04/24/2013 06:00 pm ET Updated Jun 24, 2013

Say Yes to the Prom Dress

By Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, Psy.D. for

She has dreamed about this night throughout her high school years. Secretly you too have planned and plodded about this special night. Maybe it brings back memories of your own prom. She wants everything to be perfect, and so do you. How do you help her understand however, that you may not be willing/able to buy the dream dress she desires? After all, how do you justify a purchase that costs more than your monthly mortgage payment?

You cringe at the thought of disappointing her. When it comes down to it, it's not even the hardship such a purchase could cause, it's more the principal of the thing. Heck, your wedding dress didn't cost that much!

Maybe your opposition to her dress choice is more related to style. After all she's 15, so why does she want a dress that looks best on a 25-year-old? Honestly, no matter how old she is, you are not okay with a dress that shows more skin than fabric.

So how can you find a way to ensure that the magic of the evening will endure with a dress upon which you can both agree?

Here are a few helpful hints:

1. Once it is clear that she will be attending prom, sit down and discuss the pertinent details including the dress. Topics of discussion should include: transportation, pre and post prom activities and of course prom associated costs.

2. Take on the task together. Finding 'the dress' is a great opportunity to spend some fun quality time with your daughter. You may want to start by looking through magazines together and ripping out pages, or going online and printing out pictures.

3. Time is of the essence. If you and your daughter plan to shop online, leave plenty of time for returns or alterations. If you are shopping in stores, the earlier you shop the greater your selection of styles and sizes.

4. Be honest about the fit. Even if your teen's dream dress meets your style and price standards, if the fit is not right you need to gently tell her. Sometimes the excitement surrounding finding 'the dress' can cloud her vision on how it looks on her. Explain to her that you want her special night to be perfect including the dress that is perfect for her. We all know that something can look right on an airbrushed model or even the hanger, but fit all wrong once we try it on.

5. Set the budget early. It is important that you discuss this important detail from the get go. Nothing is more stressful than saying no to her dream dress once she has tried it on at the store.

6. The perfect accessories can give a plainer dress punch. If she finds a frock that fits great but lacks a little pizazz, consider jazzing it up with a little bling. The right necklace, earrings and bracelet can really make a difference. An awesome pair of shoes can transform her look from good to glam.

7. Don't dis the details. Finding the perfect prom dress is really about creating a specific look. It is important to consider how she will wear her hair, and if/how she will wear her makeup.

8. Practice makes perfect. If your daughter seems stressed about the dress even after you have found 'the one', a practice run through can be both reassuring and fun! Taking a twirl around the room in full dress including hair and makeup can ease her distress. The oohs and ahs of the rest of the family will serve to encourage confidence and self-assurance.

For many girls, prom night is a dream come true. When you both say 'yes' to the same dress you contribute to a fairytale memory that may last her a lifetime. Until her wedding of course...

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Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, Psy. D. is currently a clinical administrator on an adolescent inpatient unit in a private psychiatric hospital. She is an adjunct Professor of Psychology at Pace University and maintains a private outpatient practice. She is also the creator of, a forum for family and friends.