I'm slowly learning the ins and outs of the low-budget fashion world, and one thing I'm discovering is that every year after the spring, around about the time that school lets out, you begin to see once-used prom dresses turn up at drastically reduced prices in the thrift shops and overstock depots.
I love prom dresses. They're probably my favorite form of feminine formal wear. (Lol, say that five times fast!). There's so much variety to pick and choose from; they come in all sorts of colors and styles. Yet most of them seem to evoke a feeling of the young girl's dream of attending a fantasy ball, when she can dress up in an extravagant dress and feel like a princess, if just for one night. Plus, there's an element of flirty romance involved that is more suited to the whims of late adolescence than the ultra-serious kind of approach you get with wedding gowns and formal adult parties. It's more playful and ... imaginative!
Anyway, I harbor my own fantasy of going back in time, embracing my feminine side at a younger age, and attending my own high school prom in a beautiful prom dress, instead of the boring and restrictive tuxedo I wore (apologies to anyone who thought I was handsome in that tuxedo, including my girlfriend at the time). I can't turn back the clock, but I can still dream of owning a prom dress that makes me feel fabulous and magical.
And since I'm not going to shell out a queen's ransom in gold to own a dress for which I'll never have a proper occasion to wear, I'm pretty much limited to the commercial hand-me-downs. And there are some problems with that. First, I have to find a dress in a color and a style that I like. I actually did get one prom dress already, via a personal hand-me-down, that fits me, and looks nice enough, but wouldn't necessarily be my dream pick.
Which brings me to point two - it has to fit. For me, that can be tough. Luckily, I'm pretty skinny (in relative terms), but I'm still not totally built like a girl. In particular, I've got a very wide chest and shoulders, which, actually, does not balance out the fact that I don't have breasts the way you might think it would - instead of evening things out, I have trouble getting things to fit around my upper torso even as I don't have the volume to fill out the front.
The last thing, which is particularly relevant in the second-hand market, is that the prom dress has to be functional. It stands to reason (and my experience bears this out), that the most discounted dresses (and therefore most attractive from a purely financial perspective) usually harbor some serious damage - be it a busted zipper, a torn skirt, or major staining. On a humorous note, browsing through these used prom dresses gives me the impression sometimes that their final fate was met at the hands of a horny teen impatiently trying to strip out of her dress once she finally scored some privacy with her date at the end of the night.
Anyhow, I found a prom dress today at the Goodwill that I absolutely adored. It was in a color I liked - a pretty shade of green (my favorite color before I got turned on to pink) - and a style that screamed out to me - short on both the bottom and the top (plus, the skew of the skirt is very flirty). I've read fashion advice in (prestigious!) magazines that stress the importance of balancing skin exposure - crop tops with long pants, miniskirts with long sleeves, things like that - and frankly, I think it's a bunch of sex negative, prudish hogwash. Fact is, some people are afraid to be "too" sexy - and a lot of that has to do with the insidious culture of slut-shaming, whereby those women who have the courage to show off their bodies are shamed by their peers and the culture at large for not adhering to the arbitrary (and disgusting) mandates of the purity police (the above mentioned fashion mags are also guilty of this, though I'm not sure they realize it).
So anyway, if it's typically called "skanky" or "slutty" by the general population, I'm usually all for it. And a dress that cuts off just above the bust, and just below the thighs, is like perfect for me, even more so considering that the one thing I'm probably least confident about showing off is my midsection, which is not as tight and toned as I would like. But, alas, when I tried the prom dress on, though I managed to squeeze it around my hips, I could not get it to zip up all the way around my chest. In these pictures, I'm basically holding the edges of the dress up to see what it would look like if I could only get it on. It's too bad that it didn't fit, because I think it looked fantastic on me...