Eleven crazy prom shopping hacks!

The dress you wear to Prom this year will be like your first name. It gives others an instant idea of the type of person you are: flashy and flamboyant, retro and regal, or anything in between.

Prom dress shopping can be stressful, as high expectations are set for Prom night. But there’s no need to excessively worry. For those of you who are like me—that is to say, those who have never been near a Prom dress boutique or the fancy dress section of any department store—follow this guide to find the perfect dress and ensure that you have a perfect Prom night.

Tip 1: In the fashion world, couture means that each dress is designed from scratch and around the model, basically entailing that the dress is guaranteed to fit the model too. In the real world, the word “couture” is more of a light suggestion, not a guarantee. While it’s embedded in local Prom dress boutiques’ brand names, prepare to get your dress altered.

Tip 2: Don’t turn a blind eye to Prom dress boutiques and bridal shops. When I walked into my first boutique, boy was I impressed.

Right when I walked through the shimmering glass doors, after a bell chimed to announce my arrival, a handcuffed with a midnight blue sleeve popped into my view. Attached was a man with a toothy smile and glass of champagne. Yes, free champagne. If that’s not enough to change your mind on how boutiques are a waste of parking lot space, then I don’t know what will be.

Tip 3: The retailers will offer you a platter full of crackers and grapes along with an assortment of ham, salami and cheeses. There’s no need to act polite; just shamelessly take the whole platter. Based on the stores’ daily revenue during Prom season, I’m sure they can afford a couple extra platters of saltines and lunch meat.

Tip 4: Don’t worry too much about finding the right dress. There are hundreds of different fabrics such as crepe, chiffon, lace, satin, neoprene, jersey. Not to mention that you can choose from the different styles like cut-out and halter and mermaid and two-piece and strapless and low-cut deep V-neck. And let’s not forget that each style typically comes in a range of colors. That’s plenty of more choices than the variety of yogurt flavors Yoplait offers.

Tip 5: If making an immediate choice gives you anxiety, feel free to call for another glass of champagne.

Tip 6: Prom dress shopping is a marriage between a boot-camp and theater production, so mentally prepare yourself for the emotional turmoil that comes with rigorous physical activity and animated theatrics.

Dress after dress, you will find that there is a method to the store’s madness, like a drill. Zip up, zip down, zip up, zip down. But when you walk into the waiting room, prepare to hear a collective sound of ooh-s and aah-s from the retailers and other parents who are waiting for their children to change.

Practice your “I like this dress,” “I hate this dress,” and “I feel both indifferent and in love with this dress” faces before entering the waiting room. That way, you can save a couple breaths used to tell to the retailer your opinion of the dress and change into more dresses— because that’s exactly what your dad wants—to wait for 20 more dress changes.

Tip 7: Bring tissues for yourself. After all, Prom dress shopping is the prelude to the most important night of your life. Your grandma and mom also may need some hankies too, after they see you step onto the viewing pedestal in front of the mirror that climbs from the floor to the ceiling. Imagine peering from the pinnacle of the Machu Picchu mountains, the Eiffel Tower, Mount Everest, or heaven, multiply the gravity of that out-of-body experience by 10, and you get the feeling of stepping onto the boutique’s pedestal.

Tip 8: There’s no harm in trying on more dresses. Just think—the more steps you take onto the viewing pedestal, the more of a StairMaster workout you’ll be getting out of this shopping trip.

Tip 9: When you return to reality and look more closely in the mirror, ensure that you are merciless in critiquing how you look in each dress. Make sure to put those magazines and tabloids on the waiting room coffee tables to shame. Too long, too tight, too big for minor alterations. Too tall, too bottom-heavy, too flat-chested. Special note: refer to Miss America’s constitution for more guidelines.

Tip 10: Perhaps a banana peel could cover you up better than one dress, not to mention that it probably costs more than 2,000 bananas, but it doesn’t matter. As mother always says: less is more.

Tip 11: Finally, be practical. When buying a dress from a Prom dress boutique, you also are paying for the experience—the grandeur of the shop, the VIP treatment by retailers, and the shiny nylon garment bag your purchase would come in.

After all, we are shopping for one night. Spending hundreds of dollars and hours of shopping for one night; all to feel like the belle of the ball for a single evening and only to revert to the same insecure teenagers who most young people are daily. But like my fellow teens, I’ll risk and spend anything for carbs that come in the form of bite-sized squares and glasses of low-alcohol content drinks that make me feel like an adult.

So now that I’ve given all the advice I can, you, young grasshopper, are free to spend away.