A Trip to the Mall

Yesterday I decided that it would be a good idea to get out of the shop and see what’s available out there in the big world. So I took a trip to the local mall. I walked around the whole mall with an eye towards seeing what I might buy for my daughter, if I didn’t happen to have a modest prom dress rental business.

Wow. My eyes were opened!

I knew that short dresses are the trend. I just didn’t realize how short many of those dresses are!

I did see a few dresses that I thought were appropriate. But most of what I saw was very short, strapless cocktail dresses. They were clearly meant to show cleavage on the top and reach to about mid-thigh on the bottom.

“They’ve got this mixed up,” I thought. “The neckline is low and the hem is high!”

So then I got to thinking. I live in one of the most conservative places in the United States (central Utah). If the dress selection here is problematic, what’s it like in other places? And if the only thing in the store is skimpy cocktail dresses, what do you do?

Well, I’m not 100% sure how to answer that. But I do have a few ideas, based on my sewing expertise and my experience in the shop.

Most of the little cocktail dresses are about 4″ too short on the average girl. I can think of three ways to get more length at the hem:

1. Many of the dresses have at least two layers on the skirt. You can make ruffle out of tulle (netting) and sew it on to one of the underlayers so that it peeks out from under the top layer. (This is actually a fairly popular design feature, too.)

2. With bubble dresses (those that have an outer layer that is gathered and attached to an inner skirt), you can detach the outer layer from the inner layer so the outer layer hangs straight. This will usually work with the design of the dress, and it will give you an additional 4-6″ of length.

3. Some of the cocktail dresses have pickup points (bunched material on an outer layer that is tacked to an inner layer to make a pouf). You can clip the stitching at the pickup points so that the dress hangs straight. This will also give you some additional length.

As to the bodices: Avoid anything that dips in the middle. The dip will almost always be a problem, modesty-wise.

The standard easy “fix” for a strapless dress is to wear a bolero jacket. Sometimes, however, the neckline will still be about an inch too low. In this case, many girls are wearing layering shirts underneath. Not the most sophisticated solution, but one that often works.

There you have it. In my opinion, it’s always best to start with a fully-modest dress. But when this isn’t feasible, some of these ideas may help.