Help - I Need a Modest Prom Dress, Pronto!

About a week ago, we received an email from a very concerned mother whose daughter got asked to prom twice. It should be a good thing, right? Well, the concern wasn't so much that the daughter will be attending prom twice, but more of what she was going to wear on both occasions.


Here's what May wrote (name changed to protect the actual identity):-
Hello. My daughter was asked to prom twice and I'm looking for a more conservative or modest prom dress for her. I hope you could recommend something suitable as we are running short of time and may still need to get the dress altered if it does not fit. Thanks.
For some of us, prom is synonymous to extravagance. Think luxurious fabrics like lace, sequins or even silk. Picture sheer illusion dresses to daring open back designs, and even plunging V-necklines. And really, there's nothing wrong about that. It's individual preference.

But what about those of us who are not comfortable wearing revealing dresses? Maybe due to religious reasons, we may be a little restricted in terms of what we can or cannot wear. Or again, it could just be a matter of personal preference or taste that we prefer to don a more modest prom dress.

Here are some suggestions for you if you're having trouble finding something suitable to wear.

Vintage Prom Dresses

Going vintage may just do the trick for you. If you have a fun loving personality, then look for 1950s to 1960s inspired dresses. For instance, swing dresses are not just fun, they're flattering too for almost any body shape. See photo of January Jones in her Betty Draper outfit for Mad Men below.

I love these dresses the most because they are so comfortable to wear and move about (especially getting in and out of your chair). Opt for bateau necklines (instead of halter necklines) if you don't feel comfortable showing off your decolletage.

January Jones wearing a gorgeous swing dress for Mad Men. Image Credit: DailyMail

1950s inspired swing dresses usually comes in a variety of lengths - try a midi or tea length dress - then jazz it up with a pair of cute shoes and a hair accessory and you're all set!

1950s Audrey Hepburn inspired dress, Dressific

Traditional Costumes

When and where else would you wear a costume? If you love to stand out from the crowd, try a cheongsam (or Mandarin dress) or even a 1920s inspired dress. The cheongsam is a perfect example of how to look sexy without baring much skin. Its figure hugging dress silhouette hugs your curves in all the right places without you ever having to look trashy.

Here's Taylor Swift looking gorgeous in her stunning Asian inspired frock by Zuhair Murad, in gold no less.

Taylor Swift wearing an Asian inspired frock by Zuhair Murad. Image Credit: Popsugar

For something a little more lavish with embellishments such as beads or sequins (think Downton Abbey), try a 1920s inspired dress or flapper dress instead.

The Crawley daughters wearing 1920s style dresses

Change It

While there may be a perfect dress somewhere out there, sometimes it's a little too overwhelming and nerve-wrecking to go looking for one. Especially if you're working against the clock. In that case, maybe it's time to get those creative juices flowing. If you can't find your perfect dress, then choose the one that you feel most comfortable with, and then change it up to fit your style and make it your own!

For example, is the dress too short? Try layering it or adding some tulle for a dramatic flair. Audrey Hepburn's dress below may be simple but the layering on her full skirt makes it all so feminine and regal.

Audrey Hepburn at the BAFTA Awards, 1955. Image Credit: Woman&Home

Is the dress sleeveless? Try adding some sheer sleeves or shrugs to it. Or, find a matching evening jacket or shawl to go with it. It even helps disguise fuller arms, so you get the best of both worlds!

Prom dress with sheer sleeves, Dressific

Is the dress backless or does it have a cut out open back design? This one is a little bit tricky but may still be salvageable. Try adding a layer of lightweight sheer or gauzy fabric like organza, voile or even chiffon - the sheerness does wonders by adding a touch of mysterious flair to your look.

Or, you can take a cue from the Duchess Kate Middleton and add a layer of open back lace instead. Classy!

Duchess Kate Middleton in her Jenny Packham teal gown with an open lace back. Image Credit: Blog

Is the dress a V-neck or a little too revealing at the bust? I would say stay away from this if you can help it. This is because altering the neckline may make the dress look less appealing, especially if the neckline is the best feature of the dress. Although having said that, the same trick may apply - adding a layer of sheer fabric.

Modest prom dress with a sheer sweetheart neckline, Dressific

Custom Made

Another option you might want to consider is having your dress custom made. Grab a few bridal magazines and start looking for designs. Or, go online and search for "dresses" (add relevant keywords such as prom, wedding or formal) and be inspired by the many results you'll get from Pinterest and Instagram.

However, do note that if you choose to take this route, you will have to provide as many photos as you can to your tailor so that they can come up with an accurate reproduction of your dress. Make sure your tailor can tell what fabric is needed to make your dress (yes, different types of fabric will yield different results and effects). And most importantly, always allocate enough time for your tailor to make your dress. It's a special dress, so don't rush it.

Hopefully this post helps you on your quest in finding your perfect modest prom dress. Remember, it doesn't have to be trashy to be classy. Best of luck! 💝💝 

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