Prom is approaching fast, and teenagers across the country are scrambling to be best dressed. Luckily, looking good doesn't have to break the bank. Your dress can be unique and cheap. Save your money for the after party -- below are five tips for finding a dress you can afford.
1. Utilize targeted search tools on dress websites. This tip is short and sweet: David's Bridal, PromGirl, Nordstrom and Lulu's all have entire sections of their websites devoted to gowns under $100. Use them wisely. Get this gorgeous blue long strapless mesh dress with beaded waist from David's Bridal for $59.50, or wear this daring black two-piece open back stretch gown from Nordstrom for $98.
2. Buy a dress secondhand. Post on Facebook, Twitter or Craiglist that you're looking for a dress, and the offers will roll in. eBay recommends messaging the seller ahead of time to set up a return policy where you can send the dress back if it comes to you with stains or tears. Better yet, buy from a reputable source like Cassandra Stone, Tony Bowls or Hailey Logan. If you want to go straight to the source, the Dress List offers a ton of options, as does Preowned Party Dresses. This animal-patterned dress for $75 is a fun, exotic option that will get your peers talking, and this $60 sequined dress lets you show some leg with a slit up the side.
3. Play with styles. Cocktail-length prom dresses tend to be cheaper than long ones because they have less material. ModCloth has dozens of dresses that look fancy but end above the knee, including this one for $55 and this one for $45. If you go with a more casual short number, try dressing it up with accessories. Wear this $29 pink slim sleeveless lace sheath dress from TBDress to look classy at dinner or this $69 short gold sequin dress by Ruby Rox to glitter under the dance floor lights. As for shoes, Teen Vogue says you can't go wrong with basic black pumps.
4. Rent a dress. Face it, you're only going to wear this dress once anyway. Why not rent it? Check out Rent the Runway, which rents out designer dresses at a serious discount. They'll let you rent the same dress in two sizes so you're still covered if one doesn't fit. Make a new account to get $25 off your first rental. This $100 Badgley Mischka shoreline dress hugs your curves but covers you up to the neckline -- less is more, you know? Or try this modest but formal Calvin Klein Roryi gown for $70.
5. Plan ahead for next year. It's probably too late to get the crazy sales for this prom season, but remember to go bargain-hunting at the end of the month. Many stores will put their entire prom dress stock on sale in an effort to make room for new merchandise. Set aside a few hours to comb through clearance racks with your friends. Opt for classic styles that won't look outdated when you wear them next year. Be patient, and you're sure to eventually find a gem.