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3 Ways You Can Save Money on a Prom Dress

3 Ways You Can Save Money on a Prom Dress

My senior prom dress was a floor-length, beaded, navy blue nightmare. Yes, you read that right. It was a nightmare for a lot of reasons.

First of all, it was sexy. Which, I guess for some, is not a nightmare, but looking back I see it now for what it was—way too sexy for a high school senior. A floor-length, navy blue, beaded number (we’ll get to those dreaded beads in a second); it was something you’d see on a Miss America contestant. It was tight; I’m talking skin-tight—so much so that it was hard to breathe and impossible to enjoy the only mildly appetizing prom food. The slit up to my mid-thigh was definitely not age-appropriate.

Second, the beads…oh, the beads! Why did we love those beads in the ’90s, ladies? Why? By the end of the night, my arms had bead burn so badly I could barely move them. Dancing, out of the question. My poor date probably racked up fee upon fee for returning his rented polyester tux with a plethora of pulls from those jagged things. The beads were not my friend.

Perhaps the most important and most damaging hit to this dress was the cost. It was way too expensive and not at all in line with our family’s budget. It goes without saying that I purchased this on a solo shopping expedition; my mother would have never approved, and we would have argued for days on end over the cost and the look. I’m not sure how I managed to win the argument after bringing it home; my memory on that is quite fuzzy. I would guess that I wore my mom down with my persistence and that I probably offered to pay for at least part of it with my salary as a grill cook at our local takeout. One thing I am certain of is that this dress was way beyond our budget. Prom usually is a drain on the budget.

Looking back, it seemed simpler—I bought a dress, some shoes, and chipped in for a limo. But talking to parents of high schoolers now, it’s not so easy. There are expenses beyond my wildest dreams, and they can add up quickly.

But what if our dresses didn’t have to be so expensive?

Unlike the late 1990s, when I was prom dress shopping, there are options today. With formal gown rental sites and thrift stores popping up at a startling rate, it seems as if someone got the memo that paying a lot for a formal dress is so last decade. We, here at Grit and Grace, love a good deal almost as much as we love looking fabulous.

So, we pulled together three amazing options to get a fabulous prom dress on the cheap just for you.

1. Style Lend

Think of your favorite social media influencer. Think of their fabulous style and seemingly limitless wardrobe. Now, think about a rental site that allows you to rent right from them. Genius, right? StyleLend marries e-commerce with influencers and what happens is brilliant. Influencers can sign up to be a Lender, allowing non-influencers like you and me to rent from their trend-setting closets.

Considering most influencers are largely influencing teenagers and young adults, this is the perfect platform for prom and formal dress shopping. With a little bit of everything for everybody, the dress options here are plenty. You can get a brand name, trending dress for a fraction of the cost with a bonus: bragging rights that it’s “Insta-famous.” Perfect for all of your formal needs, StyleLend is a genius option. And do you want to know what the best part is? No washing or dry cleaning involved. Simply bag it up and return it after the night is done.

2. Poshmark

Oh Poshmark, we do love you. You allow us to feel better about impulse purchases we can’t return. You help us make extra cash on old clothes that no longer fit. You help us cash in instead of lose out on fashion mistakes and are a seller’s paradise. But there’s more to this great site typically lauded for selling clothes and making money.

Poshmark is also a great place for the budding bargain fashionista, especially during formal season. A quick search for “formal dresses” serves up pages and pages of beautiful gowns at rock-bottom prices. With everything from floor-length formal gowns to cute and sassy cocktail dresses, Poshmark has a vast selection of dresses perfect for proms, formals, and everything in between. Adding to the fun are the accessory and shoe options available—allowing you to put your entire high-end formal look together at a fraction of the cost.

Here are 3 ways for moms to save on prom dress shopping for your teen daughter!

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3. Thrift Stores

We’d like to thank Marie Kondo and the minimalist movement for making thrifting fashionable again. Yes, now is the perfect time to take your thrift store habit to the next level. More than ever, people are lightening their loads and shedding excess material goods. Formal dresses, those are among the first to go. With the exception of the little black dress, formal dresses are generally considered one and done items. Yes, we may say we’re going to wear them again, but for the most part, we don’t.

Now that we’re all cleaning out our closets and donating clothes left and right, thrift stores are the perfect place to shop for great deals on second-hand prom attire. It might take some more work than shopping a traditional store, but thrifting has its own cache these days and it’s bound to be more fun with a friend—pouring through racks filled with everything from old concert t-shirts, vintage Levi’s, and beautiful, gently worn brand name prom dresses. Once shunned, thrifting is now embraced and a great vintage formal find not only will have you looking beautiful and unique on the dance floor, it will also give you major street cred as a “fashion recycler” among your friends.

So, whether you rent it, Posh it, or thrift it, wear it with confidence as a woman of grit and grace.


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Meaghan is the most extroverted introvert you’ll ever meet. An East Coast transplant living in Texas, she spends most of her time wrangling 3 kids, her husband, and a giant dog. When she finally gets a free minute you can either find her tucked in on the couch with a good book or in the kitchen, attempting to create magical meals (and sometimes succeeding).

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