Every girl wants to turn heads at formal events, and especially at prom. Unfortunately, personal experience has taught me that prom and formal dresses are really expensive! Gowns at my favorite department store range from $60 to $500, and designer dresses can even boast a several thousand dollar price tag. I think it is outrageous to pay hundreds for a one-time-use dress. Some girls creatively find ways to reuse dresses, but I personally find it difficult to incorporate a prom outfit into any other occasion. The most tragic part about the high cost of a dress is that I need a lot of dresses! It seems like whenever I purchase a gown, I often need a new one within months for a new and different formal occasion. Throughout early high school I was lucky, and my parents funded my fashion needs; eventually they cut me off though. I was forced to investigate ways to get dazzling dresses for not-so-pretty pennies. I think my work really paid off, and if you are smart you will benefit from it too.
For events that require a high level of jaw-dropping glamor, consider renting a designer gown. Renting is not just for men anymore. I found out many websites let you pick from endless styles at mind-boggling prices. I simply had to pick a dress, tell the company the date of my event, and check the mail. It was amazingly easy! I budgeted $150 for the entire outfit. I was able to pay $50 to wear a dress worth twenty times as much; the only catch was that I had to return the dress after my one week rental. Some sites offered equally stunning designer jewelry, purses, and shoe rental too! I did not have to worry about wasting money on red shoes to match a red dress and then not wearing them again, I just rented them. I did not want to splurge on anything that did not match the rest of my already-existing wardrobe. I ended up spending an additional $25 on shoes, and $30 on rented jewelry. Though I saw adorable bags, I had a nice little handbag in my closet I was able to reuse. For a grand total of $105 I was dressed to impress in a designer gown, diamond jewelry, and matching shoes. I had an extra $45 left over from the budget to spend for entertainment! Had I purchased the dress, shoes, and jewelry to own I would have spent approximately $2,000!
Dress rental turned out to be an amazing problem solver for me, and hopefully it can be for you too! Just use a search engine like Yahoo and type in something along the lines of "dress rental." Many websites allow you to choose quality expensive gowns, and pay a fraction of the cost to borrow it. At websites like Wear Today Gone Tomorrow an average prom gown may range from $30-60.
If renting is not really your style, you can buy a used gown. Many times you can get a dress that has only been worn once- practically new! Try searching the racks at local resale shops, asking around your circle of friends, or surfing websites like www.ebay.com. Many college campuses, and even some high schools have bulletin boards where students can post wanted and for sale ads. Consider putting up a wanted ad stating that you are looking for a dress in your specific size. Give your phone number on little slips of paper so individuals can call you, or send pictures of dresses they may have right to your cell. I have noticed that dress trading and selling amongst peers is becoming more and more popular.
If you're looking for a dress in the off season, you are probably going to discover prices are lower. My final tip is to always buy early if possible. For example, say you plan on going to prom in May. Right now it is only February. It may seem strange, but February could be the perfect time to shop! I have noted that special occasion clothing is often on sale or clearance from July to March. Stores may be eager to get rid of their inventory, and knock down prices because not many people buy prom dresses outside of prom season. They want to encourage your purchase. Take advantage of it! It does not hurt that there won't be many dressing room lines, either.
My personal experience has taught me not to give in to shockingly high dress prices. A smaller budget does not necessarily mean sacrifice. When you shop for your next dress I encourage you to follow my lead and rent, buy resale, or shop off-season!
*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.