Suit Up: A Retailer's Tips for Prom Shopping with Your Son

Back in the day, 'prom shopping' for guys meant visiting the local tuxedo rental place, picking out a color, laying down the deposit, and calling it good. Decisions were easy, drama was non-existent, and the whole thing took about a half-hour.

Today, that's all changed. Instead of renting, many boys (or rather, their parents) now buy outfits to wear on prom night, since the costs can be almost the same as renting a tux. But buying can present its own challenges. Whether it's a sports jacket with a pair of dress pants and a snazzy tie, or a three-piece suit, getting a boy prom-ready can mean making a raft of decisions about style, cut, color and price -- which can often be overwhelming for mom, son, and yes, retailer.

As a men's suit specialist for a major department store, I've seen it all when it comes to prom shopping, and some of it ain't pretty. But there are several steps you can take, if suit shopping is in your future with your boy, that will make the experience, dare I say, enjoyable for everybody.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Shop early -- Sure, it's possible that your son got a last-minute date, or just decided to go solo after all, but shopping with a few days (or less) to spare is just plain stressful. Not only could we be out of your son's size, but the pressure of getting properly fitted and dealing with all of the decisions (shirt color? tie color? vest or jacket, or both?) can make for a tense experience. My advice? The earlier you shop, the better.

Have a general idea of your son's style -- Being on the same page as your son before stepping into the department will help tremendously in deciding what to select. You may think he looks great in a black suit, pink shirt and white tie, but he may be leaning more towards a grey vest, bow tie and dress pants. It's also helpful to know what color his date is wearing, if he'd like to coordinate, or even if he knows how dressed up his friends will be. In the end, you can suggest all you want, but he's the one who will have to wear it. Make sure he's happy and looks good.

Know your budget -- Menswear prices can be all over the map, from a $30 shirt to a $400 (or higher) suit. Figure out what you're comfortable with spending, keeping in mind the fact that your son may very well outgrow your investment in a year. That said, opting to go slightly bigger isn't a bad idea. A good tailor can also let out the sleeves and pants later if you buy on-size, as long as there's at least an inch of extra material in the garment to work with.

Eat -- Nobody likes shopping while hungry, and teenage boys are no exception. You'll get a lot more buy-in if you eat first, or take a break in the middle, rather than powering through. I've seen plenty of grumpy boys shopping this week, and believe me, their moms didn't look all that happy, either. A small snack can go a long way in keeping the peace.

Shopping for the prom can be a positive, memorable experience for both mother and son, as long as you give yourself some time, narrow down your choices, and fuel up before heading out. Your son will look great, feel great, and may even suggest returning for some additional outfits down the road -- you never know!