Your daughter is planning to attend prom this year. How exciting! She can’t wait to go shopping to find the perfect dress for this special occasion. This sounds like a fun girl’s day out right. Maybe for the average teenager, but for a young girl who struggles with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia it can be extremely triggering.
Off we went...shopping for my daughter's prom dress with some of her friends and another mom. The girls were so excited, but I could see the anxiety creeping in on my daughter. I could see her body becoming tense while looking through the racks of dresses. She was overwhelmed and didn’t even know where to start. I could almost hear the questions in her head. What size do I get? What will I look good in?
Her friends were putting dresses in the dressing room to try on and she still hadn’t picked one out, the anxiety was building. I shifted her focus by asking what color she would like. She decided on powder blue. So we started there and selected a couple of blue dresses. I told her that the size didn't matter and each brand runs differently in size anyway. Then I told her a story about how I was once in a wedding and I had to order two dress sizes up from what I usually wore.
She entered the dressing room with mixed emotions, excited and worried at the same time. I stood outside of the dressing room feeling the same way but for different reasons. I wanted her to have fun and feel amazing in a new dress because she’s been through so much this past year. She deserves to feel good about herself. After two hours of trying on dresses, the disappointed look on her face told me that finding a dress that she liked was becoming impossible. Most people would just go to a different dress shop another day. For someone with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, even the thought of having to repeat this experience is exhausting. I know she wanted to be able to walk out of there with a dress on that day!
She almost settled for a dress that she felt “safe” in, but decided to try on one last dress. It was celery green/white and fully beaded. It was one of her favorite colors. She saw it and instantly fell in love with it. As she put it on, she analyzed how every inch of her body looked in it. This dress showed more curves and wasn’t as “safe” as the last one. She wasn't yet sure about it, but she loved the dress so much. She loved the design and the color! She looked beautiful in it! Much to my surprise, she just went for it and said, “This is the one!” I was so proud of her in the end. Despite all of the anxiety and fear, she stepped out of her comfort zone and picked the one she really loved. Before we even left the parking lot, she said, “That was hard, really hard!” The experience took a lot out of her physically and mentally, so she slept on the ride home.
To all the Moms out there who will be taking their daughters prom dress shopping, remember as hard as it is for you, it’s probably 10 times harder for her. Have a lot of patience, reassure them that they are beautiful in whatever dress they put on and let them pick a dress they feel pretty and confident in.