My daughter Tory is a high school senior who plans to attend her prom in June 2012. Back in August as we sunned ourselves at the Jersey Shore she said she wanted to find a special prom dress, one that reflected her personality. As her Mom, one who has spent many hours with my athletic daughter I could almost envision the dress as she spoke. It would be bright and cheerful; black or red would never reflect my daughter’s personality. It would be fitted through the bodice and likely strapless to show off Tory’s broad shoulders and muscled back. I could see a long swirly skirt; not ball gown swirly, but more like goddess drape-y swirly. I got all dreamy-eyed as she spoke.
Her request prompted research and a field trip! We traveled South to Haddonfield, N.J. I thought Tory would find her prom dress at a shop I’d heard about there. Unfortunately, we only got to gaze soulfully in the window of Beaute Ange Boutique; the shop was closed due to a family emergency.
My sister-in-law Betsy, who’s from the area and was with us, suggested we visit a couple of other shops in the immediate area that she knew carried formal wear. We walked around the corner to a bridal boutique. As we looked through the racks of dresses the shop rocked; young women and their wedding parties were in the throes of finding their perfect bridal gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses. We didn’t find what Tory was looking for though.
Then we walked across the street and into Jay West. We were greeted by low-key saleswomen and were immediately surrounded by some of the most unique gowns and cocktail dresses I’ve ever seen. A far cry from the pastel- and solid-colored satins and chiffons of my youth, we saw hand-painted, hand-beaded dresses in every color of the rainbow. We had walked into formal dress heaven! Glancing at each other with anticipation Tory and I dove in! Betsy quickly got into the groove and started flipping through the racks with us.
Tory pulled out eight gowns. Each was “different” than anything I’d ever seen before. One, a midnight blue number, reminded me of the Chrysler Building in New York City. The geometric design on the bodice was shiny, large diamonds pieced together. And the back? <swoon> The back plunged to the waist and diamond-like jeweled straps about 1” wide echoed the design on the bodice and held the gown together. Tory looked beautiful, but we decided that it wasn’t quite right for prom. Our salesperson, Barbara Heritage, told us that a young woman had recently purchased that gown to wear to the U.S. Marine Corp. Ball; we could immediately envision the dress on the arm of a soldier in his dress blues.
Another dress was a swirl of bright color: red, orange, yellow. The top, with a neckline that plunged almost to the waist, was tightly fitted. The skirt ballooned out from the waist into yards of eye-popping pattern and color. The colors played off Tory’s blonde hair, but she ultimately decided that the bodice didn’t flatter her.
On to the next dress! It was a subtle mix of bronze-y and brown-y shades in a multi-patterned animal print. We all loved the design and fit, but ultimately thought it wasn’t “Tory’s perfect dress” for prom. I secretly wished I had a place to wear that dress. It’s stunning!
Next up was a true ‘winner’ dress! Patterned in shades of blue and purple, it had a strapless sweetheart bodice encrusted with shiny “rocks.” Cut on the bias, the bargello-patterned skirt, slightly gathered in the middle front, flared into a swirl of blues and purple. The dress made us think of mermaids. Tory loved it and thought it was perfect, until. . .
She put on “the dress.” Barbara the salesperson said she knew it was the perfect dress as soon as Tory turned around. Barbara said Tory’s expression said it all! What can I tell you? The dress is multi-colored — shades of predominantly greens and golds with touches of navy, deep purple, and a peachy-orange. Swirling designs in a light golden tone weave in and out of the multi-colors. The bodice, pleated horizontally, is strapless with a sweetheart neckline. In the center of the bodice are jewels in shades of gold, green, orange and blue. The skirt, cut on the bias and slightly gathered under the center front, falls gracefully to the floor. A deep slit in the skirt allows glimpses of Tory’s legs and shoes as she walks. The colors in the dress are perfect foils for Tory’s golden hair and skin. Aunt Betsy agreed. Dad and Uncle Phil agreed. We ordered the dress! In two months or so Tory will return to Jay West to try it on, then return four weeks before prom for her final fitting. I can’t wait!
What? You want to see the dress Tory chose? Ummm. Nope. Sorry! You’ll have to wait until Senior Prom!
P.S. If you are going to be prom dress shopping please remember to shop at least eight to ten weeks prior to your prom date. This way if you have to order the dress and/or it needs alterations you aren’t squeezed for time. Prom and other formal events are such special times, and the more you plan ahead, the less stress and more enjoyment you get out of the shopping process. We had a blast!
Note: Neither shop mentioned above asked me to write about them, nor did I receive any compensation or discount from them in exchange for writing this post.