10 Tips for Finding the Perfect Plus Size Prom Dress

By on August 10, 2011

by Elizabeth Kelly

What a lucky girl you are! Not only have you been blessed with more curves than the average young woman, but you have more options than ever before. Our full-figured mothers and grandmothers had to make do with limited styles or a frumpy handmade dress, but today you have choices. And oh, what choices! Don’t let shopping for a prom dress wear you down, even if some days it seems that no dress is right for you. The dream dress is out there, and not only will you find it, but you’ll find it in your size. Here are ten tips for finding the perfect plus-size prom dress for your night to shine.

Prom Dress from Sydney's Closet

Prom Dress from Sydney’s Closet

1. Evaluate Your Wardrobe

If you wear a larger size, you know that there are some outfits that make you feel good about yourself, while others have you tugging at the uncomfortable waistbands all day. Check out your closet and pull out items from your everyday wardrobe that are your favorites, then try to determine what you love about them. What factors do they have in common? Do dark colors make you feel more secure? Or do bright ones cheer you up? Determine if your favorite blouses have fitted bustlines or tend to be more flowy. Once you’ve evaluated what makes you happy in your regular school clothes, translate that into formal wear. You’ll have a good idea of what’s most important to you, whether it’s comfort, color, style or something else entirely that’s uniquely you.

2. Hit the Mall

Don’t be afraid to start at the mall or a department store. It’s the best way to get a sense of what’s out there. Once you are in the formal section, don’t even worry about sizes yet. See what attracts your eye, and make note if you gravitate toward any colors or styles. You can keep these in mind when you shop for dresses later; right now, just window shop. If you do see one you like, ask the sales clerk if they carry it in larger sizes. If the store itself doesn’t carry your size, they just might be able to special order it for you. It takes guts sometimes to ask questions, but remember, it’s what the sales reps are paid for. Take along a chatty relative to do the talking if you’re shy.

3. Shop the Specialty Stores

Plus-size stores aren’t what they used to be. Now they’re carrying more and more fun and fashionable styles for young people. If you have a Torrid shop in your town, you’ll see that they stock formal dresses in larger sizes that are far from old-fashioned. Shopping at a store with large sizes means you can feel more comfortable trying on clothes, and it’s a nice feeling when you sometimes need to ask for a smaller size. Check the telephone directory, and you might discover some plus-size boutique stores you didn’t know existed.

4. Hit the Bridal Shops

Bridal stores are often underused when it comes to formal and prom wear, as people mostly associate them with weddings. Most stock an array of evening gowns and bride’s maid dresses in a multitude of styles, and in sizes much higher than traditional stores. Check to see if there’s a David’s Bridal nearby. The sales are fantastic, and they carry prom and evening wear in sizes up to 26. You can view the dresses on their website, and they even have a feature where you can see the dress in motion to see how it moves when you walk. Many of the models are plus-size too, so you can get a true idea of how the dress flatters a larger figure.

5. Shop Online

You can find dresses in any style and size online if you know where to look. Sydney’s Closet has glamorous dresses in all sizes, as well as some cute cocktail-length gowns. Talk Prom Dresses stocks larger-sized dresses in more trendy styles, including sexy goth designs if you want to heat up the room. Sites like Lane Bryant and Torrid, that also have regular stores, will even let you return the dress to the actual store if you’re unsatisfied, so you won’t have to fool with shipping if you don’t like it. With zillions of online resources to choose from, though, you’re certain to find something just right.

6. Use the Classifieds in Reverse

Lots of people comb through classifieds and Craigslist posts looking for what they want, but it’s much easier to do it backwards. Place your own ad, stating what you want and how much you’ll pay. For example: “Wanted: Prom dress, size 20, any pastel color with a corset-style bodice. Will pay $75 or more if it’s the right one.” People can then contact you if they have a used one that fits the bill, and you’re under no obligation to buy anything.

7. Try Separates

No one ever said a prom dress is required to be all in one piece. If you’re having trouble finding the right dress, or if your shape makes it hard to find a dress that fits correctly, buy two pieces. Shop for a ball-length skirt in a basic color, then top it with an evening blouse of your choosing. You might pair a black skirt with a spangly halter, or a pink one with a classy white satin wrap blouse. The choices are yours, and the possibilities are endless.

8. Make a Look With Accessories

If you still can’t find the look you want, try buying a simple, basic dress and glamming it up in your own unique way. Accessories can create a look on their own with a little imagination. If you want a more daring style, top your dress with a feather boa. Wear fresh flowers in your hair if you want a more romantic look. Add a faux fur wrap or a sheer organza scarf if you’re unhappy with the neckline. Make your look the one you want by mixing and matching with whatever pieces you choose.

9. Forget What You Know

It seems everyone has rules for what heavier girls should and shouldn’t wear. You probably even subscribe to some of them yourself. You may think that you have to wear black, or that you can’t bare your arms. Forget it! It’s your night, and if what you’ve always wanted is a hot fuschia spaghetti strap gown, then buy it, wear it, and strut your stuff. Make sure you’re comfortable, but also that you feel attractive on your own terms, not someone else’s.

10. Be Confident

It may seem like a cliche that a smile is your best accessory, but it’s true. Even the dreamiest dress looks less fab on a mopey girl. Once you find that heavenly dress, forget about sizes. Keep in mind that all girls, even the twig-shaped ones, are obsessing about their looks tonight. Laugh at them on the inside, and walk into your prom with confidence, knowing that you look –and feel– your absolute best.



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One Comment

  1. Janie

    August 10, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    What a fantastic post. Proms are relatively new here in the UK so I never had one, but if I had, I would have found the dress buying experience very unpleasant (I left school way back in the mid 80′s). There are so many more options nowadays for bigger girls to shine xx

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