In The Bag

By Chandra Orr

March 4, 2011 5 min read

Finding the perfect purse for prom is only half the battle. Stocking that tiny tote with all the must-have hair and beauty products is another challenge altogether.

You'll need your wallet, phone, keys and tickets -- and you definitely will want the right makeup and hair care products for on-the-go touch-ups. But those little clutches only hold so much, so make it count.

"Get ruthless. A packed purse is often filled with few actual necessities and a lot of extraneous and unnecessary ones," says Constance Dunn, author of "Practical Glamour: Presenting Your Most Beautiful & Polished Self to the World." "A leaner, meaner prom purse will make for a more fun night, with less time handling tubes, bottles and cans of stuff. The only items that get to make the cut are those you will actually use, not those you feel you need to have or carry out of habit."

Make the most of the room you have with double-duty products in travel-size portions. Pack these three absolute essentials and you'll be covered in any situation:

*Quick-Fix Kit

Purse space is at a premium, but it's wise to pack a few emergency items to tackle the most common beauty crises. Stock a small zipper pouch with safety pins, adhesive bandages, bobby pins, double-stick tape strips and tissues. No need to pack for an army. One or two of each item will be sufficient.

"These are absolute essentials that every girl needs in her purse, and most are double-duty," says Dawn Del Russo, author of "101 Glam Girl Ways to an Ultra Chic Lifestyle: A Cheeky Book With Tidbits of Advice for a Glamorous Lifestyle." "A safety pin will fix a fallen hem or a broken strap. Band-Aids work for new-shoe pain or a cold, bra-less night fix. Bobby pins fix a loose hairstyle. Double-stick tape is there for a deep neckline or a loose strap. Tissues are for spills or running mascara."

*Lip Color

Whether you're wearing ultra-glam lipstick or a subtle gloss, pack a backup. Lip color tends to fade quickly -- especially after that four-star dinner and smooching with your beau -- and you still need to look your best for the photos.

"Prom lasts a mere night, but prom photos are forever," Dunn says. "No matter your prom lip color, you will need to refresh your shade for photos. Traditional lipstick tubes can be bulky, so look in your local drugstore for a small version of your chosen prom color."

Plus, if you pack that pink lip hue, you don't have to sacrifice valuable space for other makeup. In a pinch, lip color can be used as blush, Del Russo says. Just go easy on the color and blend well.

*Small Comb

You may not notice those stray hairs when you glance in the mirror, but the camera will capture them remarkably well. Regardless of what your hairstyle is for the evening, a small fine-toothed comb will help tame flyaway hairs before the official prom photos.

"Select a comb with teeth that are set close together," Dunn says. "Here's why: Whether you are wearing your hair in an updo or wild and loose, for prom photos you will need to carefully groom stray hairs around the face or those that have come loose."

Leave the hair spray and styling products at home, though. One application before you leave for the evening is enough. Just run your fingers through your hair to freshen up loose locks.

Be brutal when packing your purse. Ask yourself, "Do I really need this? Am I packing this out of habit? Is there a smaller, more compact option?"

Think twice about space-wasting makeup and mascara. Once you have your sultry eyes set for the evening, you shouldn't need another application. If it creases, just blend it with your finger. To tame shine, look to the ladies' room.

"Compacts tend to be purse hogs," Dunn says. "If you need to remove shine from your face, a bathroom seat liner works beautifully, and it won't remove your makeup in the process."

Only the absolute essentials should make the cut.

"Streamlining makes on-the-go touch-ups a swifter and more fuss-free affair," Dunn says. "You don't want to look back at your prom night and realize that you spent way too much time huddled at the bathroom mirror rooting through a purse full of products when you could have been floating on the dance floor, your arms around the shoulders of your wonderful date."

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