by Andrea Woroch
According to a recent survey from Visa, prom-goers and their parents will dish out $919 on this year’s dance. The biggest chunk of the event budget will go toward the gown, with average dress spending ranging from $350 to $400, according to several speciality shops. In an effort to save money without sacrificing style, many teenage girls turn to the Internet to find the perfect dress for less.
Unfortunately, unsavory scammers take advantage of bargain-seeking shoppers by promoting designer gowns for a fraction of retail costs, only to send poorly-made knock-offs that often cannot be worn.
To shop smarter and save money on a prom dress without getting duped, follow these tips.
1. Rent the dress
Even if you’re not seeking designer dresses, renting a gown for a one-time event is a smart way to save money and look like a million bucks. Find elegant gowns at Rent the Runway from the likes of Monique Lhuillier, Nicole Miller, Calvin Klein and more for as little as $70. The website has a page dedicated to prom and provides two sizes of your desired dress to ensure a proper fit, plus loads of user photos and reviews and a prepaid return envelope. You can also create an account for $25 off your first rental.
2. Seek out community events
Many communities and school districts host prom dress events where members donate formal gowns, shoes and accessories for students to wear for free. This is a great option for families who simply cannot afford the cost of formalwear, and also a great opportunity for young women to donate previous years’ dresses to a good cause. Ask the school’s prom committee about local events.
3. Consider consignment
Teen-focused consignment stores like The Buffalo Exchange and Plato’s Closet offer prom dresses and other formalwear accessories for a fraction of retail prices. You can also shop online consignment stores such as LikeTwice and The Real Real for gently-used gowns from top designers. For example, LikeTwice currently has an $800 Badgley Mischka gold gownfor $132. Plus, you can consign dresses and other garments you no longer wear for credit toward a new dress, or use a sign-up offer to save $10 to $25 off your first purchase.
4. Try thrift stores
Goodwill and the Salvation Army are great outlets for gently-used gowns. These frocks can be fetched for less than $20 in some cases, making the value tough to beat. If boutique is what you seek, Goodwill has several locations of more intimate shops showcasing designer and higher-end goods, including dresses.
5. Scour department store sales
Recognizing the purchasing power of prom season, many retailers offer special pricing and sales for formal attire. In addition to store-wide promotions, search for coupons for additional savings. For example, you can grab a coupon code from CouponSherpa.com for an extra 20% off your purchase from JCPenney, which is currently offering prom styles for up to 50% off. Stack the offers to get the best value!
6. Buy bridesmaid gowns
Formal gowns appropriate for a wedding are often great for prom night, too. Wedding stores like David’s Bridal offer a great selection of formalwear perfect for prom, with prices starting at $50. Your local bridal boutique may also have a special section for prom or offer bridesmaid gowns appropriate for a formal dance.
7. Dare to do discount
Stores like Ross, TJMaxx and Marshalls are great alternatives to pricey department stores. In addition to gowns, you can also find shoes, jewelry and clutches for cut-rate prices. TJMaxx even has an online prom page from which to browse styles and buy directly, with dress prices starting at $29.99.
8. Swap with friends or family
Teens attend multiple social events beyond just prom that call for formal wear these days, including homecoming and winter dance. Since you and your friends likely have a few dresses from recent school celebrations, why not swap frocks? You can even borrow from a cousin in college who may have attended a sorority formal or older sister who was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. You can swap accessories like evening bags, jewelry and hair pieces to make the look your own.
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today Show, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Huffington Post, Forbes and many more. For more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.