as beautiful as you are.
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Images: Melodi Erdogan; Courtesy Brands