Finding the perfect prom dress is like hunting. From discount stores to paying full retail, move forward having an idea of what you want and you’ll find the perfect dress for you.
Every year, new styles of prom dresses hit retail floors across the nation. While the latest prom dress styles and trends may vary from year-to-year, there are some basics that will help you find the perfect dress that you will remember for years to come.
Perhaps you’ve found the perfect prom dress in a magazine, but it is far too costly for your budget. There are ways to get a similar dress for a fraction of the price.
Whether you want a traditional, full-length gown or a short and flirty sparkly number, understanding the basic prom styles available will help you make a decision.
Prom Dress Styles
Start by choosing the basic style of prom dress you want to wear. Here are a few options:
- Full skirt
- Long in back and short in front
- Dress slacks with cocktail dress over top
Keep in mind what colors look best with your complexion. If yellow washes you out, then you’ll want to avoid orange and yellow dresses. If purple is a color you hate, then look for dresses that are not purple. Some seasons feature truly hideous colors, but you can almost always find basic white, black and pastels. Although the designs will vary each year, these basic styles are almost always available year-round from bridal boutiques and specialty stores.
Easy Prom Hairstyles You Can Do Yourself
Shop Early for the Best Deals
Once you have an idea of the basic style you want for your prom dress, you can begin shopping. For example, shop in the summer for the best deal on clearance prom dresses. If you can’t find anything in your size or that you love, try the bridal stores after peak wedding season ends in July. You may just find the perfect dress on sale.
Stores to try for discounts include:
- Bridal boutiques
- JC Penney
- Bridal warehouse type stores
Don’t be afraid to shop online. Just pay close attention to measurement guidelines and make sure the company allows for a return if the item doesn’t fit properly.
Think Outside the Box
Don’t limit yourself to traditional stores when shopping for a dress. Last year, one of my daughter’s friends found a dress she adored at a local thrift store for $10. Talk about a huge savings? Another friend took her sister’s dress, had it altered to fit her and loved the finished look. The alterations cost her around $40.00 and her sister was happy to let her younger sibling wear the dress.
Consider these sources for dress:
- Garage Sales
- Thrift Stores
- Secondhand Stores
- Church clothes closets (ask their policy – some sell to anyone and others reserve for financially needy families)
- Friends and family
Ask around. Find out who has a prom dress they might be willing to let you borrow or sell to you for a reduced cost. You might be surprised.
Prom Dress Alterations
When it comes to alterations, it is better to go with a larger size and take material away than to try to add material to a smaller dress. Not only will it cost less money to have the seamstress cut material, but it might not be possible to match material to a dress to make it larger.
When choosing a seamstress:
- Ask around and find out who has altered prom dresses for others and make sure past customers are happy with the seamstress’ work.
- The seamstress should measure you in the shoes you plan to wear with the dress.
- Get a quote upfront, so you know exactly how much alterations will cost. Spending hundreds on alterations doesn’t make a dress cost effective.
- Ask for a date the dress will be ready and ask others if the seamstress delivers on time.
- Check the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the seamstress.
- Allow two weeks before prom in case something goes horribly wrong and you have to find a new dress.
Make Your Own Prom Dress
Although it might not save you a ton of money, sewing your own prom dress can ensure that you get the exact color, pattern and material you want. However, sewing formal dresses is not work for a beginning sewer. Instead, find a trusted friend or family member who understands how to work with the material you’ve chosen and ensure everything fits properly.
Just as with the alterations, allow plenty of time in case something goes horribly wrong and you have to find another dress at the last minute.
Consider Renting a Prom Dress
In most cases, a prom dress is worn for a few hours for a single night. Instead of emptying your wallet on a dress you’ll only wear once, consider renting the dress. Some bridal boutiques and secondhand stores offer prom dress rental. You can also find stores in upscale malls that rent designer dresses for a fraction of buying new.
Be sure you understand the rental terms completely. Ask questions like:
- When can the dress be picked up?
- When does it need to be returned and at what time?
- Who is responsible for dry cleaning?
- What if the dress is damaged or stained? What will the cost be?
- What if you cannot return the dress on time due to an emergency? What are the charges?
- What happens if you arrive to pick up the dress and it isn’t there?
- Are alterations allowed?
- Are any discounts available?
Always ask for a discount, as they may offer you a percentage off.
Accessories Make the Dress
If you find a dress that is reasonably priced, but doesn’t capture your heart completely, consider accessories that might make the dress more lovable. If you spend less on the dress, can you afford a pair of Cinderella shoes and a beautiful cubic zirconia necklace? Adding a colorful sash can turn a plain black dress into something out of a Hollywood movie. Perhaps there is a way to alter the skirt to make it more whimsical, such as overlaying a plain skirt with a colorful, sheer, rainbow material?
Sometimes, you just have to have it…
Even though saving money is wonderful and you will only wear the dress for one night, there are times when you meet that one perfect dress that makes your heart go pitty-pat. You just know if you don’t have it, you’ll never be the same. If you have the funds, and the dress is calling your name that loudly, it might be wise to spend more on the dress and borrow jewelry, shoes and other accessories instead. You can always scale back on other areas, like renting a limo.
Wearing a dress that makes you feel truly beautiful will make prom night one you’ll always remember.