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A beautiful daughter, a perfect dress and a bunch of good friends, all ready for prom.
A beautiful daughter, a perfect dress and a bunch of good friends, all ready for prom.

Why They Don't Let Dads Buy Prom Dresses

Jan 9, 2013


Ok — you think it’s because it just doesn’t sound like a dad thing. You can’t imagine saying, “Come along, Father, it’s time to go pick out the perfect prom dress. What shades of mauve do you think will be in this year and match the new shoes I plan to buy?”

Ok — you have a point. Dads can do many things, but making shopping trips that don’t involve Cabela’s, Scheels or Gander Mountain is probably not on the list. And maybe the reason dads don’t buy prom dresses is the same reason they aren’t invited off the parking lot at the mall, or along on any shopping weekend. Dads make sense. Dads are normal. Dads don’t get crazy at the scent of a corsage. Apparently, dads just don’t get it.


When my daughters were still young enough to love me, and ride around with Dad on a Saturday in his pickup, I remember telling them about those prom-dress-buying parents. I’d hear they’d spent a couple of hundos on a dress that was going to be worn once, and I’d think they were nuts. Certifiable. Unquestionable. Under-medicated. Nuts.


Ok — so when my first daughter was getting ready for her first prom I got all soft and thought, “What the heck. If my princess wants a hundred dollar dress for this big night — I’m all in.” Don’t go there. Don’t get soft on this one. They’ll lead you on like you are the greatest dad, who’s proven his unending love. The hook has been set. You are done. Here’s the reality: the only place they wear a hundred dollar prom dress these days are as blankets on streets near homeless shelters in New York. You have taken the bait.


So when it came time for my daughter and the Understanding One to find a dress, Dad of course recommended the big shop just down the road from his favorite hunting watering hole, Stan’s Bar. Oops, that’s the watering hole. The dress place, Jean’s Bridal Shop, is world renowned, at least in the part of the world that Dad drives around in. Jean’s got so many wedding dresses in that place, that single men get the nervous shakes just driving past it on Wilmot’s Main Street.

But it was not to be, because Dad knows nothing about fashion. Dad doesn’t realize that no prom dress shopping is complete unless you drive once to Minneapolis (and home) and then once to Sioux Falls (and home) in search of the perfect dress. But Dad’s doing the math on the miles. If this dress was a pickup, it would need an oil change before it ever got to a prom!

After its turn in the spotlight, the perfect prom dress joins its sisters in the closet.


So the first dress makes the drive from Minneapolis, only to appear the next week on the cover of the ad insert of the Argus for a department store with locations in Sioux Falls and Watertown! Seriously, same color and everything, which doesn’t mean much to a dad. But to The Understanding One and daughter, it means this dress has to go back. It is bad — it could pop up any time and spread a plague or something. So, as Dad smiles, daughter and The Understanding One head off to the local Wilmot shop and find the perfect dress — with two weeks to spare.


Apparently dress shops keep logs of the proms where these expensive peacocks will show up — lucky Dad! A few days later the call comes that this new dress will appear, worn by somebody else, at the same local prom. This is apparently unacceptable and a violation of some teen honor code.  Never mind that the prom is now about a week away and a blizzard is forecast to move into the area that night. Daughter and The Understanding One trek off through the Summit Hills for another chance at a dress at the Jean’s Bridal lottery (are you keeping track of these miles?)


Again, mysteriously, the perfect dress appears. No polka dots like the last perfect one, and not green like the perfect one before that, but perfect nonetheless. The prom dress gods have smiled on our family.


Well that night, through the glare of a thousand pictures, even Dad had to admit that the battle appeared to be worth the end result. Dads enjoy their daughters looking beautiful; they just think that blue jeans are all it takes. Dads see beauty unvarnished, but are willing to admit that varnished is pretty nice too. Just as Dad is basking in the proud role of some shared responsibility for the beautiful young lady, a reality flash hits — we’re going to have to do this again next year too!


Two daughters through high school, and eight formals later, Dad feels like he’s got this licked. Each formal was an opportunity to see what lovely ladies we raised. In a few years the home mortgages for the dresses will be paid off, and life will go on. But nagging in the back of Dad’s mind is that Spencer Tracy movie, Father of the Bride, and Steve Martin’s remake — virtual documentaries of the challenges faced by dads of the bride. Post-prom dads wake up in a sweat with night tremors over what THOSE dresses will cost.

While I haven’t shared this yet with The Understanding One, this dad is encouraging his daughters to each look for a fine, outstanding young man, who owns a ladder and a sense of adventure  —  you wear blue jeans to an elopement, don’t you?


Lee Schoenbeck grew up in Webster, practices law in Watertown, and is a freelance writer for the South Dakota Magazine website.


12:27 pm - Wed, January 9 2013
Laura said:
Dear Future Father of the Bride,

While elopements are fun and money-saving, I can't shake the image of a Schoenbeck wedding entourage decked out in shades of camo and hunter orange for a real shotgun wedding. The money spent would be so worth it.

07:51 pm - Wed, January 9 2013
Bernie said:
Lee, you'll be walking down the aisle dressed like a stuffed turkey in a tux -- smiling every step of the way. You're one of the softest tough guys in South Dakota.
01:43 pm - Thu, January 24 2013
Your post made me laugh. However, I think I may be experiencing even greater culture shock, as I have gone from your shoes to actually working for a prom dress designer. A trend I am still trying to figure out is expensive prom dresses featuring "camo" coloring. Not kidding. Does the Dad of a daughter wearing a camo patterned prom dress get a mild sense of a hunting experience? Don't think these dresses would work for a shotgun wedding though.
11:05 pm - Mon, May 22 2017
Clavonna said:
You can find more dresses such as weeding dresses, prom dreesses on

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