Dress to Impress: The Ultimate Prom Dress Shopping Guide

Vintage prom dresses at Shindig Alley
Vintage prom dresses at Shindig Alley
Becky Mignot

Prom, the dance many students have been waiting for since they were kids. Since they first saw the girl in the beautiful dress walk over to the guy she loved in all the early 2000s movies, but with it now becoming a reality the dilemma on most people’s minds is what to wear?

In Store

As many students scramble to find places to find dresses it becomes clear that there aren’t many stores within State College, meaning one may have to travel a little bit to find the dress of their dreams.

Formalities

Located in Bellefonte, Formalities is a small business run by Trisha Fisher that offers the typical prom dress styles. From sleek satin silver looks to radiant red ruffles, there is a look for everyone. Appointments are not necessary but can be booked on their website that also offers a look into some of the designers and dresses they carry. So, if a student has a packed schedule, it allows them to pick their dress online, jot down the style number and try on that dress as soon as they step in the store. 

Glass Slipper Project

Out of kindness, dresses are donated to the Glass Slipper Project located in Altoona allowing students to try on and take home used prom dresses for free. 

“It’s a charity organization where people can donate their prom dresses and then people can come in and it’s not need-based, anyone can go in and you get a prom dress for free,” junior Genavieve Clayton said. 

There are many different types of donated dresses to search through to find your perfect dress that was once someone else’s perfect dress.

“Mine is light blue, it’s simple and long with sparkly details at the top, it didn’t actually fit me at first but I was like it’s free, and my Nana’s a tailor, so she’s going to adjust it for me,” Clayton said.

Their website offers more insight on their organization and events coordinated with it. It is also a great opportunity to donate any dresses after prom is over, if you don’t intend on keeping the dress. 

Shindig Alley 

If a more vintage or thrifted vibe is what a student is looking for, Shindig Alley located in Philipsburg offers many different and fun options. Dresses from the early 2000s, 90s and even earlier are offered at low prices because of their secondhand nature. Racks of vintage dresses line the walls with dressing rooms offered in order to try the dresses on. Most dresses are cheaper than normal prom dresses ranging anywhere from $80-$300. No appointment is needed; they are open all days except Monday and Tuesday and are opened 10-6pm most days. 

XOFormals

The store located inside the King of Prussia Mall in Philadelphia offers a variety of dresses to look through. Appointments can be booked on their website  to secure a time to go through all their dresses.

The list of brands on their website gives a look into the types of dresses they have in stock before trying them on in store. The dresses are in the usual price range for prom dresses being anywhere from $150- $500. From sparkly to floral, they have many different dresses to explore before the final prom dress is found. 

“I really wanted a green dress so I picked up every green dress on the shelves and tried them on and I really liked having a fun back,” junior Addison Harpster said.

Knowing that a dress is good quality and will last a night of dancing is an important factor when picking a dress 

“At XOFormals I put the dress on and I knew I liked the quality of it and it was what I was looking for,” said Harpster. 

Shopping for the perfect prom dress in stores is an experience many people dream of.

”It’s just fun to find a dress in person. It’s very ‘Say Yes to The Dresswhich is what I want to be living everyday,” junior Audrey Shaner said. 

The pros and cons of shopping in-store versus online is one many students have different opinions on. Some like not having to travel to find dresses and find the exact one they are looking for online. While others prefer shopping in stores and getting to try each dress on to know how they fit before they get them. 

“I browsed online but I hate shopping online so I didn’t buy anything online and I really like being in stores because I don’t really know my size and it changes throughout every store,” Harpster said. 

Many students use the internet for inspiration but not necessarily to buy from.

“I looked online for inspiration, but something that is as big and could be as expensive as a prom dress ,I don’t want to buy it online. I feel like shopping online could be hard because I don’t always know my size,” Clayton said.

Online 

Trying to balance school, extracurriculars and sports can be hard on a student and finding the perfect dress can be even harder. Especially when, to the dismay of students, there is a lack of options for dress shops within State College.

“It drives me crazy because I went to a prom dress place last year just to look and I had to go so far and I didn’t even like any of the dresses. So it’s frustrating that to get any dress here, there’s only Urban Outfitters and everyone just has the same dress,” Shaner said.

Here are some online options for those who can’t make it  in-store  or would rather just get the dress sent straight to their door. 

Windsor + Lulus

When people ask where dresses are from in TikTok comment sections most of the time the answers are Windsor or Lulus. Being online stores both sites offer a vast amount of dresses. Both sites also offer features where you can specify size, color, neckline and shape. This feature helps to refine your search to hopefully find your perfect prom dress. Most dresses are more modern, not like 2000s or 90s type styles but a variety of styles are offered. 

Depop

The most well known online thrift store among students, Depop has a large selection of all types of dresses. Modern, 2000s, 90s, sparkly, feathery, Depop probably has it, with people selling their old dresses at a cheaper price for anyone to buy. Like other online sites, a sidebar with areas to refine your search into exactly what you want is offered. Individual sellers post pictures of their dresses with an asking price, but often they can be bargained down to a lower price. This allows people to find a unique dress for a reasonable price. This allows people to find a unique dress for a reasonable price.

Trends

This year’s prom dress style is one that has been heavily debated on TikTok with users comparing “Easter” prom dresses to “normal” ones, impacting the decisions of some students. 

Dresses deemed “Easter” and not prom attire were ones that were more floral, loose and simple. While “normal” dresses were bright sparkly and extravagant. 

“So whenever I was little I really liked the sparkly, shimmery dresses like that so even though mine isn’t like that, it still fits the prom dress I’d say, rather than these florals” Harpster said. 

Prom is a highly anticipated event for many students during their time in high school, so many want a dress that they can love.

“I feel like wear whatever you want to Prom, I mean wear something nice because it is a nice event, but wear whatever you like and whatever you are comfortable in,” Clayton said.

No matter what dress you choose or where you choose to get it from, have fun with your search and look out for Prom tickets being sold soon!

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