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The Prom Dresses I Wish I Bought (and What I Wore Instead)


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Model in black lace dress.
Fame and Partners Dragon Lace Dress, $299

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I’ve never been one to regret past decisions — not even the long list of questionable wardrobe choices I may have made over the years. This no-regrets policy applies to both my four-year-long emo phase that lasted throughout high school (Hot Topic email subscription included), as well as my American Apparel-influenced spandex-everything phase during college. These looks were character-building! And I can laugh about them now. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about either of my prom dresses — two items of clothing I will certainly always regret.

Let me add some context with the fact that I went to my junior prom in 2009 and senior prom in 2010. Jersey Shore had just started, and Lady Gaga had just worn that meat dress to the MTV Movie Awards; in general, no one was going for “classic” or “timeless,” instead just being as extra as possible. When translated to prom shopping, this meant insane patterns, heavy beading, and neon colors. TL;DR, I ended up in a peacock-patterned chiffon dress with beaded straps my junior year and this strapless rainbow swirl situation my senior. (Lmao.)

I blame it on the options available to me at the time — Macy’s, that huge East Coast warehouse Prom Dress Express, and two overpriced boutiques in my very small Rhode Island town — paling in comparison to the online options available to gown-shopping teenagers today. (Because of this, I’ll always hold some sort of grudge against the Gen-Z-ers who can and do shop at Need Supply instead of Delia’s.)

Especially around this time of year, I see dozens of dresses that I would wear if I could do it all over again, given all of the accessible-but-still-cute options there are today (and the too-few excuses to wear a ball gown in my adult life). But since a re-do isn’t on the table, I figure the best way to get over it is to help someone else out.

Below, you’ll find a handful of those dresses should you — or someone you know — be on the search for a prom dress. Some are short, some are long, but all have the promise to still hold up in pictures more than five years down the line.

In the spirit of commiseration, we want to hear from you about your own prom looks, whether you’re dealing with similar shame or still love whatever you wore to this day. Drop us a line at, or better yet, share your stories and pics with us on Twitter or Instagram @Racked with the hashtag #PromRegrets. We’ll be reposting the best in an Instagram story so we can all have a good laugh at each other’s expense.

Model in burgundy sequined dress.
Model in burgundy sequined dress.

Fame & Partners Margo Dress, $299

Model in white ruffled neckline dress.
Back shot of model in white dress.

Lulu’s White Maxi Dress, $98

Model in blue plunging neckline dress.
Model in blue plunging neckline dress.

Reformation Georgette Dress, $330

Missguided Pink Crepe Dress, $81

Model in silk navy dress.
Back view of model in silk navy dress.

Zimmermann French Navy Dress, $520

Model in black exposed shoulder dress.
Model in black exposed shoulder dress.

Forever 21 Plunging Open-Shoulder Dress, $65

Plus model in sea-foam green dress.
Plus model in sea-foam green dress.

ASOS Curve Bardot Fold Prom Dress, $98

Model in baby yellow dress with slit and knotting detail.
Model in baby yellow dress with slit and knotting detail.

Rebecca Vallance Billie Bow Dress, $440