For girls, getting ready for the big homecoming dance is an epic and multi-layered process: It starts with choosing your date weeks in advance and reaches all the way to sitting down in a makeup chair a few hours before the big event. On the style side, homecoming prep boils down to a few key elements -- the dress, the hair and makeup, and the accessories. Remember, homecoming is a celebration; the only way to do it wrong is to let too much planning put a damper on having a good time.
The All-Important Dress
Few elements of homecoming prep are as vital as the dress, which you might start planning -- or at least daydreaming about -- well before you've even scored a date. Homecoming's a little less formal than prom; while fall weather doesn't allow for skimpy, you can go a little more casual. Choose your dress before any other preparations are made, and go in armed with ideas. Make a statement with a retro-inspired A-line with a cinch waist and knee-line hem, or marry modern and vintage with a monochrome graphic dress with a whimsical handkerchief hem, ideal for dancing. For a quirky but warm vibe, try a lacy top and bubble skirt.
Once you lock down a dress, it's time to prepare the perfect accessories. If slow dancing is your style, classic or slingback pumps or sandal heels are a staple, but ankle boots give you more of a rebellious feel. More casual looks complement solid ballet flats, brogues or even glitter or floral flats, but in any case, do a little pre-dancing to break in your footwear. Be prepared for a chilly autumn homecoming and give your dress a little edge with a cropped jacket, fitted vest or short, structured blazer.
Hair and Makeup
Whether you enlist a pro, a friend or your mom, the hair and makeup chair is the home stretch of the homecoming-prep race. To save on time, know what you want in advance. Make a bold choice with contrasting white eyeliner and matte red lipstick or keep it timeless with muted, fall-friendly nude shades and smoky eyes. Just before you hit the floor, prep your lips with a gold-flecked gloss to make them pop. Plan for a hairstyle that suits your dress; a braided crown works with classic looks, a high ponytail keeps things bubbly, and the side braid offers a middle ground. If you're short on time or need a last-minute hair fix, amp-up an underwhelming do with a headband.
A Little More Prep
If you follow the tradition of providing your date's garter, don't wait until the last minute. If you're on a time crunch, snag a pre-made garter at a prom specialty store or a formal wear rental shop. For a homemade garter, get to work as soon as you know what your date is wearing. Combine school colors and shades that complement your date's outfit, or simplify matters with a color-coordinating boutonniere. Save time before the dance by getting your nails done about two days before homecoming. Your manicure will still look fresh when you hit the dance floor.