Whether you like it or not, there are times that you’ll have to dress up in something a little more formal — anything from more formal club parties, academic department shindigs to fraternity or sorority formals. To make it even worse, you’re going to run into occasions when thrift store suits or dresses just won’t cut it. Luckily, there are plenty of solutions out there. The options run the gamut of affordable to a little bit pricier, but in the end, what matters is that, one, you look good, and two, that you feel comfortable and confident in your formalwear. Here’s a look at some places to get these new digs.
1. Rent the Runway
If you’re looking for something formal, why not rent? Mostly focused on designer dresses and other accessories, Rent the Runway offers a huge array of styles, from the likes of Vera Wang, Reem Acra, Opening Ceremony and much, much more.
Items that are often out of reach for most people can be a part of your “look,” and the 4 to 8-day rentals can sometimes go for as little as 10% of the clothing’s retail price. Just wait a few days for shipping, and when you’re done with it, just put it in a pre-labeled bag and send it back via UPS. And don’t worry about fit — each package comes with a backup size. There are some brick-and-mortar locations, but really, the big selling point of Rent-the-Runway is just doing it all online.
2. David’s Bridal
Don’t be fooled by the name either: It’s not just for weddings. In addition to wedding and bridesmaid’s dresses, David’s Bridals offers up dresses for nice parties too. David’s Bridal doesn’t offer the option to rent, but at some point, it makes more economic sense to buy instead. After all, this isn’t going to be the last time that you wear something formal, right? Check them out when you’re planning to rub shoulders at an academic department get-together, or a nice end-of-year event with whatever club you’re a member of. Order online from the comfort of your home, and delivery is usually quick and painless.
3. Nordstrom Rack
You’ve heard of Nordstrom, right? Here’s the affordable cousin to the luxury retailer, which sells its pieces for 30% to 70% of the original price. The Nordstrom Rack site is easy to use, and if something doesn’t fit right, you can always swing by one of their 249 physical locations to return it. Sometimes the looks aren’t exactly as new as at the original, pricier version of the store, but if you’re going to a formal event, no one’s necessarily going to inspect your tags to make sure you’re not wearing last season’s jacket.
4. DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse
You need shoes, right? Shoes complete whatever outfit you’re planning out — trust me, quirky Chuck Taylor’s with your tuxedo or dress isn’t going to cut it anymore. Buying online means perusing everything the store has to offer, and ordering is easy. There are plenty of deals to pick from at DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse: Get up to 50% off women’s clearance (same deal for men’s, too). You can pick up formal shoes anywhere, but too often, skimping on the price means sticking your feet into something that feels like plastic prop shoes. People can tell when you’re straining because of uncomfortable footwear, and if you’re doing some schmoozing at a formal event, you want to be in the zone.
5. Bauble Bar
You need accessories too. After all, that little extra goes a long way to make any outfit feel complete. Bauble Bar has cut out the middleman to sell directly to you. You can check out the countless items for sale on their website. Rihanna and Selena Gomez have used the retailer, but even if you’re not a celebrity, you can still get up to 70% off so many products. Tie together that perfect outfit for any sorority or fraternity formal.
6. Kendra Scott
More accessories here: Everything above applies at Kendra Scott, although its easy-to-use website also includes the brand’s helpful Color Bar. You can actually custom design a piece of jewelry to fit you own tastes and needs; it’s perfect if you’re creative, and want to look unique while trying to impress one of your professors at a nice, upscale mixer.