Fashion for Prom: What’s Hot for 2012

Lindsey Chester, Associate Publisher of CaryCitizen, is a former women’s wear designer.

Cary, NC- It’s Prom Season and the local malls are full of moms walking around with their high school daughters gasping at the low necklines and high prices of gowns for the big event.  I was one of those ladies last weekend at Crabtree Valley Mall.

The Dress is the Thing

It’s the second year for my daughter to attend this teenage rite of passage and I was fore-warned and fore-armed. My daughter has expensive taste when she’s not opening her own wallet. I knew that some dresses are just plain “cheap” and that when you least expect it, the price tag can jump to $500!

For most girls, the dress is the main event. They start by searching online, but most won’t purchase that way. The high cost and uncertainty of shipping leaves most girls too nervous to trust an online purchase. The dominant sentiment is that ladies must try on every dress to ensure that if alterations are needed,  time is built into the schedule leading up to the big date.

Most schools here in NC have their Proms scheduled between the last week in April and the second weekend in May.  Date popping questions began just before Spring break. Word to the Boys: this has become a big production in itself, with planning and involvement friends before asking a certain girl to the prom .

Prom 2012 – Sparkle!

The major look that abounded was sparkle!  Dresses were fairly dripping with rhinestone ornamentation.

Colors were bright – hot pink, sun yellow, turquoise blue and purple. Plenty of red, black and white for the girl that likes a classic look. And grey continues from fall into spring, but looks a little matronly for most high school seniors.

Middle-Schoolers: Wear a Shrug

Many at the mall were also looking for the middle school 8th grade formal – these girls will be wearing cocktail length dresses.

One word of caution: if you choose strapless, spaghetti straps or one shouldered dresses for a middle schooler, the Wake County Public School dress code will demand that your daughter wears a shawl, shrug or little jacket over her shoulders. These can be readily found at DEB Shop or 5-7-9 for about $20. For high schoolers, anything goes!


Prints are popular again this year with watercolor florals in pinks and purples or blues and greens the real winners. Even dresses that appear to be solid colors,  are actually dip- dyed or printed so the color ombres down the length of the skirt.

Three Key Shapes Dominate This Season

  • Mermaid with a gathered bodice and fishtail hem.
  • Empire waist fitted below the bust with a bias skirt is flattering for anyone unless your daughter is petite.
  • The True Princess silohuette with a fitted bodice to the waist and then a crinolined/ poufy skirt that stands away from the body.

Overwelmingly, the choice is a floor-length gown. One variation on this has ruffled or hankerchief hems that floats away from the lined skirt.

Lots of Skin!

Many dresses sport the one shoulder look, or very low backs. Strapless continues to be popular with structured built-in bras that eliminate the need for fancy undergarments.

Lastly – be sure your daughter looks for shoes and takes her dress along. She may need the expertise of a tailor to be sure the dress is the correct length for the shoes  she will wear. Sky high platforms with stiletto heels are gaining importance this season. My daughter insists everyone takes their shoes off to dance, but of course you need the right shoes for the before party photos and dinner!

Prom is one big party and these looks will be sure to be noticed. Sparkle, bright colors and bare shoulders take center stage for Prom 2012.