Prom Week: The Chic Shape

Yesterday we had a chat about how I’m generally of the mind that a girl ought to be able to wear what she wants (as long as it’s not vulgar) for her prom.  True, most hot prom dresses right now aren’t super flattering for a big girl, but come on, she’s got the rest of her life to worry about flattering dresses.

That being said there are a few handy guidelines about formal dressing that might help a young girl who IS invested in a more sophisticated look.

Back in January everyone got all het up about Cathy Horyn quoting an anonymous bitchy stylist who, when referring to Christina Hendricks’ Golden Globes dress said “You don’t put a big girl in a big dress.”  (there was also a kerfuffle about using a horizontally stretched photo of the Mad Men star. Horyn said it was an accident and I’ve had image files go bad on me often enough to believe her).

Christina Hendricks

Now, for as bitchy a comment as it was it’s also relatively true. Personally I think you could put Christina Hendricks (who isn’t big but has big, ahem, parts) in a literal potato sack and she’d look hot, so I don’t have much of a beef with her gown, but big girls are generally better served by sleeker silhouettes.  Does this mean demure? Of course not. It just means if you’ve got a big voluptuous romantic body you want to set it off to its best advantage with something that’s not explosively busy.

Here are some of my picks:

cobalt mermaidcobalt mermaid dress

(click images for links)

I know some folks don’t like the mermaid skirt for a big girl but I’ve seen it done wonderfully on women with broad shoulders. Hair up (a must) and a big necklace. It’s about as sophisticated as you’re going to get for prom.

teal gown

Does this dress just scream for a tiara? Oh I think it does.

sara ramirez dress

Sara Ramirez at the Golden Globes

A little red carpet inspired action That’ll skim the hips and the stomach (ideal if you choose not to submit to the Tyranny of Spanx).

pewter taffeta

This is a shape Sara Ramirez and Queen Latifah wear over and over and over again.  If you really want to give it some Latifah style, add an enormous brooch on the neckline offset to the side. Keep hair simple and makeup flawless. You’ll be a queen.

Tomorrow: it’s all about the jewelry!

14 Responses to “Prom Week: The Chic Shape”

  1. Lisa March 30, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    I dunno. I think Horyn is only right if your gauge for looking good = looking small. I think Hendricks looks fantastic. Does she look small? No. But that color with her skin looks just great. Would I wear a great big ruffle? No, because my personality doesn’t support such whimsy.

    Honestly, everybody looks good in a sleek silhouette, though, not just big girls. The silhouette you are highlighting here in general is a basic building block of evening wear. You can’t go wrong with it, and it’s very good prom advice.

    But it’s also very safe, and that’s where I’m getting antsy. I know Plumcake is going to show up to kick it up a notch with accessories, and yes, every girl has to start somewhere.

    But for me, I like to see a big girl in a big dress and anybody who doesn’t like that can go, as Plumcake says, suck it.

  2. wildflower March 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    Thanks, Lisa. I’m glad I’m not the only one staring at Christina Hendricks’ photo and thinking, “I’m supposed to think she looks bad… why?”

  3. Debs March 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Any opinions on a “Le Smoking” look for Prom? It’s not prommy, but it’s such a cool look and so unusual in a sea of dresses. On the other hand, to do it well could cost a lot more for an outfit than a teenager can/ should spend.

  4. Wendy March 30, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    I think Christina looks fabulous in that dress, and has the proportions to carry it off. Although… and maybe this is just the angle… there seems to be some unevenness in height of the boobage.

  5. Beth March 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    Debs, I think it’s a great look, but at the same time it is a bit mature for most 17-year-olds.

    If a girl told me she was into it, I’d say rock it, girl, but yes, it will be expensive to do it well and not end up in ill-fitting Selix crap. You can’t just go rent a boy’s tux and expect it to fit like YSL, especially if you’re more on the curvy side. Also she would need a LOT of confidence to pull it off. But hey, if you got it, flaunt it, right?

  6. Frances March 30, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    I skipped my prom. Not for any particular reason, I just didn’t think I’d enjoy it because it was held at a dirty, cheap hotel and right before the exams too. I had a lovely night in and plenty of money to buy myself shiny things. That said, seriously, wear whatever you like. If you feel like a black spaghetti strap dress, go for it (but don’t, seriously). I honestly really like the idea of a ginormous foofy dress because if you’re going to go to prom, go to prom! And get good quality shoes. So many of my girlfriends complained that their feet hurt on prom night and I was thinking “That’s because you wore PLASTIC SHOES”.

  7. AnthroK8 March 30, 2010 at 5:58 pm #

    I LOVED Hendricks’s dress. For real. LOVED.

    I’m on board with the “Go Big For Prom, Big and COLORFUL and OUTRAGEOUS” plan. Several years after my prom-season, there were these great dresses inspired by ballet skirts. Shin length tulle tutu skirts with heavy satin overlays and skinny strap bodices. In Yellow! With Turquoise Sequins! In Orange! With Red Detail! In Sherbet Rainbow! Oh yes!

    They were colorful and funny and pretty and looked like Swan Lake on Acid. I wish I’d had the imagination at 17 to wear that kind of dress, since my sophisticated black number was Bor-Ing. And now, I am well past the age when a yellow and turquoise tutu would suit anywhere I am likely to go.

  8. jeannemarie March 30, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    Funny – I wouldn’t have actually guessed she was a big girl. Although yes, some parts of her definitely are big. And, although I would never ever wear that dress (of course, my hair isn’t red either!) she ROCKED it!

  9. Plumcake March 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    jeannemarie, she’s NOT a big girl. She’s probably a size 8 or 10 with enormous breasts.

  10. Beth March 30, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    jeannemarie, from what I’ve read in interviews, etc. she’s a 10 or 12 depending on the cut of the garment, and she’s 5’7″, for what it’s worth.

    Also, I love the dress. I honestly think it isn’t the worlds best color for her, but she looked great and this is the epitome of confidence.

    Seriously, I love her and I love the fact that while she’s willing to talk about her look and shape and isn’t ashamed in any way she also makes it quite clear there is more to her than that and she would rather talk about other things.

  11. Leigh Ann March 31, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    AntroK8, yellow and turquoise tutus are always appropriate.

    Seriously, I missed my prom, because I was an idiot and the boy I wanted to go with didn’t ask me, so I hid from the boy who MIGHT have asked me because I thought if I couldn’t go with the one I wanted I wouldn’t go at all. Like I said, I was an idiot.

    I know our class had the obligatory keg party under the bridge afterwards, followed by the inevitable car accident. I’m glad I missed those two things. Luckily no one was seriously (lastingly) injured.

    Those were the days. Thank God I’m not 17 anymore.

    If I had gone, I wonder what kind of dress I would have chosen? Hopefully not something that looked like a bridesmaid’s dress! Ribbon straps that tied on the shoulders were all the rage as I recall, and of course, big hair.

  12. Cara March 31, 2010 at 5:29 am #

    Hendricks surely knows how to present her breasts – she is the epitome of fabulousness to me, especially in this dress. As someone with equally ‘big parts’ I know how incredibly difficult it is to actually find something to wear, usually you have two options with very little midddleground: hide them or flaunt them.
    I’m seriously looking at Christina Hendricks for style tipps because she dresses just so well.

  13. daisyj March 31, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    I would have loved the Christina Hendricks dress, though I’m not generally a big fan of shiny, ruffley satin, if it had been fitted properly– there were some shots of her that made you think her breasts should have filed a class-action lawsuit against her stylist.

    And I have to wonder, who really can wear giant ruffles? A small person would be overwhelmed, a large person risks looking overwhelming. And no matter who you are, those things are going to get smushed all to hell as soon as you sit down for ten minutes.

  14. Sarah April 6, 2010 at 5:11 pm #

    I think Christina Hendricks looks stunning in that dress – she totally rocked it. I think some people have misconceptions about plus size women, and think they can only look good in particular styles. But they are so wrong. I think plus women should experiment with styles and Hendricks shows this beautifully.