Prom Dress Shopping!

image Yes, that’s right. I went prom dress shopping last week.

The last time I went prom dress shopping, I was 18. Let’s just say a handful of years have passed by since then, and leave it at that, shall we?

My daughter and I made a date to go into the city last Wednesday, during her March Break. We took the GO train (our local commuter train system), which was rather a bit of an adventure in itself.

First, there was the issue of parking. We were cutting it close to the wire (the trains leave once an hour, so it was basically do-or-die time, parking-wise), and I do believe we snagged the absolute last available spot. It happened to be at the far end of the secondary lot across the street, but still, we cheered as I pulled into the spot. And then we ran. Or at least, Hayley did. Mine was more of a fast jog/walk thing.

Then when the train pulled into Union Station, which was our stop, for some strange reason we were all let off on the platform next to the VIA train. This platform, it turns out, is particularly unusual, because it appears to be serviced only by one elevator.

Picture this: about 100 people (or so it seemed, anyway) milling around on a train platform, looking for stairs and seeing only one rather small elevator.

Luckily, after a while someone realized what had happened, and they opened up the doors to the train we’d just gotten off, and got everyone to get back on and exit out the doors on the other side. To the platform with stairs.

It was actually a kind of fun, Twilight Zone moment during which I kept saying to Hayley, “You know, I really don’t think there are any stairs on this platform. No sirree. No stairs. I really don’t think so. Nope. No stairs as far as I can see.”

I had thought Hayley wanted to shop at Eaton Centre, the big shopping mall in the heart of downtown Toronto. And we did go there (after getting lost for a bit in PATH, the underground pedestrian system, which I once knew like the back of my hand. Now? Not so much.) But Hayley took one look inside, realized all the stores were exactly like all the stores in the mall at home, and back out we came.

(Because, as I remember well from the last time I went prom dress shopping, you don’t want to be wearing something that looks too similar to what everyone else is wearing. At least, I didn’t, and Hayley definitely takes after me that way.)

So we ended up on Queen St. West, where there are all sorts of really cute boutique dress stores, and lots of different restaurants. Not to mention, The Condom Shack.

Want to know something funny? Every shop we went into (but no, not the Condom Shack …), we found teenage girls shopping … with their mothers!

I have this theory: “Just call me the walking credit card.” There were a lot of us walking credit cards crowded into those little dress shops that day. I’d be standing outside one of the dressing room doors, waiting for Hayley, and I’d look in the mirror and see five other mothers lined up behind me, standing outside their daughters’ dressing room doors.

Actually, it turned out Hayley had no real intentions of buying a prom dress that day; she just wanted to go looking with me. She was going into the city again with friends on the Friday, and she figured she’d probably buy her dress then.

So once I learned this, the day turned into fun mother-daughter day! Which was very nice indeed (not that I minded prom dress shopping day, it’s just that fun mother-daughter days are really just about the best things invented.)

We squeezed in a nice leisurely early dinner at a Japanese restaurant in between trying on dresses; it was one of those order-off-the-menu, all-you-can-eat-but-if-you-leave-too-much-expensive-sushi-fish-on-your-plate-we-will-charge-you places. We ate too much, naturally, and stumbled back out onto Queen Street some time later. By then the gray, it’s going to rain weather had turned into really gorgeous sunshine, something we’d not had for a few weeks here.

(Toronto gets very cold in the winter, but I’ll say this about its weather – we get quite a lot of sun despite the cold. Just not so much in the recent weeks leading up to March Break.)

Hayley tried on a ton of dresses, but didn’t find any she liked enough to buy. Then I walked into a store, and saw a summer dress that basically shouted “This dress belongs to Belle Wong”.

You know the end of that story, right?

So yes, I was the one who came home with a dress. Hayley got some deodorant from the drug store, so she can’t say I didn’t buy her anything.

We walked back to Union Station and caught the 9 o’clock train. When we got off the train, the parking lot was a lot emptier and the car looked a lot farther away than I remembered (and irrationally, I thought to myself, why did I park so far away?).

Oh! And I even have a punch line to this prom dress shopping tale. I woke up the next morning – with shin splints! We did a lot of walking that day (and if you’ve never gone walking with a very fit, teenage girl, you just won’t understand). Yes, you may laugh. My husband did.

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18 thoughts on “Prom Dress Shopping!

  1. Barbara

    This sounds like an absolutely delightful day. All too soon Hayley will be grown up and gone but you’ll have great memories of this day. Kids seem to grow up in about a half a minute these days. I don’t blame her for not being thrilled about the mall. Every mall in the states seems to be exactly the same – you could be in any city in the country once you go inside. I’m glad you got a dress too.

  2. Steve Kubien

    “Just call me the walking credit card” ROTFLMAO!!!! Strangely, I have a tough time picturing Hayley in a traditional prom-style dress. Nope, not upset that as “dad” I will never have this experience. If I did, my girls would go to prom dressed in chainsaw-chaps, safety glasses and some sort of ear protection.

    Glad you had fun!

      1. Steve Kubien

        I see her in something like a tuxedo jacket with tails, jeans and sneakers. Maybe a hat.

        Oh, combat boots and pants. No top, just criss-crossed belts of 50cal bullets and a bandana, like Rambo! Wow, who knew dressing other peoples kids could be so much fun!

        Actually, I was serious about the tux and jeans.

    1. Belle

      I do that too, Jill! Not just at Christmas – often when I’m buying someone a birthday present too. So really, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised I came home with a new dress …

  3. Vasilly

    That’s a lot of walking! I love mother/daughters days! I have them often with my own mom. My daughter loves when we have them which isn’t often enough since both of us are in school.

  4. Margot

    Oh, that sounds like such a fun day with your daughter. You’ll remember this years from now unless your memory starts to fade. But, now you have it written down so you’re safe. I love how Hayles wanted to show with you but not necessarily buy with you. With my girls it was the other way around.

    1. Belle

      I love that you mention that, about having this memory for years because I’ve written it down here. I never thought of that before, but it’s true, and I think I’ll do more of that here!

  5. Bernadette

    I love this story even though I really can’t relate to it at all. Reading anything about Prom dresses is fairy tale category for me – we don’t have such things here in Oz so my only exposure to Proms is via American movies and TV – the most memorable one for me being Pretty in Pink (what can I say, I grew up in the 80’s) – but mother/daughter days are a lovely thing to be much enjoyed – and she will remember them fondly one day too

    1. Belle

      Pretty in Pink was a memorable part of my teen years, too, Bernadette. I didn’t know you don’t have proms in Australia. Fairy tale is actually a good word to describe prom night; it’s how I remember mine. I felt so grown-up, stepping into a whole different world!

      I did notice one thing – prom dresses now are quite different from the ones back when I was a teen. More glitz, more glamour, and, um, less fabric!

  6. Deborah

    I’d like to say this reminded me of my daughter and myself – but the dress thing kept getting in the way…(“Don’t do dresses…” sigh, grump)…though the sushi stop is definitely us. Then I saw your reply to Steve K!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, Belle – great to “meet” you. And enjoy your dress!

  7. Dorte H

    A mother-daughter day is indeed wonderful. I checked ´shin splints´, and as my elder daughter is 15 cm taller than me, I am in a high-risk group when she speeds through the shops! 😀

  8. Meryl

    Your account made me smile thinking about my daughters. Neither one of us love shopping – which is good in a way…we don’t spend hours. But we always have fun. I love these girl days!

  9. jules

    love this, Belle.

    Here in Oz we have school formals. One usually for yr 10 and one for final year, yr 12. girls still like to dress up :-)

    Didn’t Hayley go to a school thing once in a beautiful cheongsam? I think i remember a pic. So something different is def hayley.

    I had a weekend away with my 22 yr old niece in Jan and we did that thing — walking, shopping, stopping for bubbly very regularly! I swore I wouldnt be able to find anything (size wise) but came home with about four new things. It’s so fun.

    glad you bought yourself something!

    1. Belle

      You’re right, Jules, she did. A lovely red one. She thought about doing that again this time, but decided not to. Her plan now is to buy one from one of the mall stores, and then get it altered so it doesn’t look anything like all the other dresses in the store!


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