Proms, Past, Practicality and Pressure

Today I’m featuring two of my favourite people and their prom dress stories and my grad dress story.

This is my niece, Abigail. Abby’s dress was bought at Value Village for $30; she had to do a little bit of alteration which our aunt did for free. Abby liked the dress but says it’s not exactly her ideal dress, which would have had “looser fabric and flowed more.” Given that she’s headed off to expensive university to study art, she knew her parents were on a budget so even though this wasn’t her ideal, it was still a lovely dress to wear for this important day.  Interestingly enough, her friends’ parents were the one’s who wanted to photograph her in the dress when they found out that she had only paid $30. I think the dress is lovely and I think my niece is gorgeous.

Her story reminded me of my own. When I graduated from John Oliver High School (30 freakin’ years ago) we didn’t have endless dry-grads, proms, etc. We did everything on one night. Because we didn’t wear cap and gown, graduation night was the night that the boys wore their tuxedos and the girls wore their pretty dresses. My parents were also on a budget so I knew that I was going to either have to thrift my dress or make it. I wanted a strapless ball gown with long gloves. My conservative, Mennonite mom was having none of that, so I ended up with the exact opposite of what I wanted: a long sleeved blouse (which I bought) and a skirt, which I sewed and later shortened, so it turned out to be quite practical.

Take a look at this photo. Can you tell which one of these dresses is thrifted? My good friend Sarina is on the far left. Back in the fall, Sarina and I had an interesting chat about proms and the pressure to look a certain way, to spend a lot of money on dress, shoes, hair, make up, accessories and on and on. For Sarina, the excess is repugnant. She is a young woman who cares deeply about social justice issues, about the environment and about responsible consumption. So the excess of an event like this just didn’t sit well with her. At the same time, she also wanted to feel special, to be beautiful for a night. She tried going prom dress shopping with some friends and while she found dresses that she loved, she just couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars. Happily, she found this lovely gown for $10 at an MCC Thrift Shop. And isn’t she beautiful?

At the end of the day, I understand both the desire to be seen as beautiful (to be honest, I still have that need, do you?) and to feel special. What I learned as a young person and what I believe both Abby and Sarina also knew instinctively was that they could be exactly  that – beautiful and special – without spending a fortune.

What was your prom like? Did you feel pressured to look a certain way, spend a certain amount of money? How did you deal with that?

I’m linking with Apron Thrift Girl today for her Thrift Share Monday. check out what other thrifters are up to!

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9 Responses to Proms, Past, Practicality and Pressure

  1. Cyndy B says:

    And because Sarina only spent $10 on the dress, we didn’t feel bad throwing it away after prom because of all the train tar left on the bottom of her dress after this fun photo shoot! 🙂

  2. Jen Burkholder says:

    Love this article (and Abby is stunning as always). I’m going to share this with Courtney. She got her Grade 8 grad dress given to her (price: $0) and I know she’s already thinking about Grad 2016 🙂

  3. Jackie K says:

    Wonderful prom dress stories! Glad to see some things getting another go ’round – even if they end up trashed with train tar!

    Thanks for stopping by today…

  4. Megan says:

    Gosh I see so many prom-worthy dresses whilst thrifting. I wish I could find something to do with them that was practical. I have a friend with a snow clothes closet, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a prom dress closet?”.

  5. The girls look lovely and the dresses were amazing finds! You would never know they were bargain priced.

    • i know right? i think the dresses are gorgeous. and the photo of sarina with her friends totally proves to me that you cannot tell who bought which dress thrift and who bought which dress retail. if that’s the case, then why pay hundreds of dollars?

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