If you lived in the Philadelphia-area in the mid-aughts, there was only one place to go during formal or prom season. That place was the King of Prussia Mall’s Jessica McClintock store.
In this hallowed place, one (one being your 2006 high school self) would scour the store for well over an hour, possibly elbowing a girl from a neighboring high school as you both reached for the same dress. Walking into the store, I can remember the colors gold and white, bright lighting and carpeted floor (my memory may be entirely wrong in my old age, but this is what I remember). It truly was like the gates of heaven opening.
I may have been in college when, while paying a visit to the KOP Mall after several years, I realized that the once popular and sought-after store was no longer there and was replaced. A sign of the times.
If you’re feeling particularly nostalgic, you can peruse the Jessica McClintok graveyard that is Poshmark
A Jessica McClintock dress was the ultimate statement of glamor and elegance, a status symbol. Well, at least it was in our world at that time. It was the Versace of middle America. The brand that anyone would clamor to wear for a school dance. Because the dresses’ designs were so recognizable, wearing one was akin to the Abercrombie & Fitch moose symbol stitched onto a hoodie. You wanted people to know that you were wearing a JM garment. And while not as a strong symbol of the early-to-mid-2000s as a Juicy velour tracksuit, they were held in a similar regard.
Simply put, you couldn’t tell us nothing while wearing a McClintok dress.
Dresses came in sage green satin with an embellishment at the décolletage. Taffeta in shades of blue. Light pink silk with a dainty black bow. Deep purple chiffon with rhinestones. Looking back, they had no business mixing brown with blue and pink so much.
And then there was this dress.
The polka-dotted, tulle underskirt-ed, formal dress completed with a black ribbon around the waist. A moment of silence.
Image found on Poshmark
As there was with any formal type dance, rituals were held. We would confirm amongst each other than no one else purchased the same dress - God forbid. The evening of the dance, we would gather at a friend’s home, Canon digital cameras in hand for photos. Our hair would be hair-sprayed stiff banana curls, or up-dos with two tendrils placed just so. We posed and giggled as our parents snapped away.
I can’t quite recall how the brand allure came to be. Perhaps it was seen on Laguna Beach? The high school seniors wore the gowns to prom? It had already been a well-established, prom dress label in the 80s and 90s, so it’s just very possible by the time I reached high school it was time for me to experience a new christening. My first Jessica McClintok dress.
My then-boyfriend Greg and I at my Soph dance. I felt beautiful in this dress. And Greg’s tie matched perfectly ❤️
It’s been well over a decade since the heyday of the brand, and it has since gone through a rebrand, now offering perfumes, eyewear, and home decor. But as I looked through old Facebook albums for the photo above, the memories of the dress I wore to that Soph dance still linger. Despite what the style of dress may look like in 2022, we were stars on the red carpet in 2006.
So, if you still have a Jessica McClintok dress, I hope you preserve it as you would a wedding gown. Hold onto her tightly, and never let her go.
Lastly, an honorable mention.
The Gunne Sax dress I’m quaking
These were so iconic. I had a long white one with black lace that I wore to a midnight release of a twilight book l o l o l.