Hit the stores
Once you've flagged a couple of options, it's time to hit the stores to try on dresses. This can take quite a few hours, so it's good that you've already done your homework! You should head straight to a specialty shop if you're the type who likes pampering and personal attention. They will help you find the perfect dress, but often at a hefty price. If you're on a budget or don't want to be overwhelmed with a ton of choices, hit the malls and department stores. You're bound to find some great dresses there too. If you're really on a tight budget, you can look to rent a dress or even check out thrift stores for dresses that have been sold or donated.
Browse the net
If you're petite or plus-sized, you may have better luck shopping in specialty stores or on the Internet. Malls and department stores tend to carry standard stock in average sizes, so you probably won't find much there. There are a ton of options online, so don't feel discouraged if you can't find much where you live.
Try everything on
As you're trying on dresses, pick a few that you don't necessarily love. It will give you something to compare against, and who knows -- you might actually love the gown once it's on! Dresses look very different on you than they do on a hanger.
Take a camera
Take a camera with you -- preferably digital -- so you can view the images right away. Since you'll be trying on so many dresses, you might forget which ones you really like! If you take a picture of each dress, you can easily go back and find that perfect look. You can even take a break and look at them later with people who will give you a second opinion (like your friends and family).
Have it made
If you've shopped everywhere and you can't find a dress that you love, you can always have a dress made for you! You'll want to call some local seamstresses (ask at the fabric store if you need some recommendations) and find a few that design and sew dresses. Next, you'll want to stop by and see some of their work. They should have a portfolio of pictures of gowns that they have made, and possibly some patterns and fabrics for you to look at. You may want to have them sketch out a design for you, especially if you have an ideal dress in your mind.
You'll also want to get an idea of prices and a time frame. You don't want to get stuck not having your dress in time! Depending on the style, fabrics, and embellishments, having a dress made for you can be more or less expensive than purchasing one off the rack. One thing to keep in mind is that the dress will not require alterations, so include that when you're comparing prices.
Once you choose your seamstress, work with her on the fabrics, colors, embroidering, and any beadwork you wish to have done. You'll love the finished product and the unique dress you'll get to show off on prom night!
Tips for buying on the Internet:
Buying dresses through magazines or on the Internet is a great way to shop. You can find a unique dress, often at a great price, and they almost never go out of stock! You'll want to note a couple of things before making that purchase:
What is the ship time? You want to make sure that you'll get your dress in plenty of time to have alterations made if it doesn't fit you perfectly.
What is the return policy? Since you don't get to try on the dress in the store, you want to have the option to return it if it doesn't look good or the color is all wrong. Some places do not allow for returns, so make sure you absolutely love the dress if you want to purchase there!
Do they have matching accessories? Make it easy on yourself and order everything in one fell swoop! That way you're not dragging your dress around everywhere trying to find something to match.