Choosing a prom dress with your daughter

Dear daughter, if mama is going to pay, she's going to have a say. Unless your daughter has saved up her money from babysitting or her part-time job, you're probably footing the bill for her prom dress and everything that goes along with it. Moms and daughters may have some hurdles to jump when prom dress shopping. But that's okay, because it's just a preview of what's to come. The mom-daughter struggle that starts with prom dress shopping continues in her your daughter's first years after graduating high school, when your daughter wants complete independence yet relies on you financially. When you give your daughter what she needs most: loving support, limits, and uncritical advice, you will both enjoy the experience.

Start early and shop often

- If you think you're daughter is fickle when it comes to boys, wait until she tries to decide on that one perfect prom dress. The best way to avoid a last-minute, "I hate everything I try on" meltdown is to start shopping early in the spring. Schedule blocks of time in the evening or weekend hours and both you and your daughter won't feel rushed to find a prom dress. Finding the right prom dress is one of the most important things in her life right now, so devote some quality time to finding the right style and fit.

Corral that spending - Before you and your daughter discuss color, fit and sexy vs. modest, tell her your budget. This conversation will be more comfortable if you have it at home than in the middle of the dressing room. If a dress is outside the price range don't even let her try it on. Remember to set a total budget that includes the entire prom package:

* prom dress

* shoes

* undergarments to pair with the dress style

* accessories including earrings and/or necklace, a clutch, a throw or a shawl

* hair and makeup (if she's having it done at a salon)

* boutonniere for her date

She's got style, she's got grace

- Browse through teen fashion, prom and hairstyle magazines, websites or tablet apps before you hit the stores. Try to find out what type of style your teen wants to wear for prom. Remind her that any dress color or style she picks out should be considered a starting point, because styles she did not consider may be the most flattering for her figure and coloring.

Mom vs. teen: Modest vs. sexy - Sometimes our teen daughters want to dress sexier than we would like. This is not true for all teens, but if you discuss styles with your teen before hand, you may get a sense of where she wants to land on the prom dress modest to sexy scale. Fit will be the key to deciding which way to go, but you can work on some compromises to make you both happy:

* She wants a bust-lifting bodice - Steer her to one-shoulder dresses or ruched tops with spaghetti straps. Look for prom dresses with sweetheart necklines that provide enough coverage of the bust area when she lifts her arms, which she may do when she's dancing.

* She wants a super short prom dress - If the dress covers enough skin on the top, a short dress could be flattering. Or consider having her try on a hi-lo dress which gives her short in the front and long in the back.

* Thigh-high slit - Your daughter may want to pull an Angelina Jolie Oscar leg pose with a thigh-high slit. A slit on a longer gown is practical, and one that is too high can always be sewn.

* Form-fitting - She's a teenager, she's confident, and she wants to show her curves. Her father may have more of an issue with a form-fitting (he'll call it "too tight") dress. Help her select a form-fitting dress with a feathered or fringed bottom, or a mermaid style which can transform a form-fitting dress from too sexy to elegant.

Confidence and Body Issues

Trying on prom dresses can be as difficult as trying on bathing suits for some teens. Sometimes confidence levels are not high, or teens pick out parts of themselves they don't like and focus on them. As moms we need to be supportive and honest yet not overtly critical.

* If a prom dress is not flattering, talk about the shortcomings of the dress; don't focus on specifics about her body.

* Find a dress in her size, not a smaller size that will have her dieting until prom time.

* When your daughter needs a specialty fit for any reason (she's petite, long-waisted, curvy, big-busted, muscular, or super tall) bring her to a formal shop that can measure and fit her properly.

* Help her find a prom dress that makes her feel good about herself. You'll be able to tell because she won't be able to stop smiling.

Have a good time shopping for prom dresses with your daughter; it's supposed to be fun. It'll be good practice for when she invites you to come along and help her pick out a wedding dress.