Five Ways To Fight-Free Prom Dress Shopping

By heather

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 By Dannah Gresh, Founder of True Girl

Other moms told me that raising my two girls to embrace modesty would come with tears of anger and fits of rage at the mall. That wasn't really my experience. I have a lot of warm, wonderful Shop Til We Drop memories. That doesn't mean every moment was easy. (After all, those super short American flag shorts sure were cute!) In spite of my "just-say-no-to-super-short-shorts" shopping expertise and two amazingly enjoyable girls who always pressed into wisdom at the mall, nothing could have prepared us for the labyrinth of mother/daughter challenge that is PROM DRESS SHOPPING! I'm blonde, but it took me no time at all to realize that I needed a plan to avoid the "fight your way to a prom dress" method, so my husband and I developed a team effort to approach prom dress shopping "fight free" each year. I did this with TWO teen daughters and I have warm and wonderful memories of our prom dress experiences.

Here are five ways to approach prom dress shopping fight-free. And below those I'm going to also share five specific websites where you can get the ideas rolling. These are five must-explore websites when starting your modest prom dress shopping.


If your daughter has grown up with True Girl, you will know that we shy away from a list of do's and don't when it comes to modesty. Modesty isn't about hiding her body, but revealing the beauty and brains that is inside of her. Therefore, we prefer to provide the girls tools to assess for themselves whether or not an outfit is appropriate. Prom dress shopping can be done the same way, but you must have these five conversations up front.

1. Take on Prom Dress Shopping as A Mother/Daughter Shop 'Til You Drop Challenge

You'll be navigating modesty land mines out there! And also possibly some real ugly dresses being sold as "modest!" (What!? Did I say something you weren't actually thinking???) You're looking for the hidden treasures to select from...dresses that are both modest and cute. Here's the really big challenge, each girl's body is uniquely and beautifully made by the Creator, and that does mean that one dress may be perfectly modest on Girl #1 and be perfectly inappropriate on Girl #2. Sometimes one of my girls would try on a dress and it would be a big thumbs up from everyone, but the other one would try on a similar style and it got voted down soundly. This can be really painful...unless, you make it a unique challenge and set it up to be fun! Framing it as a mother/daughter challenge creates a team effort to find the perfect dress that both mom and daughter LOVE.

2. Be Prepared to Invest in a Modest Gown. 

You aren’t going to find this dress on sale at Charlotte Russe. The cheaper the line, the more revealing the dresses seem to be. So, be prepared to either put a little more money toward modesty or to invest the time to sew your own or make modifications to a gown. Your daughter is going to feel loved and grateful when you tell her that you're willing to invest in her dress, and that will usually make her more flexible when it comes to your preferences for modest styles. Below, I list five websites that make great options for prom dress shopping. You'll notice that the modest and cute options are aplenty on these sites, but you'll certainly be paying for the extra fabric. (A few are specifically presented to save you money, but will take a bit more time to navigate the more revealing options.)

3. Involve Her Dad in the Final Vote

I never made my girls cry during prom dress shopping. Not even once! My secret weapon? I involved dad in the process through texting. It took some pressure off of me to be the final authority. (Read: bad guy!) Dad didn't mind being the bad guy. Dad's are GUYS! They get how these dresses impact a man’s mind. Ask him to carefully share his honest opinion about the dress options you text to him. (Of course, these photos should be photos of your girls wearing the dress—a sort of virtual fashion show!) He may say, "It's too short." "It's too low-cut." His involvement will help you make a good final decision and it takes some of the Yay/Nay burden off of you, Mom. Don’t have a dad who will help? Ask a grandpa or a brother!

4. Show & Tell Before You Shop

It’s not enough to tell her what the perimeters are for dresses. She needs to see it. Sit down together and do some online window shopping to find dresses that meet the requirements your looking for, and discuss what she likes and doesn't like. Here are some elements to consider in your pre-shopping show and tell:

Budget: Set it before you start looking. Talk openly about the financial expectations so they are clearly understood before you go anywhere. For instance, "We will put $150 toward the dress, anything over that, you will need to pay for yourself." Knowing the expectations before you hit the store can help narrow down the options.

Length: Shorter dresses can work! Test it out. Is the dress long enough for your daughter to sit comfortably in a chair with her legs crossed? Can she get out of the car without giving the world a show? Talk with her about the length ahead of time.

Neckline: Spaghetti straps and even strapless gowns can be A-OK as long as all cleavage is covered. These types of dresses work for more flat-chested girls. One shouldered or dainty-sleeved dresses are a great option for more buxom girls as they often provide more coverage and support. Have your daughter do the Over and Out Fashion Test: Facing a mirror, bend over. If anything comes out...well, you take it from there. Be cautious with anything low-cut. If you even have to question whether or not a dress is too revealing, it probably is.

Skin: Granted, it is prom and more skin is going to show than on a regular school day. High slits and backless gowns can be enticing, but are often too revealing. And can your daughter breathe? If a gown is so skin-tight that she can't breathe comfortably, hang it back on the rack!

5. Remember That You're Teaching Her About a Lot More Than Just Prom Dress Shopping

This is a great teaching opportunity and though it can be frustrating, your daughter will learn a lot through this process. Use it to encourage her to follow God’s best plan for her life no matter what everyone else is doing. You’ve taught her to be modest, but does that include everything but prom? If you cave in on this, what does that tell her about your other standards of purity? Can they be broken on certain occasions as well? Breaking the modesty rules for prom sends the message that we can try God’s truth on to see if it fits or not at the time. And that’s not how God’s truth works. It stands firm forever. Even on prom night.

Bonus Tip: Enjoy the time you get to spend with her! Even if a dress is not appropriate, look for ways to provide a compliment like, "That color really brings out your eyes." Relish the time the two of you get to spend together. She's way too grown up in that dress isn't she? Well, she's not getting any younger and before you know it, she'll be ready for wedding dress shopping (if it is God's plan for her.) Top off your successful, fight-free prom dress shopping adventure with smoothies. Share stories from your prom!


1.) Totally Modest is a great site with lots of modest styles to choose from, and though they promote modesty they didn't forget fashion. I find their dresses to be beautiful. But you will notice that you will certainly be paying for the extra fabric. Here's an idea to rescue the budget: I noticed early on that shorter prom dresses cost much less. (Makes sense. Less fabric!) So, for their freshman and sophomore years, my girls got to pick a short dress. This made prom dressing for their junior and senior years much more fun because they got to buy long gowns!

Birdie in Iced Mint by Totally Modest

2.) Mainstream retailers like Macy's now offer modest prom dresses on their pages due to the massive outcry from parents and even the teens themselves. Just search "modest prom dresses" when you get to their site and you should find the more tasteful options. (There may still be a little navigating to do because they also offer less modest options.)

Juniors Embellished Layered Gown by Macy's 

3.) LatterDay Bride & Prom offers some truly stunning prom options, but you may also be stunned by the price. You do get what you pay for, but if price isn't as much of a challenge for you, check out this site. A friend of mine allowed her daughters to spend generously on just their senior prom dresses, but then they resold them to get some of their money back. (The dress below costs $450. Gulp! But the details are truly delicately breathtaking!) There will be no navigating through immodest options and you will love the options!

Ferris by LatterDay Bride & Prom

4.) Get Pinteresty! Making your own dress can be a rewarding experience and there are the "dress making for dummies" options (like this duct tape dress) as well as designer challenges (like this two piece tulle skirt and a top which would need to be lengthened a bit) . You could get the creative juices rolling on Pinterest, but a visit to a fabric store might be a lot of fun to touch and see fabrics and select patterns. Think you need some help? Make it a mother/daughter weekend at a Hudson Valley Sewing Retreat. Just call Gertie in advance to make sure she can help you with your prom design.

Burgundy long maxi dress with leather jacket. Inspiration found on  Pinterest

5.) Rent The Runway! Does your daughter have designer taste on a D-I-Y budget, but not dressmaking skills? Here's a creative option I discovered and used successfully for both of my daughter's senior years. Rent The Runway allows you to rent high-quality designer gowns for less than you can buy an off-brand, average gown. For example, this $890 gown rents for as low as $85. I found it to be much cheaper than buying a dress! And no worries on sizing because they are very good at helping you measure and they send you the same dress in two sizes just in case one is not quite right.


Cindy Cascade gown on Rent The Runway

Happy fight free prom dress shopping to you and your daughter!

*This is not to be an endorsement of every article of clothing created by a designer or sold by a retailer, but to direct you towards some places that tend to be consistent in offering quality prom dresses that are both modest and cute. (It's likely they may also sell some items that we don't think are modest.)



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