How to Choose the Right Prom Dress Color

As “prom time” approaches, colour and style are just as important as they were a century ago. The word “prom” is a shortened version of the word “promenade.” A hundred years ago, a promenade was the formal march of couples into a ballroom after they had been publicly announced to the guests. For wealthy Americans, debutante balls were grand occasions specifically designed for their daughters’ “coming out” into society. This meant that they were now ready to entertain and be courted by approved suitors.

It seems as if these grand balls were envied by middle-class parents who also wanted the best for their own children, including good manners and fine tastes. While there had been formal dances for young people in the late 1800s, the early 1900s saw the first proms. Teenagers dressed up in their Sunday best for these high school banquets. By the 1920s and 1930s, dancing had been added. After WW II and the Great Depression, proms took on new, more elaborate identities. They moved from school gyms to country club ballrooms, and students competed fiercely to being recognized as the best-dressed couple.

Today, some students choose to go as singles and others go in groups. Of course, couples still want to look striking, and every girl wants to look beautiful. That’s where the colors for 2012 become important. This year, almost any color of the rainbow is acceptable, but the most popular colors seem to be the brighter jewel tones. Metallic fabrics, geometric shapes, large patterns, and classic silver, gold and white colors will be swirling around the ballrooms of America. “Bling” is big too. However, the classy black dress seems to be sitting out this year’s prom. With so many styles and colours to pick from, how can today’s teen ever make such an important decision?

The following tips may help narrow down the choices:


  • Do certain colors look better on you than others? Women and girls with fair complexions tend to look better in pastels and softer colors. Whites, corals, ocean blues, light raspberry, soft tangerine and champagne are just a few beautiful choices. If you have darker skin tones, you can enjoy bright, vivacious colors without becoming lost in them. Electric orange, emerald green, midnight blue and ruby red will definitely be attention-getters.

  • What will the décor be like at the prom? A modern, funky atmosphere will call out the metallic, gold, silver and magenta colours. A classic or old-world theme might require softer, subdued or pastel versions. Perhaps your prom has a theme. That could also influence your choice of color and your style of dress.

  • What about your date? Most girls pick out their favorite dress long before their date orders his tuxedo. Because you will be making picture memories for a lifetime, coordinating your outfits is important. Generally, if you are wearing light colors, he will look best in a white or light grey suit or tux. If you are going bold and bright, he should choose black. Contrary to popular opinion, don’t try to perfectly match his shirt or accessories to the main color of your dress. It usually doesn’t work because the slight off-shade difference is really noticeable, and in the event you do match perfectly, you risk looking like a costume act. Remember Donny and Marie? A safer approach is to match your shirt or cummerbund and tie to the secondary or accent colour. A sharp white shirt with cuffs is always appropriate.

  • Don’t try to outshine your partner. If one of you wants to dress more conservatively, follow the lead. Conversely, if one of you really wants to make a fashion statement, keep up with that energy. Remember, everyone will be taking pictures to capture this special moment.

Above all, relax, smile and enjoy yourself. Have a good time with your friends and create not just pictures, but wonderful memories to last a lifetime.