How to Look Good at a Prom

Prom is one of the most special occasions of your teenage years and you will remember the night for the rest of your life. Naturally, you want to look your absolute best! However, all of the preparation and planning for prom can be a bit daunting. By using a systematic approach to prom planning and getting organized early, you will enjoy a stress-free experience and look better than ever for your big night.


[Edit]Finding The Perfect Ensemble

  1. Build a scrapbook of ideas. Start looking for and collecting images of dresses or tuxedos you like at least 5 or 6 months in advance. Flip through fashion magazines and comb the internet for styles that really stand out to you. After you’ve scrapbooked for a while, you’ll notice that a clear picture of what you really want your dress or tux to look like is beginning to form in your mind.
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    • Try to narrow things down as specifically as possible, even down to particular color choices.
    • Bring your scrapbook with you when you go shopping. It will help you stay focused on the look you’re going for and make shopping a little easier.
  2. Start dress hunting early. Give yourself plenty of time to search for the right dress. This is not a choice that you want to rush! Start looking about 3 or 4 months in advance. Hit all of the stores in your area and if possible, have a parent take you shopping out of town, as well.
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    • Remember, all of the other girls are shopping just like you are. They are most likely going to the same shops and looking at the same gowns.
    • Shopping out of town will help you feel secure that whatever dress you choose, someone else won’t be wearing it.
    • Don’t forget to hunt for a dress online. It’s not an ideal situation, since you won’t be able to try it on before you buy it. However, if you find something that you really love online and it’s still relatively early in the game, you can have it tailored to fit you perfectly once it arrives.
  3. Start tuxedo hunting early, as well. While tuxedos aren’t quite as variable as dresses, there are still a lot of details you’ll want to get just right. Start hunting for your tux about 3 or 4 months in advance.
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    • Prom is a black-tie affair, so you really want to go with either a tuxedo or a very dark and dapper suit.[1]Try to narrow down which one you want before you go out shopping, so that you can stay focused. At the very least, nail it down super early in your hunt.
    • Most choose to go with a tux, but there’s no reason why you can’t do your own thing!
    • You want to ensure that you are able to find your ideal tux in plenty of time to also have it tailored before prom. Tuxedos and suits, right off the rack, are generally cut to fit male model prototypes. Gender presentation, personal style or sexual orientation aren’t usually addressed right off the rack.[2]
  4. Shop with a trustworthy friend or family member. Bring someone that you know will be completely honest with you. Whenever you find a dress or tux that you are definitely considering, don’t just try it on alone in the dressing room. Come out and get their honest opinion.
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    • When you try on a gown or tux that you really like, ask your shopping companion to snap a picture of you wearing it with your phone. That way you’ll have a mini-archive of everything that you really liked to reference later, when you’re ready to start narrowing it down.
    • Don’t make a snap decision. Try on lots of dresses or other ensembles and collect at least 10 to 15 pictures of possible choices for your mini-archive before even considering making your final decision.
  5. Choose what looks good on you. Avoid shopping for fads and choose a dress style and fit that suits your particular figure and coloring.[3] Not only will you look better, but you will ultimately feel more confident wearing a dress that you know suits you as an individual.
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    • Fads are great, but some gowns and styles are timeless and will always be beautiful.
    • When you look back at your prom pictures years later, you want to feel proud of the way you look, not slightly embarrassed because you’re wearing a fad that passed quickly and didn’t look good on you.
  6. Get the right size. If you find the absolute perfect dress but it’s too small when you try it on, do not buy the dress with the intention of going on an intense crash diet. That is far too much pressure to put on yourself! And worse – if you fail, what will you wear instead? You’ll have to rush to find a back-up at the last minute, which you definitely want to avoid.
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    • You look great the way you are right now and there are plenty of beautiful dresses out there that will fit you just right. Don’t change yourself for a dress.
    • Find a tailor for your dress if you are genderqueer or in transition. This is because dresses, right off the rack, are made to fit a female model’s silhouette. A tailor can make a few tweaks for you that will take your look to the next level.
    • Do not allow gender or sexual orientation to stop you from getting exactly want you want, whether that’s a dress or a tux. You deserve the absolute best and there are tailors out there that specialize in custom fits.[4]
    • If you find a dress that you love but it’s too big when you try it on, talk to a store associate about the possibility of tailoring it. Some gowns are made of materials that aren’t suitable for tailoring, and others are just too fragile or stylized to be changed, so get a good, clear opinion from an expert.

[Edit]Choosing Accessories

  1. Coordinate with your dress. When it comes to choosing jewelry and shoes, base your selections around your dress. Not just the color of the dress – you want to go beyond that. Look for options that suit the style of your dress. A particular necklace may look gorgeous in the case, but clash with your dress.
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    • For instance, if you decide on a vintage-looking gown, you don’t want to wear modern jewelry with it. You’ll want to pick things that have a vintage flair, to coordinate with the dress style.
    • Focus on achieving an overall look, rather than finding individual pieces that you like that may or may not end up looking good together.
  2. Coordinate with your date. Traditionally, prom couples coordinate their ensembles by choosing matching and complimentary accessories to tie their look together as a unit. Find out the color of your date’s dress in plenty of time to find your accessories.
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    • Choose a long tie, bow tie, and/or cummerbund that match your date’s dress as closely as possible. You can also have your date provide her dress to a tailor, who can then dye your accessories to match hers almost exactly.
    • If you aren’t able to match your date’s dress, go with neutral choices that match your tux or suit.
    • Long tie or bow tie? The bow tie is the traditional choice, especially with a tuxedo.[5] If you go with a suit, opt for a long tie instead.
  3. Choose items that you really love. Don’t accessorize with something that doesn’t immediately make you feel pretty or handsome when you put it on. Accessories are meant to accent and highlight your ensemble and you. Select them with care and be very choosy.
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  4. Consider coordinating with your prom theme. If you’re hitting your prom solo or just don’t want to match your date, consider coordinating with your prom theme. This will visually tie your look and ensemble in with the whole night, rather than a particular person.
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    • If you are going with a group, consider coordinating your looks as a unit.
  5. Select shoes that you can walk in. Yes, your shoes should be totally awesome, but they also need to be relatively comfortable to wear. Prom isn’t just standing around – you’ll be dancing, getting in and out of cars, and navigating obstacles. If you choose your shoes based on looks alone, you may end up being miserable on prom night because you can’t dance in them, or because they are squeezing your feet too tightly.
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    • Try them on before you buy them and walk around the store until you get a sense of how they’ll perform on prom night.
    • Be honest with yourself! If you love them but it’s obvious that the heels are too high for you, keep looking. You’ll find the right pair eventually.
    • On prom night, when you’re cutting a rug on the dancefloor and having a blast, you’ll be glad you took the extra time to find the right shoes.
  6. Try something unusual. Don’t be afraid to try something that you normally wouldn’t wear. It’s prom, so live the fantasy a little! For instance, maybe you find a breathtaking tiara that perfectly mirrors your dress and hairstyle. Or maybe it’s an unusual set of cufflinks to go with your tux or suit. Ordinarily you’d never wear a tiara or those particular cufflinks, but it’s prom night! If it looks good on you, then rock it.
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    • Make sure to get a few opinions before you commit to anything unusual. You want to stand out, but not for the wrong reasons.

[Edit]Determining Hair and Makeup

  1. Collect hair and makeup ideas. Start scrapbooking a few months in advance, just like you did for your dress. In fact, you can start matching makeup looks to dress styles as early as the scrapbooking stage!
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    • By the time you get to the hair and makeup part of your prom deliberations, you’ll already have your dress and accessories picked out, as well as a book full of images to review. You can’t go wrong when you prepare that well!
  2. Experiment but don’t go overboard. Start experimenting with the looks you find very early to get a clear picture of what does and doesn’t work for you. Don’t be afraid to try a daring hair or makeup style! It might be absolutely perfect for your dress and suit you wonderfully. On the other hand, it may make you feel uncomfortable or anxious on prom night, and that’s no fun.
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    • Experiment as much as you want, but when it comes down to it, make a solid choice that works for you.
    • Don’t completely reinvent yourself for prom night – you want to look like yourself in your pictures and be recognizable to your date and friends!
    • Essentially, you want to look like the best version of your everyday self, with a little extra pizzazz thrown in.
  3. Practice your chosen look several times beforehand. After you’ve experimented with a few looks and you nail it down, practice recreating your hair and makeup look multiple times before the big night. You don’t want to spend 3 hours on the afternoon of prom trying to perfect winged eyeliner or some other detail that you aren’t used to creating – that will definitely stress you out.
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    • If you practice ahead of time you can perfect the look and when prom comes, you can recreate it without a hitch.
    • After applying your makeup, always set it with a translucent powder as your final step. This will help your makeup last through the night and also control any oil and shine, which will keep you looking fresh and matte for photographs.
  4. Style short hair in a way that coordinates stylistically with your ensemble. That could be anything from a dashing side part, slicked back completely, or even a messy, tousled ‘do, depending on what kind of look you are going for.
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    • Get short hair cut or trimmed a day or two before prom, not the day of. If you want a straight razor shave, visit a barbershop on the morning of prom.
    • If you want to look really unique or do something very different from everyone else, consider dying your hair. You could even consider dying streaks into your hair that coordinate with your date’s ensemble!
    • Don’t be afraid to stand out or embrace a look that truly represents you.
  5. Enlist the help of a stylist. If you aren’t that savvy with makeup or hairstyles, consult your hairstylist. Most stylists studied makeup along with hair when they were training at cosmetology school, so they are invaluable sources of information and can help you create the perfect look.
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    • Express to your stylist that you want your hair to look great, but you also want a fairly uncomplicated ‘do that you can maintain easily on your own throughout the evening.
    • Don’t get talked into something that you don’t like by an over-zealous stylist.

[Edit]Taking Care of Yourself

  1. Get plenty of exercise. You want to look fit and feel good in your dress, and the number one way to achieve that is to exercise regularly. If you don’t like cardio or if hitting the gym sounds like torture, try yoga instead.
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    • You can take yoga classes at your local gym or, if your prefer, you can watch instructional videos and practice yoga at home. Sometimes it’s easier to embark on a new fitness routine starting at home, so that you can get used to it before doing it in front of other people.
    • No matter what exercise regimen you choose, the result will be a happier, healthier you.
  2. Eat well and stay hydrated. No crash diets! Eat sensibly and get enough vitamins and nutrients to keep you healthy and glowing. Drinking lots of water will keep you looking dewy and fresh and help you keep your complexion clear.
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    • Don’t starve yourself before prom. You don’t want to look malnourished and waif-thin on prom night. Malnourished isn’t a good look for anyone.
    • Eating healthy and well will ensure that you have plenty of strength and energy for your big night.
    • Along with drinking plenty of water, make sure to use a good moisturizer on your skin every day.
  3. Start a skin care regimen several weeks in advance.
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    [6] Take care to address any acne issues that you are having on your face, and don’t forget to treat breakouts on your back and chest. Prom dresses can be revealing, so you want to address these areas too.

    • If you are trying out any new skin care products, do so several weeks in advance in case your skin doesn’t react well to them.
    • Make sure to exfoliate with a gentle product every few days. Don’t overdo it! You don’t need to exfoliate every day – that is too harsh on your skin.
    • Do any eyebrow plucking and waxing several days before prom, not the night before or the day of. Otherwise, you might end up having some unsightly skin irritation to cover up.[7]
  4. Calm down. Getting ready for prom can be stressful. There are so many decisions to be made and you want everything to be perfect, which is understandable. But don’t take it too far! It’s too much pressure to put on yourself. Yes, you want to look great, but you also want to have fun at prom.
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    • If you stress yourself out to the max, you’ll do nothing on prom night except worry over little details that no one even notices except you. Prom should be a night to remember, and you can’t make memories when you’re worrying about everything the entire time.
    • Avoid hitting the bathroom every 15 minutes to adjust your dress, perfect your lipstick or fret in general. Get out there and have fun!
  5. Get enough sleep. In the weeks leading up to prom, make sure you get a full night of sleep every night. “Beauty sleep” isn’t just a myth! During sleep, our bodies repair and heal. If you want to look your absolute best on prom night, make it a point to get plenty of rest beforehand.
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    • Not only will you look better well-rested, but you’ll also feel better and have plenty of energy to enjoy the excitement of the night.

[Edit]Getting Ready That Day

  1. Start early. Wake up, have breakfast, and start your preparations. If you start early, you can take your time and enjoy a day of primping and pampering. It’s never good to rush when you’re getting ready for anything, especially prom!
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    • Wear a button down shirt or robe as you get ready, so that you can easily transition into your dress without messing up your hair and makeup.
  2. Play fun music to get you in the party mood. You’re probably going to feel slightly nervous during the day, but also try to have some fun. Blast your favorite tunes and get yourself in the mood for a great night.
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    • Prom isn’t all about looking great! You also want to have an amazing time and make wonderful memories. Listening to some fun music while you’re getting ready will help keep you calm and get you looking forward to a night to remember.
  3. Stick to a schedule. Make sure you watch the clock as you get ready. Even though you’re preparing early, it will start getting late before you know it! Make a schedule for yourself that morning when you’re relaxing in the tub, and stick to it.
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    • Allot specific time slots for everything that you want to do. Give yourself 45 minutes for makeup, an hour for hair – whatever you need to make sure you get it done without rushing.
    • If you have appointments to keep with stylists or makeup artists, make sure that you arrive on time. Running behind on just one thing can throw off your entire day.
  4. Pamper yourself. Take a long hot bubble bath and relax. Eat healthy snacks throughout the day to keep your strength up. Drink some herbal tea and keep your mood light-hearted.
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