Parties & Entertaining

Go formal without breaking the bank

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Pretty in Pink
Andie stayed pretty in pink without spending big money
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Go formal without breaking the bank by stretching every buck creatively

Whether youíre a student looking forward to the next big dance or a professional heading to a swanky industry event, itís important to observe certain standards of what is and is not appropriate to wear. The tricky thing is that dressing in elegant clothing can get expensive if youíre not resourceful.

Have no fear. No matter how expensive the gowns and cocktail dresses on display may be, there are timeless ways to go formal and stretch every dollar. Sticking to a budget can be fun if you make a game out of it. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is too look more polished than ever before while pinching every penny in your purse. 

It can and will be done. Hereís how:

Shop online

Online formal wear stores offer a wide variety of authentic designer creations to fit every price point. Many schools have their homecoming and proms around the same time so be sure to give yourself plenty of buffer time between ordering and arrival, if you're buying during peak season.

Shop the sales

This is an obvious one, but it usually occurs in hindsight. The big event is around the corner and you think to yourself, I shouldíve shopped the sales on Columbus Day or Black Friday. Don't let that happen this time. Big events like this typically give you plenty of notice. Your job is to pay attention and think ahead.

Mark your calendar and pin point the next big sale day between now and then. By turning the radar on way in advance, youíll likely find the store having the biggest sales on exactly what youíre looking for. Follow your favorite shops on Twitter and Facebook for an additional shot at special coupon codes.

Rent a pre-worn dress or tux

Most fancy dresses and tuxedos are worn once and retired to the back of the closet. Thankfully, crafty people make it affordable to go formal by putting up their gorgeous evening wear to rent for a short period. Rent the Runway and Le Tote can cover your head-to-toe needs for a fraction of the price. As an added bonus, the odds of someone wearing the same thing are slim because most of the selection is not from this season.

Ask a same-size friend

A close friend or sibling may be more than happy to lend you something - It never hurts to ask. Even if you donít know anyone whoís your size, perhaps you could borrow accessories or shoes to cut your shopping list in half. Many women have a little black dress, which can be further fancified with a colorful or metallic skinny belt.

Alternatively, you can swap dresses or shoes that youíve already worn with a friend going to the same event. This works great for school dances because itís no fun to wear the same dress twice and your friends would agree. Odds are youíll both wear them completely differently so nobody will even notice.


Like the rental sites, Pre-owned Party Dresses and similar businesses sell gowns for all occasions. Go formal for 10-20% of the original price! Prom dresses start at $20, leaving some money left for shoes and jewelry to dress up a classic design.

Get thrifty, literally

Many vintage stores have an often ignored formal section. If thereís not such a place in your town, take a drive to the nearest small city and youíre bound to find one. Bring a friend for a second opinion because itís easy to fall in love with a unique dress, only to realize that it makes you look like a secretary from Mad Men once you get home.

If your date is looking to save money, bring him along,too. Stores that carry gowns often carry formal wear for men as well. Do brace yourself for powder blue ruffles.

See, thereís no reason to pass on the big event of the season just because money is tight. A lot of people are in the same situation. When in doubt think of Molly Ringwald from Pretty in Pink! If you haven't seen it, watch it right now.

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