By: Revanche

Bargain Dress Shopping

March 11, 2008

I started this a while ago, but am only just now posting it. Sorry!

E.C. has a dilemma: she needs a dress for a wedding, and would really like to look nice, but she definitely has a budget. I’m don’t know what the dollar amount is, but as I feel a tad bit guilty for posting about my American Apparel dress that was not on sale, and out of her price range, I’ve decided to put together a post to try to help her out.

What are my qualifications? Well, I’m no fashionista, but ever since graduating from college, I’ve needed at least six to twelve dresses per year for work events. They aren’t business dress, nor are they casual. I suppose you could call it a “posh-casual” style. While I can, and do, recycle dresses over the years, I still needed a baseline of about 12 dresses because I see the same people over and over as a representative of my company. Since I love the simplicity of a dress with no fuss, and really suck at accessorizing to make the same outfits look new, I’ve had to become a bit of a dress ninja.

The goal: I love a classy, low-CPW dress but since I’ve always had a restrictive clothing budget, I rarely spend up to $40 on a “casual” dress, even factoring in the extreme difficulty I have in finding any clothing that fits with only minor or no alterations. I define casual as anything that’s not a formal, bridesmaid dress. So these are my suggestions for where to hunt down a wedding appropriate dress under $30. Of course, this is no “look for less” post; I’m a proponent of paying as little as possible for a dress, not spending up to the budget! 🙂

American Apparel: If you check out their sale section, they have that same bandeau jersey dress in what they call “sheer.” Since I don’t know what that means (if it’s … transparent? That wouldn’t be good.) I would call them and ask exactly how sheer is sheer. It’s only $15, but I think they only have XL left, and I don’t know what size you are, or how their sizes run.

If that doesn’t work for you, and you have the following options, I would go to: Ross, Marshall’s, Forever 21, Macy’s.

Ross: Comb through Ross, spend no more than 15 to 20 minutes and only look at dresses. Don’t look at anything else! They generally have a dress section for juniors, but range out of that area because the good stuff travels out.
My best bargain: I found what I call my “date dress.” A minor, amateur alteration to it later, voila! A lovely V-neck purple/red dress with a light pattern of flowers that looks painted on at the bottom, very subtle, for five dollars. That was a lucky find, but it’s worth the effort of checking their selections because I’ve worn it at least a dozen times to weddings and on dates.

Marshall’s: I actually have not personally found anything here, but I know Single Ma swears by their deals, so I had to include it on the list. Again, if you’re a more normal size than I, I guarantee that you’ll have better luck than I have.

Forever 21: Not knowing your sizes, I can’t be sure that this store won’t just frustrate you, but I’ve found that their sizes range quite a bit more now. I used to fit a small there, but now a lot of times I need the XS. It’s variable. Go straight to the dress section, and rifle through. As long as you have your focus directly on dress for wedding, you should be able to eliminate most of the inappropriate/trendy stuff very quickly.
My best bargain: a gold knee-length tube dress with a bit of a sweetheart neckline that I tried on just for kicks, and was shocked to find that I loved it. It ran a little higher than I liked at $27.80, but the almost tapestry fabric made it look very classy, and it’s been worn at least 6 times, also to wedding receptions and banquets. I suggest giving vibrant colors, or unique fabrics a try-on just to see, you might find that you like it a lot more than you expect.

Macy’s: Try prowling the junior’s dress sale section. Don’t waste your time on any of the regular price stuff, and keep a sharp eye out for coupons to combine with the sale. In fact, I should still have an extra 11% off coupon I can send you, if you think you’ll use it.
My best bargain: I found a white and blue halter dress, a very sundress sort of thing, for only $14.99 last summer. Again, it was just in the clearance/sale section, and I didn’t even have a coupon.

I would post pictures and deals from the website, but honestly I find that the selection and prices are always better in-store.

7 Responses to “Bargain Dress Shopping”

  1. Ms. M&P says:

    Great suggestions! The only other thing I would mention are to check the sales at Banana, J Crew, and even ebay (new dresses with tags). I’ve gotten a few dresses under $50 that way!

  2. Ms. M&P says:

    Oh, and their sizes are really standardized, so it’s easy to order online.

  3. Yes.. J.Crew and BR are pretty good for dresses

    But I tend to wait until I see a dress I really love and spend the $100-$150 instead of buying 3 so-so dresses

  4. E.C. says:

    I caved and bought the American Apparel dress. Thanks very much for the coupon code, which was quite valauble since they don’t have a store anywhere around here.

    Incidently, there isn’t a Ross, Macy’s, Marshall’s, or Forever 21 less than about two and a half hours from where I live. Shopping for clothing online is always a bit tricky since sizing and fit can vary so widely, but it can be a great help when the limited local selection doesn’t yield anything useful.

  5. ~Ms. M&P~ Thanks, good call on the Banana and JCrew. I only didn’t mention them because I don’t recall ever managing a sub $30 deal at either one.

    ~FB~ That’s a good rule of thumb for anything we buy, actually. Even if it’s a bargain, you shouldn’t buy it unless you LOVE it and it really flatters you.

    ~e.c.~ You’re quite welcome, I’m glad it came in handy. Don’t you love the dress? What color did you get?

    I’m sorry to hear you don’t have my go-to stores, I wonder if you have a local gem of a bargain store tucked away somewhere.

  6. E.C. says:

    I decided on the cranberry color. I’d been a bit hesitant to wear it to a wedding at a small-town Southern Baptist church (with reception in a high school cafeteria because the church wouldn’t allow dancing in their fellowship hall), but I’m glad I did. I do love the dress, even though it is very different from my usual style.

    In fact, one of my closest guy friends came up to me and said, “I don’t know who picked out that dress, but you look amazing.” So, I should give credit where credit is due.

  7. ~e.c.~ I’m glad you were happy with it, it’s always nice to get a compliment after agonizing over a purchase 🙂

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