Prom fashion is all about choice this year.
Strapless, halter or one-shoulder style? Long, short or in-between? Black, white or bright? Solid color or jazzy print? Plain or embellished with sequins, crystals, rhinestones?
And that’s just the dress.
Shoes: heels or flats? Accessories: handbag or clutch? Necklace, bangles, earrings — or all three?
But for many girls this prom season, the big question is not about style. It’s about cost. In many households, budgets are tighter than they’ve been in years. There is no money for splurging on high-priced prom outfits. But that doesn’t mean you have to step out on prom night looking less than lovely.
Here are ways to cut back on costs — but not glamour.
• Shop around. Most stores, anticipating the economic downturn, stocked up on moderately priced prom dresses.
At the Forever 21 chain at the Mall at Millenia in Orlando, Fla., for example, dressy designs can be found for about $25. At Macy’s and Dillard’s, short prom dresses start at $79 — and some are already on sale for even less. Dillard’s also is offering $45 worth of gift certificates with the purchase of a regularly priced prom dress on April 17-19.
• Shop thrift and consignment stores. This is an especially good year to find prom bargains, says Cheryl Wood, owner of Classic Consignments in Altamonte Springs and Winter Park, Fla., where prices start at $19.99. “Lots of stores are closing, and we’re getting their inventory,” she says.
• Shop at school. A number of high schools have collections of donated prom attire and accessories, which are free to students from all area high schools.
• Shop online. But remember, there’s no guarantee the dress will fit properly when it arrives, and shipment may be delayed — so allow time for dealing with such problems.
• Shop short. Short dresses often cost less than long gowns and are very much in fashion this year. They’re also more useful than long gowns after the prom is a mere memory.
• Shop simple. Unadorned, clean-cut designs are generally less expensive than elaborate styles. Dress up plain dresses with glitzy accessories or sew on your own trimmings — beads, sequins, flowers, feathers, etc.
• Beg, borrow or trade. Friends and relatives are sure to have jewelry, evening bags, even shoes you can use.
• Buy flats. They often cost less than heels, are more comfortable for dancing and come in really cute styles. Besides, under a long dress, on a dark and crowded dance floor, shoes are virtually invisible.
• Skip the fancy, high-priced hairdo. Keep your hair simple and natural (guys prefer it that way), but dress it up with a decorated headband. They cost just a few dollars, or are easy to make by gluing craft-store silk flowers onto drug-store headbands.
• Get a cut-rate hairdo. Ask if your salon is offering special prom rates. Or check with hairstyling colleges, where the cost of services is far lower than at salons.
• Skip the costly makeover. You can do your own nails and makeup. Just don’t leave your nails to the last minute. And remember that practice makes perfect.