Formal Dress Shopping Tips

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I used to work as a manager in Juniors Fashion. I’ve worked for companies such as Contempo Casuals/Wet Seal and Clothestime. These retailers are gone now. Once you work in the fashion, you learn information that will always remain relevant.

When you shop for a formal dress, you can have a lot of fun but it can become overwhelming. These are my recommendations if you’re looking to buy a dress this year.

The first thing you need to consider is the dress going to be something you will resell. If you will resell take into consideration, you will lose your investment. If you pay $250 for a dress, you might not even get $150 for in return. You might not want to spend as much money on a dress in that case.

If you’re keeping the piece or you’re passing it on later you need to be more considerate about the dress. The dress is an investment piece at this point.

For example, the two-piece dresses or cut-outs are a favorite right now. However, they might not be popular a few years down the line. 

A basic solid color dress ensures the piece will last you a long time. Styling can take it from basic to formal. A classic black dress with pearls or a statement necklace can be a showstopper. Colored shoes can add a pop of color. Almost any basic dress can be dressed down or up with the right belt or jacket. 

A basic dress can be used again formal dinners, job interviews, holidays, and parties. The possibilities are endless. Hence why some dresses are investment pieces. If you buy a solid dress, it can be used for years to come.

You need to make sure you’re checking the quality of these dresses before you buy them. Check the return and exchange policy before ordering dresses as most are final sale. 

I want to stress you should inspect the dress. You want to inspect the inside of the garment be sure the seams are clean. Check for loose threads if you see any get another dress. Check the darts because having one pop while dancing will make your dress lose the shape in the bust. My daughter has a Forever 21 dress that has lasted years. Price is not an indicator of quality. I have had expensive pieces from Nordstrom fall apart after one wearing. 

Beading or gemstones you want to make sure they will not come off. With a lace dress, you want to make sure that if the lace is stretched a little, the lace will not rip. Bend over, dance, jump, and pull up the skirt like you would if you were going to the restroom. You want to make sure you can move in the dress with nothing tearing. You want to be sure you can go to the bathroom. Some dresses require help. Not something you want to find out after drinking water or punch. 

If you don’t know where to start Google and Pinterest can help.  Run a keyword search but add useful terms like trends or the year.

Money problems can make finding an affordable homecoming dress hard. You can go to Forever 21 and buy a basic dress and style the dress for under $100, heck even $50. You could wear a basic black dress and style your hair in a formal do and adding accessories. A ten dollar dress can be fancier than an expensive dress.

If you find a necklace you like and say, it’s $100 try Googling the name of your jewelry and then add knockoff. How many similar things you can find on eBay or Amazon will surprise you.

By adding the perfect accessories and right shoes, even a potato sack can be formal. 


Inexpensive shoes can mimic designers shoes with a glue gun and know how. You can buy earrings from Forever 21. You can cut the post off and glue them to the shoe to make them look elegant for less. Visit the jewelry making department of Joann's or Michaels. Adorn your shoes or dress this is a good way to replicate a fancier dress for less. Coupons for both stores are online and in the paper. 

You can buy cheap shoes and add bling. Not everyone can afford Manolo's.

If you are having a hard time finding something you like,  consider other alternatives. Take the pretty in Pink route and re-purpose an old dress you found thrifting with some dye or by shortening it.   

You can buy a pattern and have someone make the dress for you. 

A beaded dress or a ball gown can be overdone fast. Less is more with the accessories. Styling is everything. Some dresses need nothing else added to them. Sometimes we put more thought into the dress than anything else. Can end up feeling like it needed a little something. Do not forget to make sure you purchase accessories that coordinate with your gown.

Last do not let makeup scare you makeup is optional. Go to Sephora and ask for help if you do not know how to use or buy makeup. They can do your homecoming makeup for you. YouTube tutorials are very helpful. 

If you cannot, afford makeup Tatai, Emily Noel, Jessica Braun, and Zabrena on YouTube can help. They do a lot of videos on drugstore makeup. Some ninety-nine cent makeup by Wet and Wild and e. l. f. are amazing for the price. 

Homecoming should be fun and shopping for a dress should be too. I hope these tips will make shopping easier. 

Formal Dress Shopping Tips. #prom #winterformal #homecoming