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Are prom dresses too sexy?

Sherri Kuhn writes about raising teenagers, the perils of a clean home, wistfulness over babies, and anything else that makes her laugh (or cry) in the years between changing diapers and wearing them. With a son just starting college and...

Styles that make mom blush

Prom season is here and your daughter can’t wait to find the perfect dress. Have you seen the latest in prom fashions? Some of these dresses look more Vegas showgirl than high school prom. Some schools have even banned revealing prom wear.
Slutty prom dress

For a high school girl, getting glammed up and going to prom is a rite of passage — one of the highlights of her junior and senior years. While most schools have always had dress codes for formal dances, administrators are finding it more difficult to stay ahead of the latest trends in prom wear.

The Hollywood influence

Why is the trend toward sexier gowns? Shows like Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor or the Grammy Awards have had a big influence over this generation of high school girls. With their favorite stars attending formal events on a routine basis, magazines are full of beautiful, sexy gowns.

Have the side slits and plunging necklines gone too far, even in Hollywood? This year, CBS issued a dress code for the 2013 Grammy Awards, in an attempt to decrease potential wardrobe malfunctions. The policy in part reads, “Please be sure that buttocks and female breasts are adequately covered. Thong type costumes are problematic. Please avoid exposing bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack. Bare sides or under curvature of the breasts is also problematic. Please avoid sheer see-through clothing that could possibly expose female breast nipples.”

Styles that go too far

At issue with school administrators are gowns that show too much skin. Beyond simply banning plunging necklines or too-short skirts, dress codes have to contend with plunging backs or backless dresses, large see-through panels, thigh-high slits and cutouts in the midriff area that make the top of the gown more like a bathing suit top. Some styles even have a top that’s not connected to the skirt, but worn more like a tube top, exposing a bare midriff.

Follow the rules

For prom season last year Hal David, principal at Cedartown High School in northwest Georgia, spent a lot of time crafting the prom season dress code for his students. He found that using pictures of actual gowns — “dos and don’ts” style — made more of an impression on the students. "It's a picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words kind of deal," says David. "We don't want somebody to spend a lot of money on a dress and then show up and there be an issue." Administrators want to avoid turning girls away from their prom at the door and are making sure students are aware of the rules ahead of time, when they are shopping for their dresses.

Many schools are banning dresses that are shorter than three inches above the knee, necklines that show too much cleavage, exposed skin on the sides of the gown, low-slung backs and cutouts that expose the midriff. But teens are always looking for a loophole. Zachary Hobbs, principal of Sunnyvale High School near Dallas, included a section on "Pinning and Fabric Inserts" in his prom dress code in 2012. It states, "Fabric inserts must be sewn, not pinned on the dress, if, without the inserts, the dress does not meet the code." "My fear was for them to cover something up temporarily just to get in the door and then make their way to the rest room and remove that," Hobbs says.

Modest styles

Looking for beautiful gowns that will fit most prom dress codes? We rounded up some of our favorite styles.

Prom dresses

This sleeveless chiffon gown (David’s Bridal, $229) is available in mint or purple. The bodice features large stone embellishments that bring a super glamorous look to the long, pleated skirt.

This one-shoulder gown (Nordstrom, $88) features shimmery accents on the shoulder in a beautiful vibrant violet hue.

This strapless empire waist beaded dress (David’s Bridal, $99) in coral has a beautifully beaded bodice for a flattering silhouette.

This stunning all-over beaded mesh gown (David’s Bridal, $229) is available in mint, charcoal or navy and is all about the glam. With a halter bodice, and a V neckline, you'll sparkle all night.

More teen fashion

Age-appropriate clothing trends for teens
Helping teens find their fashion sense
You're not leaving the house wearing that!

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