Two Simple Wishes

Surviving Dress Shopping with a Teenage Girl

My girl has a formal dance coming up.  I’m excited for her.  But I dread the very thought of going shopping for the dress for the following reasons:

  • As a general rule, I don’t like going to the mall.  My years in retail did me in.
  • Even if I didn’t mind the mall, most of the selection at the stores is less than desirable, let alone appropriate, for a thirteen year-old girl.  And in the unlikely event that we find something that is agreeable for both of us (somewhere between “over my dead body” and “Little House on the Prairie”), something will go wrong – a broken zipper, they don’t have her size, the dress costs as much as a month of groceries, etc., etc.
  • The stakes are high when a thirteen year-old needs a dress for a special dance.  This is not a good thing to toss into the thirteen year-old hormones and roller-coaster emotions stew.  Which leads me to my next point:
  • The dressing room arguments conversations and negotiations.  Enough said.

If you experience a similar level of angst when dress shopping with your daughter is necessary, take heart!  I have a solution that works for all parties involved.  (Cue the angels singing…)

Become Your Daughter’s Personal Shopper

Last year, we were in a pinch to find a special dress in a short amount of time.  And there wasn’t a single day that was free for us to go shopping.  They say necessity is the mother of invention.  And it was necessary to invent a way to solve this problem.  Eureka!  A beautiful (and affordable) dress was found and no tears were shed, from either of us.

How does this work?

Personal Shopper Set Up

  • Before you get started, it will help to have an idea of styles and colors that your daughter likes.
  • Order a variety of dresses.  Be willing to choose some dresses that aren’t necessarily your style preference, but your daughter will like.
  • If there are one or two dresses that are frontrunners, or if you are unsure about how they will fit, get multiple sizes.  Be sure to read customer’s reviews on the web site about the fit.  ( is my go to place for special dresses.  They have a lot of styles to choose from, many of them being very affordable, free shipping AND free returns.)
  • If shoes are also needed, order several pairs that will work.  (I have had a lot of success at with special occasion shoes.  They have a great selection and reasonable prices.  Also, there are often deals for free shipping and I can return them for free at my local store.)
  • Once everything arrives, set up a dressing room area.  Hang all the dresses and display the shoes.  (I use an inexpensive garment rack that we got from Bed Bath & Beyond for hanging up coats when we have lots of people over.)  Add some accessories that you already have for her to “shop” from.  Make it look pretty.
  • Make it feel like a “fancy” store.  Offer excellent service by handing her items to try on and putting dresses back on the hanger.  Suggest shoes and jewelry that will compliment the dresses as they are tried on.
  • Make a fuss.  Have your daughter invite a friend or two over. Take pictures of your daughter as she tries on the different dresses.  Ooh and aah over how pretty she looks.
  • After she makes her selection, waste no time returning the unwanted items.  I can’t stress this point enough.  Take care of it immediately so that the purchases and returns are all on the same credit card statement.  If you can’t commit to this step, this method of shopping is not for you.

Why it Works

  • My Girl gets completely overwhelmed with too many choices.  By offering a variety of dresses in a limited way, she doesn’t get overwhelmed and can focus much better.
  • My Girl is much more willing to try different styles of dresses at home than she is at a store.
  • The drama level is 99% lower than it is at the mall.
  • Playing “pretend” store makes the experience much more fun for both of us.
  • It’s an easy way to get dad involved with the dress shopping, without having to drag him through the mall.
  • No tears are shed…by anyone.
  • I end up spending less money on a dress than I would at the mall.  Probably because at the mall, I reach a point of giving in because I want the torture to be over.

The only part that doesn’t change is the lump in your throat when you see how grown up she is and wanting to stop time.  If I figure out how to do that, I’ll let you know.

Sam-Personal Shopper

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