When you find the perfect dress, you'll probably experience a fair bit of sticker shock. Good quality dresses can range from a pricey $50 to an obscene $300 or more. If you're funding your own prom experience, the price can be daunting as you weigh the benefits of parting with your hard earned money. If your parents are purchasing for you, you may experience a long debate over the lasting quality of the dress.
Spending $100 or more on a one time use purchase is out of the question for many, but if you'll use it once or twice a year for the next decade – or longer – it's must easier to justify the investment. If you focus on colors, styles and quality that will stand the test of time, you'll be better off in the long run.
A few young starlets have been seen out and about in bold, vibrant colors, such as purple or pink. These colors, while fashionable, fall in and out of favor about as often as the sun sets. At stores, you may see a plethora or pink, but next year it might be green or vivid blue.
There are several colors that are always in fashion. These old stand bys can see you through formal events from dances and banquets to weddings and graduations. Black, muted red and brown are the traditional formal neutrals which flatter nearly all skin shades.
These may seem boring, especially if you're on the cutting edge of fashion. This color never goes out of style, though, and can act as a canvas. Instead of letting your clothing stand out, choose basic dress that flatters your figure and spice it up with sparkly jewelry, novel bags and attractive shoes that reflect your style. This one, simple dress can then embody a variety of styles and appearances, for a one time investment.
Just like color, the cuts and necklines of dresses go in and out of vogue. This year, styles reminiscent of Marylyn Monroe and flamenco dancers were seen on the red carpet. Next year – next month, even – these will be a thing of the fast.
Well fitted cocktail dresses
or long flowing gowns, however, are always fashionable. The perfect cocktail dress should be just the right length, barely above the knee, with a bit of flair in the skirt. For gowns, look for skirts that just barely miss the floor, while you're in heels.
Gowns can often be a good buy because they can be temporarily hemmed for seasons where short is in style, or be expanded with an underskirt of tulle for a fuller look. Both of these alterations are easy to add and later undo to make your gown an extremely versatile, long lasting wardrobe staple.
A traditionally fashionable dress isn't a good buy if it's so poorly made that you'll only get four or five uses from it. Many "boutiques" sell fashionable dresses, but they are often low quality fabric and construction that will run, tear or generally fall apart. Keep your eye on natural fabrics, such as linen, cotton and silk, and steer clear of anything synthetic.
Before you purchase a dress, take a look at the fabric, and examine it for tightness. There should be no loops, snags or other imperfections. Many dresses are silk impersonators, to decrease production costs. These should be avoided, as those fabric types are extraordinarily prone to snagging and running, and cannot be repaired.
If the fabric passes the test, turn the dress inside out and inspect the hem of the common split areas – the zipper, waist and arms. The seam should have tight, neat stitches. Hold the fabric on either side of the seam and tug gently a few times. The stitches should stay tight. If there are any gaps when the seam is pulled, put the dress back. It will fall apart before you know it.