17 mistakes to avoid when prom dress shopping

Finula Crowe

Prom dresses all available from Finique

With the summer almost over, and a sleuth of proms having been cancelled or postponed, believe it or not, the search for the perfect prom dress is almost upon us.

I regularly get asked what the best time to buy a prom dress is. My answer is almost always, when you find the one you love. However, over the past few years, I am more inclined to caveat that with a ‘don’t buy it too early either’.

The main reason for this advice is that most evening wear / prom specialists only start to receive their collections in October / November. Also, it’s a bit like a lot of things, if we have something too long, we tire of it and change our minds..!

The fear for girls is that ‘someone else will get the best dress’. So here are my top tips to keep in mind, so that you find the best dress without the stress!


1. Setting your heart on a celebrity’s gown
There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from a celebrity red carpet look. But inspiration is all it should be… unless you’ve got about £20k to spend! Celebrity gowns tend to be custom made for them and cost thousands.

2. Being too set on what you want
Whether that be style, colour or cut-wise; the big ballgown or the simple fishtail. You should at least try other styles and colours. At Finique we take a lot of time to discuss your ideas and we always suggest the best styles and colours to suit you, based on your body shape and colouring.

3. Not having any idea what kind of dress you’d like
At the opposite end of the scale from the above, attending a prom dress appointment without having some idea what kind of prom dress you’d like will make the experience a bit less productive. Do your research, search online and bring screenshots of styles and colours that you like. Also make sure that the shop you’re visiting stocks the kind of dresses you like before you book an appointment.

4. Not having a budget.
Everybody (even celebrities!) have some sort of budget. Discuss it with the person paying for the dress, and set it before you even start looking; the last thing you want is to fall in love with a dress that is way out of your price range. However, be realistic about how much a designer or, very unique gown will cost. All good shops will have their styles and prices on their website, so, as above, do your research first. (Check out our prom collection here).

5. Going where everybody else goes!
It’s likely everyone has seen all of the dresses in the really popular prom shops in your area. If you want something unique, try some of the smaller boutiques and evening wear stores or travel a little out of your local area.

6. ‘Following the crowd’.  
Let’s face it, there are two types of people; those who want to look like everyone else – and those who want to set their own trend and be uniquely themselves. Whilst heavily embellished and big ball gowns are popular for prom, the Finique girl is looking for something more elegant and classic – dare I say, something she might wear again!!

At Finique, our style is understated elegance; not your typical prom dress and we avoid stocking the same styles and brands as other prom shops. Our contemporary styles are designed to make the girl shine, rather than the dress.

 The beautiful Freya looking every bit the Prom Queen in our Liliana gown in Deep Red.

7. Choosing a brand that is in lots of shops.
Whilst boutiques keep a ‘prom book’, there is nothing to stop someone getting that brand outside of the exclusivity zone. Check how many stockists there are of a brand first. You probably want to stick to brands with just one or two stockists in your county. At Finique not only will we not sell the same dress (even in a different colour) to someone from the same school, we also stock International brands that are only available in a handful of boutiques within the whole of the UK.

8. Leaving it to the very last minute.
Most prom shops need about 12-15 weeks to order your gown. Finique does hold a lot of inventory so sometimes we do have the stock but, to avoid the stress, try buying your gown before the end of April.

9. Bringing too many people to the appointment.
I recommend you invite no more than 2, max 3 people to your appointment. And make sure they know your style – it’s not about what they like, but what you feel best in. They need to be honest but not overly opinionated. Choosing a prom dress is a big decision and can get a little emotional and too many opinions can make it stressful. (Now might be a good time to remind Mums of how stressful it was choosing their own wedding dress… ;-)

10. Trying on too many dresses
 There is a temptation to visit tons of shops and try on dozens of dresses.  You don’t want to make the decision too difficult, and introducing too many options will just confuse you, so my advice is to visit 2 shops (max 3!) and don’t try on more than 10 dresses at the absolute most. Also, try to pick shops with very different styles so that you’ve covered all bases.

11. Facetiming / snapchatting a bunch of people not with you.
They can’t see the dress well and you only get confused by too many opinions.

12. Buying a ‘copy’ dress online… 
If I had a tenner for every time someone called me in a panic because the dress they ordered ‘like ours’ online turned out to be an ill-fitting rag that bears no resmblence to the picture / dress they tried, I’d be a millionaire.  The old adage of ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. 

13. Wearing bad underwear!
Wear seamless flesh-toned undies and bra (strapless if possible) to the appointment. It can make all the difference to how a dress looks and fits. It’s also helpful to wear a heel height you like, and not too much make up (as it can come off on the dresses).

14. Buying a dress that is very tight.
If you’re buying many months ahead of the prom, it’s not advisable to buy too tight. Be mindful that you might still be growing, and your body shape may change in six months. You don’t want to try your dress on a week before the prom and find it doesn’t fit, with no time to find a replacement.  Also, it’s generally easy to take in a dress but unlikely you’ll be able to let it out….

15. Not booking your alterations early.
Most long gowns need a little length adjustment. Alterations get very busy in the weeks leading up to prom. Once you know the delivery date of your gown, book your alterations for a couple of weeks later. (If you think you’re still growing, book it for a couple of weeks before your wear date!).

16. Buying your dress but continuing to look!
Once you’ve chosen ‘the one’, don’t question your decision. It’s never going to be 100% perfect on every aspect, and a 9/10 is very good! Most prom shops won’t refund or exchange (Finique will exchange in some circumstances but discuss at time of purchase!) so, don’t keep looking or seeking the opinions of others. Focus on the rest of the prep like how you’ll accessorise the dress and style of your hair and make-up (and your exams!)

17. Stressing too much about the dress!!
Just remember, the dress is just one aspect of prom night. There are lots of other things to consider; accessories, hair, make up, but mostly what a wonderful celebration it is!

 Check out Finique’s stunning prom dress range here. You can also book an appointment at our Brentwood boutique at the same link.