Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

April 4, 2014

Prom dress shopping perilous for plus-size girls

NEW YORK (AP) — Maria Giorno has nothing against long gowns with high waists and flowing fabric — dresses that are designed to camouflage curves on plus-size women.

But the New Jersey high school senior had no interest in buying a loose-fitting style for her senior prom, even though it was all she could find in a size 16 or so at nearby stores. So many stores, Giorno said, "never have anything that's a little more sexy or a little form-fitting, or anything like that for my age."

Clothes shopping for plus-size teens can be frustrating in general, but shopping for a dream prom dress can be a tear-inducing, hair-pulling morass of bad design and few options — especially for girls who want a dress that hugs the body instead of tenting it.

"It's like people kind of assume that's what I want and that's what I like. I'm 18. I really like the way the tight dresses look," said Giorno, who plays roller derby and hopes to study music education in college.

She finally found one that didn't make her look like a bridesmaid — or worse, mother of the bride — at a boutique: a V-neck black lace "fit and flare" style with an open back and pleats above the knee for dancing ease on her big night.

Consignment shops and organizations that collect donated prom dresses for girls in need also say they can't get enough plus-size gowns. Shop owner Kristen Harris went on a mission to collect them after a teen left her store empty-handed and in tears. Harris was tagging stock at her just-opened Designer Diva Consignment Boutique in Abington, Mass., when a plus-size teen shyly approached the ball gowns.

"I said, 'Hey hon, what size are you looking for,' and she said 22, and that's when I felt like someone had just kicked me in the stomach, because I knew I didn't have anything that size," recalled Harris, who desperately pulled some smaller sizes in stretch fabrics for the girl. Moments later, the teen was crying in the dressing room.

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