10 formal dress shopping tips for 2023 New Year

Last year, I had it fairly easy as far as formal school shopping was concerned, as that was my older son’s activity. We bought him a suit that he will wear a lot to his college ball this year. Now, it was my daughter’s turn, but it turned out to be easier than I expected. We already have this formal dresses online – and we’re on sale! But because I know there are a lot of moms and daughters out there looking and shopping for school formal wear, I’m so happy to have a guest post today from Janet Camilleri sharing her tips for shopping for formal wear.

It’s only been a year since school started, but it’s not too early to start shopping for formalwear.

Here’s what my sister and I, along with our two daughters in Year 12, found on a recent visit to the city, browsing the various formalwear boutiques.

We thought we were early—their formal gowns won’t be until November—but it’s far from it! According to a sales associate, some schools have official graduation ceremonies as early as this March; while another store said it takes four months to order a specific dress.

Shopping for formal clothes is fun, but we also learned that there are a lot of things to keep in mind.
1. Check to see if an appointment is required. Even though it was a quiet weekday, the first store we visited turned us away; shopping is by appointment only. In many ways, this makes sense: It allows for a more personalized consultation and time to try on multiple gowns.

2. Make sure formal prospective attendees wear light or no makeup to avoid staining expensive clothing.

3. Girls should dress appropriately, simple clothes and shoes that are easy to put on and take off. Don’t worry about wearing heels – many stores have a spare pair you can try on, or a little box for you to stand on to get the most out of the dress.

4. Wear a strapless bra. Many gowns are strapless.

5. Do not wear jewelry – rings, bracelets, etc. – and make sure your nails are trimmed so that nothing “hangs” on delicate fabrics. In fact, in some shops, you’ll be asked to don a pair of white gloves, again to protect delicate fabrics.

6. Many shops do not allow photography. While as a doting mother I’m disappointed – I would have loved a photo of my daughter looking princess-like in her favorite dress and showing her dad – I can understand that it’s a good idea to keep it a secret until the big day Idea. Also, I’m sure someone in the past has tricked the store by taking a photo and then making the dress elsewhere.

7. Write down the dress details. Once you find a dress you like, ask the staff to write the details – name, color, price – on a business card for you.

8. See if your store has a “dress registry.” This means that no other girl at your school will sell the dress you bought – not even in a different color. We think it’s a great idea – there’s nothing worse than showing up to your formal occasion only to find out that someone else is wearing yours!

9. Do your research online first. You can save a lot of time by narrowing down which stores or designers you want to visit before hitting the streets.

10. You really “know” when you’ve found the right outfit. For my daughter, this happens to be the first dress she tries on. For my niece, it was only at the last store that she found a style that “just fit” when she decided to try something different. When you try on other gowns, you’ll know the gown will fit and realize that no other gown looks better.

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