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How to get a prom dress for less

Prom may be the best night ever for high school students, but for their parents, it promises to be one of the most expensive nights ever.

In recent years, the cost of prom has been increasing more than 30 percent each year, according to some estimates. A Visa study found prom costs for 2013 averaging $1,203 per person in the South Atlantic region. If the trend continues, this year prom expenses could run just over $1,500.

A big part of that expense is the dress. In the metro area, girls began shopping for dresses in December. Depending on the style, prom dresses can cost several hundred dollars. For many girls and their parents, it is a splurge they don’t mind making, but as Melissa Baxter, owner of Back By Popular Demand/Forever Young consignment stores, points out, few things lose value faster than a prom dress.

“If you bring me a dress you paid $900 for, I am going to sell it for $350 at the most, which means you get half of that,” Baxter says.

Baxter’s prom business grew so quickly, she began buying dresses wholesale to supplement her consignment inventory. With thousands of dresses priced from $49 to $299, the store has become such a resource, Baxter had to institute a five-dress rule — on any given visit, a girl (and her entourage) can select only five dresses to try on. The rule, she says, is to make sure the girl is focusing on what she really wants, not what everyone else wants her to wear.

Popular styles this year are heavily influenced by fashion runways and the red carpet. Girls are going mad for two-piece dresses, dresses with flesh-toned netting and trumpet styles, says Baxter, who stocks popular brands such as Jovani and Sherri Hill.

While savvy shoppers may try to buy a dress with resale value in order to sell it later, Baxter says don’t do it. “You buy that dress for you because you love it,” she says.

If you can’t or don’t want to spend a lot of money dressing for prom, here are a few other options for getting a stylish prom dress for less.

Dress giveaways

Typically reserved for girls who can’t afford to spend a lot on dresses, some of these events may require a reference, application or appointment. Some of the donated dresses may be used, but some are also brand-new off-the-rack donations, so it is possible to get an updated, stylish look through a dress giveaway.

Becca’s Closet: For more than a decade, this organization has helped girls get dressed for prom. Check the website ( for dates and locations of giveaway events sponsored by affiliate organizations throughout the metro area. Some groups are in the dress gathering phase, while others are already holding giveaways.

Operation Prom: Guys and gals can get formalwear through Operation Prom. The organization also provides school supplies and scholarships to those in need. Check the website ( for local chapters and contact them directly for information on how to receive free formalwear.

Consignment stores

Prom dresses on consignment is a booming business. There are a few local resale outlets that load up on prom gowns to offer a great selection, generally at about 75 percent off retail costs.

Back By Popular Demand/Forever Young: Thousands of prom dresses are available year-round priced from $49 to $299. Sizes go up to 22. Some new styles are mixed in with consigned styles. Check the website ( for additional details. Forever Young, 4915 Lawrenceville Highway, Suite C, Lilburn, 678-684-6694.

Le Dress: Specializing in formal dresses, this boutique offers a range of styles for prom. You can see much of the current inventory online ( No appointment is necessary for special occasion dresses. Le Dress, 206-B Johnson Ferry Road N.E., Sandy Springs, 404-842-1955. Closed on Mondays.

Other resources

Don’t overlook department stores or online shopping when seeking an affordable prom dress. At department stores, you can probably find coupons to get a percent discount off the selection of prom gowns. If you shop online, you can find low-cost dresses at retailers such as, H&M and other purveyors of fast fashion. Check this online retailer ( for styles that can work for prom. Pricing ranges from under $100 to over $500. Look for additional discounts via promo codes. Use code USWELCOMETREAT to get $10 off any order of $100 or more for first-time shoppers.

David’s Bridal: The White by Vera Wang collection has a range of bridesmaids dresses suitable for prom for under $200.

Duck Tape: It doesn’t get much cheaper than making a prom dress out of Duck Tape. Enter the “Stuck on Prom” competition ( and win scholarship money for your creatively designed Duck Tape prom dress.

Macy’s: Visit for a special section of prom dresses $99 or less.

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