Prom 2012: The Best Places to Find Affordable Prom Dresses

by Jane Magaro, Cheapism.com

On prom night, you can look like a million bucks but spend just a fraction of that amount by scoring a stylish but cheap prom dress for less than $100. Whether your style is edgy modern or evening elegant, snagging the perfect dress at a bargain price is easy with Cheapism's list of the best places to find cheap prom dresses.

Online stores. If you're shopping online, surf right past the online sites of major, brick-and-mortar clothing stores and check out the sites of smaller fashion retailers like ASOS and Modcloth. Fashionistas flock to the UK-based ASOS for cutting-edge street style, and its hundreds of affordable dresses run the gamut from racy to ruffled. The retailer sells dresses from its house label as well as other designers, such as this black evening dress from Reverse with a hi-lo hemline.

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For girls looking for vintage-inspired or indie prom dresses, Modcloth's prom dresses are incredibly cute and incredibly cheap. Its $90 Prettiest of All dress mixes retro lace with a modern cut and of-the-moment ombre trend. While you may not be able to try on the dresses before you buy, the huge selection of party dresses and low prices available on sites like these make up for it. Just be sure you understand the retailers' return policies and order well in advance of your prom's date to account for shipping delays or any necessary alterations.

Designer collaborations. Access high-end designer styling at down-to-earth prices by buying a dress from a collaborative collection between a designer and a lower-priced retailer. Marni, Rodarte, Jason Wu, and Vera Wang are just a handful of the many clothing designers who've created collections for main street stores like Target, H&M, and Kohl's. Look for Alberta Ferretti's collaboration with Macy's, which will be hitting stores this April - it features several, bold, prom-ready dresses that look like they walked right off the runway.

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Fast fashion stores. Always a fantastic source for high style on a low budget, retailers like H&M, Forever 21, Zara, and Topshop offer stylish cocktail and evening dresses all year round. Since part of these stores' appeal is their edgy, right-from-the-runway styles, your prom dress will be on-trend with current spring/summer fashions. And since they're not labeled as prom dresses, you'll score an affordable cocktail or party dress without the prom dress price tag.

Bridal and bridesmaid shops. Very little differentiates a bridesmaid's dress from a prom dress, so scour local bridal shops and online bridesmaids' dress stores for a deal on a prom-ready dress. David's Bridal, for instance, is a popular destination for prom dress shoppers and offers a selection of prom looks for less than $100. Bridesmaids' dresses are an especially good fit if you're looking for a prom dress that reads "elegant."

Department stores. Aside from their designer collaborations, department stores like Kohs's and Macy's also offer beautiful evening and formal dresses, and they ramp up their offerings for prom season. Nordstrom's Prom Style Guide sorts prom looks by trend -- bold colors, neutrals, and shine and sparkle are hot categories this year -- and offers dozens of options under $100. Kohl's Prom Shop showcases affordable prom dresses and matching accessories, including shoes and handbags, making your 2012 prom outfit a snap to put together.

Prom dress rentals. If you need more than one prom dress for multiple prom nights (lucky you!) or only a designer dress will do for your big night, rent your prom dress online or from a local formalwear shop. Starting at $50 a pop, RentTheRunway loans designer dresses, making high fashion affordable at a fraction of a dress's retail price. At Lending Luxury, you can choose from dozens of short or long dresses that rent for $100 or less. Renting your prom dress means you save big bucks -- and closet space, too.

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