Looking for a Cheap Prom Dress? Follow These Tips

Okay, there are girls with a tight prom budget, and then there are girls with little or no prom budget at all . . . meaning it’s not about the perfect dress as much as it is about snagging a dress, period. There’s no reason, however, that a girl with a non-existent prom budget can’t hook herself up; she’s just going to need to be resourceful. That, fortunately, is our middle name:

Borrow one. Maybe your best girlfriend, or cousin, or a friend of a friend, went to prom last year and has a great dress (in your size!) that you could borrow for the night. No, it’s not the same as having a dress all your own—but once you’ve zipped up, slipped on some pretty shoes and earrings, and done a couple of twirls in front of the mirror, it really won’t matter. Trust us.

Hit the thrift stores. Seriously! Sure, you’re going to come up against some peach satin and lace puffy-sleeved, bow-bedecked, floor-sweeping bridesmaid dresses. But hitting the Goodwill or St. Vincent DePaul can turn up some perfectly reasonable—even fabulous!—dresses for a fraction of the cost. Just be sure to try dresses on, and inspect closely for stains, tears, and other issues. If there are imperfections, decide BEFORE you buy if it’s something you (or Mom or Auntie . . . ) can remedy—returns are not usually an option.

Contact prom dress charities/organizations. Meaning groups that take donated prom dresses and make them available to girls who can’t quite afford their own. Check out The Princess Project or Inside the Dream to see if there’s a chapter or affiliated group near you (and this link to the Princess Project gives you a number of other organzations across the country)

image courtesy of PromDresses4U.com

Blog Comments

ooh good ideas. I’d also recommend eBay for both new and vintage dresses. A lot of times you can find the same dresses that are in the stores for a fraction of the price, especially since formal dresses seem to stay in the stores longer. Also, there tons of beautiful vintage dresses for under $50 (I’m a sucker for 1950s glamor)- just make sure you check the measurements, go for a style you know will flatter you or save your money for a tailor.
My senior year- in 2001, ha ha – I went to 2 proms in the same dress with the same boy. I had a basic black ballgown with a sweetheart neckline and spaghetti straps (which I believe was polyester and from Sears). For the second prom I folded down the straps and the trimmed top with a wide band of rhinestones I bought at a craft store so it was then a straight, strapless neckline. I also made myself a matching rhinestone choker. I had a new dress for about $10 and the boy didn’t notice!

From Daily Candy 4/8/08: The just-launched site DonateMyDress.org lists gown drives across the country, so you can find out where to ditch yours (and ditto for those looking to find one). Bridesmaid and special occasion frocks also fit the bill.


There’s a new line from Alfred Angelo called Zum Zum.  They have some gorgeous dresses and most are priced under $150!

how much is that big pink dress cost!is it under 100.00! that is all i have to buy with a dress!

This dress is sooooo cute. How much is it?

Alyssa — this post is from a couple years back, so don’t know that this dress is still available anywhere — appreciate your point, however, and know we must include a link to whatever item we’re showing whenever possible!

Also check out places like Forever 21. I’ve seen things there that could be perfect for prom with the right accessories. Or if you are crafty you could try making your own. Rent the Runway (http://www.renttherunway.com/redir/rtr_home) has dresses that you can rent for a night for as low as $50. Trust me, in a year or two, no matter what you wore, you’ll wonder what possessed you to buy it/pay so much for it.

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