Nestled between homecoming and prom, the winter formal is a festive way to kick off the new year. It helps combat post-holiday blues and distracts dance-goers from the fact spring is still a few months away.
Though the timing of this dance is ideal for teenagers, it couldn’t come at a worse time budget-wise. Families still recovering from the spend-heavy holidays may not have much in the way of cash for formalwear. Thankfully, there are several frugal ways to find “the dress” without breaking the bank.
1. Shop Second-Hand
The best way to save on formalwear is to buy it second-hand. Since most girls wear formal gowns only once and never again, it makes sense (and cents!) to buy them for a fraction of the original price. If you don’t have a Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange in your area, head online to LikeTwice.com for several brands including BCBGMaxazria, Ralph Lauren and Banana Republic.
2. Swap With Friends
If you’re short on time and cash, consider organizing a dress swap with your closest friends. You’ve likely coveted the formal look of a friend recently, and this is your opportunity to showcase her style in your own unique way. Plus, you can make a party out of the exchange and gossip about your big night.
3. Be Frugal (for Now)
Ultimately, there’s no reason to spend a bundle on a dress that will be worn less than 12 hours. Save the bulk of your dress money for prom and pick up a trendy frock for your winter formal on the cheap. You can even shop online for deals by going to FreeShipping.org for coupon codes to places like Forever 21 for additional savings.
4. When in Doubt, LBD
You may dream in color and sequins, but ultimately you can’t go wrong in style or budget with a classic little black dress. Glam it up with inexpensive baubles from Claire’s or Charming Charlie, or peruse the clearance section of department stores such as Macy’s or Lord & Taylor.
5. Reinvent Your Fave
Do you love the cut of a dress you wore before but don’t want to show up in the same ol’ gown? Reinvent your floor length fave by getting it tailored to a shorter look. Alternatively, you can lengthen a shorter dress by asking a tailor to add a chiffon overlay for a very trendy look.
6. Rent for Less
Though your winter formal isn’t quite as fancy as prom, you still want to feel like royalty when you step onto the dance floor. For the best in designer gowns, check out RenttheRunway.com and consider renting your dress for less than $100.
7. Be a Bridesmaid
You can find great formal attire at bridal shops in the form of bridesmaid dresses. Peruse the clearance rack and ask sales associates to point you toward the dresses available for take-home. The tradeoff in price is buying something many people have tried on before you. Be sure to get the dress dry cleaned before the main event.
Kendal Perez is a frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. As the marketing coordinator for Kinoli Inc., site manager for a family of money-saving websites, Kendal has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as People StyleWatch, TIME Business & Money, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Health Magazine, FOX broadcast and many more. For savings tips and more information, visit HassleFreeSavings.com.