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Prom Week: Big Question | Manolo for the Big Girl

Prom Week: Big Question

On Monday I defended the flight-of-fancy prom dress and I stand by it. If we ever redo the Plumcake familial creed and for some unknown and hateful reason they DON’T go for “Psycho Killer: Qu’est-ce que c’est?” or a quote from To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything. Love, Julie Newmar (my two suggestions) I hope they might entertain the following:

There is no excess like wretched excess.

Most women don’t have many occasions where it’s socially acceptable to have a full on sartorial extravaganza. It’s pretty much costume balls and prom. Note how I DIDN’T say wedding? Although by all means keep wearing bad wedding dresses, it’s the only thing –except the open bar– that makes most weddings enjoyable. You just go ahead and marry your fourth husband while wearing a Cinderella gown. The gays and I will be in the back pew making knowing comments about the kind of girls –fairytale heroines included– who wear clear heels.

But the fact most of our lives –and most of our budgets– can’t support high octane fashion fantasies, shouldn’t stop us from occasionally indulging in a daydream or two.

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know:

If you had to do it all over again what would you wear to prom? Money, time, history and physics are of no matter. I just want to know your fantasy gown.

At first I thought I might want something by Poiret, but then decided my shape didn’t suit his ideas. Then I thought about putting Queen Elizabeth I’s dressmakers to the test. I AM awfully fond of that fabric with all the swampthings on it, but I just know I’d put it on and feel like an aquarium made sweet upholstered love to an overstuffed ottoman.

So then I went to the great couturiers. Cristobal Balenciaga: gorgeous and flawless but not exuberant enough. Coco Chanel: Nazi sympathizer. Christian Dior: now we’re getting somewhere.

I’ve always loved –and been flattered by– The New Look which took the fashion world by wasp-waisted, full-skirted storm in 1947.

It’s gotta be John Galliano.

dior fragonard
Dior Matador
Dior michelangelo
Dior starry night

I’d happily wear any of these from our Funky Little Fashion Troll for Dior’s 60th anniversary of the New Look. Heck, I’d wear pretty much any gown he’s done for Dior. Mostly I just want to wear a lyre on my head.

Of course, when I first asked myself the question, one dress did pop out and, surprisingly, it wasn’t from the mini maestro. It was the cream feather dress from Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2008 ready to wear.

McQueen feather dress

Is it my favorite McQueen ever? No. It’s not even my favorite from that show, which literally made me weep it was so beautiful. But it’s up there and it’s haunted me for years, so in my made up life –the one where Stephen Fry is straight and MADLY in love with me and Hugh Laurie is just sick with jealousy– this is the dress I would wear to prom.

But I still want that damn lyre.

25 Responses to “Prom Week: Big Question”

  1. Rubygirl March 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Plumcake:

    I died laughing because this:

    “so in my made up life –the one where Stephen Fry is straight and MADLY in love with me and Hugh Laurie is just sick with jealousy”

    is MY made-up life! LOL!

  2. Twistie March 31, 2010 at 4:09 pm #

    Me? I would go all-out Regency in a Jane Austinian frenzy. Delicious little flat slippers that tie on, raised waistline that actually hits where the one on my body lives (and did even when I was a skinny little slip of a thing), delicate fabrics, lots of tiny niggling details that make me smile. Elbow length kid gloves, great gold jewelry, and perhaps a saucy pair of brightly colored stockings.

    But no turban. Not even for Plummy. They just aren’t it for me.

    OTOH, I still love what I did wear to prom. Yes, I wore a Gunne Sax formal, just like every single girl there. But they all wore white, ivory, or pastel calico with a white background spaghetti strapped dresses with matching quilted boleros. No, really, nearly every single girl there wore that same outfit in a slightly different shade of white. Me? I wore a steel blue long sleeved gown with a big white lace ruffle around the scoop neckline and faux lacing up the bodice. The sleeves were sheer with little white stars embroidered on them. It was pretty, flattering, and unlike anything anyone else wore. That’s the way I like it.

    That dress also holds the distinction of being the only piece of clothing my mother bought for me sans consultation since I was about four years old. She knew if I didn’t like it, I’d get it off me as soon as humanly possible if not sooner. But this dress she just knew I would love, there was just one on the rack, it happened to be my size, and it was on such a good sale even my father who still thought most things should cost what they had when he was eight wouldn’t balk. She chose well. It even perfectly matched the lining of my date’s opera cape, inherited from his grandfather.

    We looked awesome. Alas! We danced just once before he parked himself down with the date of a friend of mine and spent the rest of the night discussing the special effects in Star Wars. At least he fed me well beforehand.

  3. J March 31, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    This, most definitely. Wouldn’t really look good on me, but the first time I saw this image I loved it:
    http://manolobig.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/delft-dress.jpg

  4. esme March 31, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    Wow — how interesting that we live in the same fantasy world!

    As for my prom dress, I’d choose red, satin, long, backless. For real backless — not the kind that laces up or has straps across the back.

  5. daisyj March 31, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    Okay, I know you’re going to laugh at me for this, but when I was in high school I had a thing for the movie version of “Hello, Dolly” and I would have given anything to wear the dress from the big title number. Of course, I almost certainly would have looked ridiculous, and there is very little chance that a platoon of gay waiters would have shown up to dance around me with silver trays, but still: sparkly!

  6. Jezebella March 31, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    I’d have to give some serious thought to my current fantasy gown, but if I had gone to my prom in 1984, and been allowed to wear anything, it would’ve been something very much like Princess Di’s wedding dress. Perhaps minus the giant train. A girl’s gotta have a little restraint.

  7. Aimiliona March 31, 2010 at 5:21 pm #

    Fortuny: http://www.vintagetextile.com/new_page_119.htm

  8. the misfit March 31, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    This one: http://www.artwallpapers.net/posters/images/audrey_hepburn_poster/09/audrey_hepburn_poster09.jpg. Oh, and everything else she ever wore. But NO DOGS.

    (My actual prom was in 1999. Every other girl wore a candy-colored pastel in cheap polyester satin with spaghetti straps and a full skirt. I liked the look but was appalled at the extra room in the bust when I tried them on – never occurred to me to have my mother take it in. So I bought a high-necked black bias-cut [therefore, form-fitting] lace dress that my sister hated and my classmates stared at, but was so nicely tailored it still looks fabulous 11 years later – not on my present figure, but that’s not the point. Amusingly, I was unable to appreciate my own good taste and just felt like an oddball. What price perspective at 17?)

  9. polianarchy March 31, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    First of all, I take a bit of umbrage at the idea that women only have two opportunities to wear something crazy & dressy & frou-frou. What about art exhibit openings? Holiday parties? Hell, even house parties? Go big, or go home, I say. Sure, you’ll become That Girl Who Always Dresses Weird, but in your heart, don’t you kinda wanna be? I know I do. If I could go back & do it over, I’d have slapped some sense into teen/early 20s me and said to STOP living in baggy jeans and men’s teeshirts! Grunge was just that: grungy. That being said, I’d OF COURSE wear Bjork’s swan dress to my prom. I’d also not have asked a bunch of guys (only to be turned down) and gone on my own. Ugh, high school. UGH.

  10. Miss Spite March 31, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    I wanted desperately, when I was of Prom Age, to have an elaborate Royal style Medieval Gown of Purple or Red Velvet, gold trim, huge belle sleeves with delicate lace and buttons, tiny brocade shoes (or lovely buccaneer boots), and a matching gold-brocade cloak. At that age I had waist-length hair that would have plaited like a dream! I’m not sure that any designer. I kept the link to one lady that did PRISTINE costume work forever, but alas, I have lost it.

  11. ChristianeF March 31, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    Anything at all? A custom made corset-top ballgown in a delicious shade of blue-green dupioni silk (I LOVE how it shimmers and the texture is so lovely).

    There was a boy I liked who I’d asked to prom who never had the guts to tell me no and showed up with another girl… The look on his face would have been worth the cost of the dress.

  12. Deb March 31, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

    I’d go for Leslie Ann Warren’s Cinderella dress. I was seven years old when I saw that movie on TV so it’s the definitive princess dress in my mind.

  13. Adi March 31, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    Actually, I would wear exactly what I wore- the gown my mother made for me. It was an utterly ridiculous, excessive, Victorian confection, with a midnight blue velvet bustier and a blue/black taffeta skirt. With A Bustle. It was awesome. I even made my own coordinating blue shoes, by covering them in blue glitter. I had so much fun! And given the opportunity I would do it all over again, just the same!

    I went to an arts high school, so even though my gown was excessive, it was not nearly the most interesting outfit. My friend went in little more than a nude body suit, silk flowers, and glitter. He looked beautiful!

  14. Abby March 31, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    Well that dance floor is going to be crowded, Plumcake, because I’m wearing a giant Dior gown too!

    http://www.myfashionlife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/dior-280109.jpg

  15. Margo A March 31, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    I didn’t go to the prom. It never even occurred to me, it just wasn’t what we cynical, jaded, tired of the world drama geeks were doing in 1975.

    If I were going to my fantasy prom, my dress would be a deep garnet red or sapphire blue, and would be made by Charles James, an America designer who combined opulent excess with superb workmanship and absolute discipline of form.

  16. Plumcake April 1, 2010 at 1:02 am #

    ChristianeF, a few years ago for a costume ball where the theme was “wild things” I designed and had my dressmaker construct an enormous detachable train made of cascading layers of blue-green dupioni saris with heavy gold embroidery. The train had plastic boning in the sides so it stuck out as I walked and must have used 30 yards of silk, easily. I was a peacock, of course!

  17. Abby April 1, 2010 at 3:13 am #

    Crap, maybe this link will work. BIG PINK DIOR DRESS:

    http://www.catwalkqueen.tv/Christian%20Dior%20Couture%20SS%202009.jpg

  18. Katharine April 1, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    If I had to do it all over again, I would have BOUGHT the beautiful, peach, frothy, vintage dress with the netting over the shoulders that I tried on in Wild Things on Sussex. But it was $60, and when I was seventeen, that was a LOT of money. I walked away from it. It fit me beautifully and looked gorgeous.

    My mother made me a dress, out of emerald green real silk she had in her stash. Don’t get me wrong; like everything my mother ever made me, it was flawlessly finished, and the pattern was customised for me. But I foolishly chose, from her stack of Burda magazines, a halter-top dress with a flowing A-line skirt and a deep slit in the front of the halter. Halter dresses have never, and will never, suit my broad shoulders and deep chest, and even as a young thing, going braless was …. shall we say an error. I looked like a young bull in a spring meadow.

    I still regret that peach dress.

  19. ChloeMireille April 1, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Me and my 5 best girlfriends went to prom together. I wasn’t a fan of my dress because, even at 16, I knew my rack wasn’t being displayed properly. I was in a tiny town with only one formal shop, and I was a size 22/24, so my choices were quite limited. The dress I got was the least mother-of-the-bride option.

    If I had my druthers, I’d have gone in something like the first dress Plumcake posted, only skewing more toward historical accuracy than haute couture. My hair was already done in that pre-Revolution style anyway, so the dress would have simply turned it up to 11. It would have been either purple, black, or red…and spangly.

    Of course, I’m from Louisiana and I have the hook up to Mardi Gras balls, so there’s still a chance.

  20. J April 1, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    Hm, changed my mind – now I’d like this one:

    http://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/show.aspx/full-length-photos/id,7263/Page,3#/imageno/31

  21. Lisa April 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

    So many pretty Dior dresses!! How do you know to post a question like this when I am busy and really oughtn’t be looking at pictures of lovely things when I should be working on equations? Rrrr.

    However, I loved the dress I wore to senior prom. It was a vintage Oscar de la Renta sheath cocktail-length dress in a bright yellow with some transparent sequins and beading for flash–I found it at a thrift store.

    In terms of fantasy, I’d love to be wearing anything Valentino has produced in navy in the last 3 decades. Anything.

  22. the misfit April 1, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    Abby – WOW. I WANT THAT DRESS. For, um, the next life event when I can justify serious excess? When is that going to happen?

  23. ChristianeF April 1, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    Plumcake, your peacock costume sounds AMAZING! I’d love to see a photo if one exists.

  24. Abby April 1, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    @the misfit, I know. I KNOW.

    Emily Blunt in THE DRESS:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/style/features/2009/05/emily-blunt-portfolio200905#slide=1

    Oy. GORGEOUSNESS.

  25. Christine April 1, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    Jezebella, I have that Princess Diana dress if you ever need it. I actually got married in it. Eternal shame.

    If I could do it again, it would be red and ball gown. As a matter of fact, I have some red duppioni silk curtains with embroidery…Scarlett O’Hara had the right idea.

    My actual prom dress was a safe royal blue that looked pretty. Nothing exciting.