Ah, prom… the defining event of a young person’s life. A night of rejoicing, of romance, to be cherished in our hearts, always.

In other words, stab me in the eye.

I don’t have a single memory of my high school prom – not because of excessive drinking, but because teenage La Carmina was the only one in her class who refused to attend. I dug out my grad yearbook to see what went down. Rows of smiling girls in strapless A-line gowns, pastel shawls dangling from their elbows. Identical up-dos with curled strands framing either side of the face, like two limp rotini noodles. Boy, I sure missed the boat!

Come to think of it, I did lose out in some respects by not going. I wasn’t able to gawk at the Miss America makeup firsthand. I never saw the boys bumpin’ and grindin’ to rap songs, or the girls quarrelling over who stuffed her bra. If I could turn back time, I’d say yes to the prom. But don’t expect Pretty in Pink. Brace yourself instead for Stephen King’s Carrie.

Prom dresses are traditionally long, sparkly affairs wrapped in layers of tulle. If you’re anything like me, your immediate reaction (besides gagging) is to break out the cyber-dreads and PVC miniskirt. But you can take subversiveness a step further by taking a generic gown – and gutting it beyond recognition.

So let’s go shopping for the Motherload! I’m talking pink foof, beadwork, giant bows, maximum glitter. I found several contenders at the shopping mall for $150-250. Vintage shops are full of bridesmaid disasters from the 1980s; nowhere else can you find such a high concentration of scalloped necklines and puffed sleeves. For $50-100, you can probably buy something similar to my monstrosity. A mostly-black dress is easier to work from, but since we’ll be ripping it apart, the color doesn’t matter much.

Before buckling down, I couldn’t resist the urge to play dress-up. (You know you want to.) Dig out your old bronzer and crimping iron, and take a “Before” photo in your prom dress. Don’t forget to cock your head and strain a grin.

Now gut the thing. Slash anything remotely cheery; in my case, the sequins and poofy pink skirt. I was left with a corseted top and three layers of white crinoline: not a bad skeleton to build upon. Here’s how the Goth-ification went down. Goodbye Princess Toadstool… hello Mistress of the Dark!

Ugly pink prom dress with corset, lace back. skull scarves, crossbones hearts emo patterns, long neck scarves and goth fabrics

† Black silk: at least 1 yard (1 metre). You can also use black satin, lining, or a similar light, opaque fabric.
† White ribbon, 0.4 inch (1 cm) wide: at least 2 yards (2 metres). For decorating the corset with ribbon crosses.
† Two snap buttons: for the back of the corset.
† Needle, black and white thread, dressmaker pins

I. Drape the black fabric over the corset on the bias (along the diagonal grain, which will allow it to stretch). Using black thread, sew the fabric to the top of corset. Leave the back of the corset open.

II. Using black thread, sew the two snap buttons to the fabric at the back of the corset. This allows you to put on the dress and then close up the back.

III. Pin the white ribbon to the front of the corset, folding it over to form three “X”s. Using white thread, sew the ribbon in place.


I can’t get enough of the just-rose-from-the-grave look, so I decided to drape long, sheer scarves over the crinoline. First stop, my favorite spot on Earth: Daiso, the Japanese 100-yen ($1) discount mart. I found mesh scarves that looked like fishnets, and silky black ones printed with white skulls and polka dots. You can find something similar at discount clothing stores or Chinatown markets. Look for black, translucent fabrics with white and red accents, and Goth prints such as skulls and bats.

I hung the mesh and long, thin pieces from the waistline, knotting some of the ends. I wrapped the skull shawl around to make an asymmetrical skirt. Between the tatters, you can peek at the crinoline underskirt.

I wanted the corset to have structured appearance for contrast, so I positioned a red/white/black skull scarf around the waist and along the sides. Finally, I twisted a scarf into an X-shaped shoulder strap. When I was satisfied with the arrangement, I sewed the pieces in place.

What do you think of my DIY transformation? Did you go to prom, and if so, what did you wear? Please pass along this blog post to anyone who might get a kick out of it! Tomorrow: I answer a Reader Question and announce the winners of the Basil Farrow blog contest…

Song of the Day #116: Macho Gang – Naughty Boy (Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven’t!)


Filed Under Fashion, How-Tos