How Much Would You Spend on a Prom Dress for Your 17 Year Old?

Updated on April 20, 2017
N.H. asks from Palmyra, PA
26 answers

So I'm a single mother with limited income and my daughter keeps trying on these expensive gowns for junior prom. I told her I would go halves with her on a dress bUT I'm having a hard time getting past spending more than $100 on a dress she'll wear once and never again. Weigh in everyone

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answers from Erie on

I had to pay for my dress, so I made it. Buying velvet and taffeta fabric is a whole lot cheaper, and I was damn proud of it, even if I never wore it again. I learned how to insert the boning in the lining and how to work with tulle for the underskirt. I still use those sewing skills today.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Join some online groups in the neighboring communities and see what prom dresses are being sold off by kids who were them (once) to their prom in recent weeks. Or do the same searching in consignment and resale shops. I do not understand parents who spend as much as i spent on my wedding dress, for a teen to have a dress from prom. You should be able to find something nice for around $100. I found a great dress for my daughter last year to go to a semi-formal for $8. Yes, you read that correctly. EIGHT dollars. Black velvet and red satin. Then, shopping the clearance rack, found her an amazing pair of real leather $100 black pumps for $20.

You will have to put a little work into the shopping, and be willing to spend some time (allow plenty in advance)... but it is definitely doable.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I paid $400 for my daughter's senior prom. I think I did this because she had broken up with boyfriend 3 weeks before prom. It was a beautiful dress. I'm happy to sell. =)

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You should see if there are any consignment stores in your area that specialize in formal wear. There is a high end resale boutique in our area that has a room full of prom dresses...short, long, full, two piece, etc... (I got tired of looking!) They told me that they get new ones in every day. They told me that at the end of the event you can turn around, resell it, and if you use the payout for store credit you'll get 15% off your next gown. They said the girls have it down to a science.

If your daughter has her heart set on one, I see nothing wrong with giving her the $100 and letting her pay the rest.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Be clear about what the schools dress code is for the prom - whether they allow bare shoulders, how much skin is visible, etc.
You don't want to buy something that the school won't allow.
Check out bridesmaids dresses - some are ghastly but every so often you can find a sweet dress.

I hate how many of the dresses look too sexy - it's just not appropriate.
I think this is a nice dress (but it might not be her style):

Buy a used dress if you can.
If you can't then you'll have to buy new.

Make plans to dry clean it right after the prom and then sell it.
You might be able to make back most of what you paid for it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

If you have a budget you need to stick to it. Prom is expensive.

I paid around $700 for my daughter's prom dress that she LOVED and it is gorgeous. She promised to wear it again and she has worn it to 2 other formal occasions. I did splurge but she's my only daughter and I was able to afford it. My target price was $350 or less but this was a Sherry Hill beauty and daughter wanted to wear it again.

That said, if you're on limited income.. check resale websites, local online garage sales.. they are full of prom dresses right now within an affordable price range. My HOA FB page has a sale site and there are some gowns there that were originally $600+ for $100-$200.

Also, a local large church here has FREE high end prom dresses for young girls who can't afford a dream dress. This happens twice a year for prom and Homecoming and it's where people like my daughter donate their beautiful dresses so someone else can enjoy it. Check your local area to see if your area has this. Ours is called Prom Closet and it includes shoes and accessories.

Prom is pricey every way you go. Stay within your means but reach out for other options. A lot of girls, mine included, do wear formal dresses more than once, especially with college functions.

Best wishes to you and your daughter!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Our local thrift shop has a whole rack of prom dresses. You may have to pay for dry cleaning and pressing, but most of them are still in style

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I think this is one area where I'm glad I don't have girls.

Renting or buying a tuxedo, corsage, renting a limo, etc. is not cheap. Tyler and I decided to do this for our oldest who is a senior this year, rent a limo, because we didn't want him to have to drive drowsy home. This way? We know they are safe coming and going.

My son's date? We, actually, went shopping together, for his tux and her dress. Her mom and I sat back while they made choices. Her dress was $150. She already had shoes.She's going to be in a wedding this summer and the bride loved the dress, so she's wearing it twice.

We needed the tuxedo, shoes and corsage, that was $200. Yes, the shoes were expensive.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Twice a year our community puts together a dress diva for high school girls - once for homecoming and once for prom. The dresses are "free" to the girls. As they are donated by people in the community.
(this is the ad from 2 years ago) ^^

Why not go to a thrift shop or consignment shop to find one? She doesn't have to have a brand new one, does she?

If she's set on a brand new one? Check out this website:

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

I have two beautiful prom dresses I would love to sell. One never worn, one worn once then professionally cleaned and stored.

Private message me if you're interested. I understand one income families and would love to help.

To answer your question, I try to stay below $200. I have had the best results with ordering online and sending custom measurements. If you order early enough it's easy and no shipping charges. If you don't then to have it expedited can get expensive. Light in the box and jolly prom are what I've used with success.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I told my daughter that if she wanted an expensive dress for prom that she would have to get a job and buy it herself.
I also suggested to her that she check thrift stores for used dresses that would be a lot cheaper than new ones.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I gave my daughter $100 and let her come up with the rest. I think she paid somewhere around $200 for it. There are plenty of really cute dresses for $200, so I think your plan is just fine. My daughter griped about it but she got over it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

You might be able to have something made for a lot less than buying, and then you get something unique. My wedding dress was custom made and was a lot cheaper than a store bought. Wouldn't have been able to buy my dress style as I had a theme wedding. I helped my dear friend design her wedding dress and my maid of honor dress for her wedding and it came out to a lot less then buying an off the rack. Bonus, it was a one of a kind and got to have the flashes of purple she really wanted on her dress.
I was in choir and wore one particular formal dress until I destroyed it after wearing it to a formal dance originally. Are there any other activities she could wear it to?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I don't remember how much my mother paid for mine, but it wasn't over $100.
I do know that my Senior prom dress was close to 200, but I saved for that and my mom paid to have my nails and hair done.

It's her junior prom, so She should save up for the senior one for next year if she wants an expensive dress.

Try consignment stores, I do know that some department stores have nice prom dresses ( J.C. Penney's) or outlet malls probably would be another place to look.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

She's 17. Does she have a job? If she does, what has she been spending her money on? If she hasn't been saving enough to buy this dress on her own, you shouldn't be paying for an expensive one for her, not even if you are contributing for half of it.

You need to be straight with her here and tell her that she is shopping in the wrong place if she is expecting you to pay more than $100 towards her dress. Tell her what you will contribute and leave it at that. She will have to come up with the difference.

Also make sure that there isn't a dress code for the prom that she could run afoul of. It would be a major problem if she found out at the last minute that she couldn't wear it...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tyler on

Don't buy! RENT! I have used for every single formal dress worn by both of my daughters and even myself for the past 6 years. You can choose a 4 day or 8 day rental and they even send you two sizes! The dresses are famous name label gowns and VERY NICE! You wear the gown, throw it in the postage paid return bag and UPS is back when you are done, it is THAT EASY! The website has photo reviews of actual human beings wearing the dresses so you get an idea of what they look like on something that isn't a size 0 model. It is amazing! We have had so much success and the dresses always draw compliments. My 18 year old daughter is bucking the system a little for her senior prom, but it is only because we have literally not purchased one formal dress for her through high school! Imagine how much I've saved! I know I sound like I work for this website, but I honestly do not. Other sites have started the rental thing like Charlotte's Closet, but I can't vouch for the quality of their clothing. Rent the Runway is awesome!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I spent about $250 for the dress but then the alterations were $125. It killed me to pay that much for alterations but I could see it was a lot of work for the seamstress. My daughter's junior prom dress was less expensive because it only required slight alterations in the back. My daughter ended up wearing the same dress that she wore as a sophomore to her senior prom so I paid nothing for it. (I really wanted to buy her a new dress but she didn't want a new dress and she pointed out that none of her friends saw it anyway.) She wore the same gown to event she had in college so I now feel like it was a bargain.

We were shopping today for my other daughter's 8th grade formal. The department stores were full of prom dresses although I didn't look a the prices. I was really surprised how many they had though versus the last few years. My oldest daughter's dresses came from a local bridal shop.

I also have heard of girls switching prom dresses. Does she have a friend she could borrow one from? I know a few people had offered their daughter's dresses to my daughter but I wanted to have the experience of shopping for a dress with my daughter.

My daughter had friends who bought their dresses from Many of the dresses on sale are around $100

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I would not spend more then $100, I didn't even spend more than that on my wedding dress. It is for one day, its just not worth it. I would give her the $100 and let her know that anything over that is on her.

For my prom I found a simple black dress, I paid $60, and felt beautiful.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I would look into renting one or I would go to a fancy consignment shop. Honestly, I would try to rent because she won't want to wear that same dress to next year's prom! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Have you looked into renting a dress? There are some amazing places that do this. One place is called Rent the Runway. I have never used it personally, but I have read great things.

edit: I just looked at the website and the dress in the 'prom' section seem too mature and expensive in my opinion.

Have you looked for a used dress? Or a local place that rents?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

My daughter found hers at Ross for $30. So...$30. lol Good luck!



answers from New York on

There are so many Facebook sites now that are tag sales. I bet there are lots of prom dresses out there. Beautiful and inexpensive. And consignment shops.



answers from Miami on

Well, if it's just a junior prom then no, I would not spend too much. Leave the spending for senior prom (though do still enforce a budget). I never went to my junior prom...actually, I don't think they had one at my school. I do have a relative that attended junior prom, and she just wore a semi-formal dress, the kind you'd wear to dinner, so nothing fancy. It was something she already had in her closet, a church dress, actually. Perhaps you can find a dress that she could wear again for a formal event, like a NYE party, or a cruise ship dinner. I would not recommend renting a dress, only because you're stuck with whatever you get. I don't know about your daughter, but ever since I hit puberty, I have never been able to find a dress that fit me well -- ever. I am also 5'1", which means every dress will drag past my feet, and that is the least of my issues. Having a bust makes shopping for a dress impossible, unless it is heavily tailored. Obviously, a rental gown cannot be altered, or else it may not fit the next person that wants to rent it, so then she will end up stuck with an ill-fitting dress and will be upset, if other girls have flattering dresses.

What I would do, is check craigslist (lots of former bridesmaids sell their dresses for less than $100, and prom gowns are an easy find), thrift stores, and the department stores like JC Penney's, Bloomingdale's, or Macy's. Here are many dresses that are $100 or less: ...although it seems you will have to do a LOT of weeding. I am not sure what Macy's is thinking in advertising such revealing gowns when pretty much every school out there has some degree of a dress code. Yikes, I had no idea that prom dresses had gotten so trashy, sorry. You might be better off choosing a dress from the women's section or the petite section, to avoid such skimpy gowns. I bought my senior prom dress at Bloomingdale's, and I think it cost me about $200. It was on sale and after having tried on over 30 gowns, my mom was happy to have found something I liked and that fit me well, so she just went for it. Of course, some alterations were involved, but nothing too major. Back then, Jessica McClintock stores were the rage and I wanted to look like one of those princesses in a gown, but none of their dresses fit my bust, so this dress was reminiscent of the Jessica McClintock princess gowns, but cheaper. has some cute gowns that are ridiculously cheap, and with Prime membership, you get free returns. Here are some examples: or or or I shopped a vintage 50s dress on and I was actually surprised by how well it fit. I only had to have it hemmed. In my many years of trying on dresses, this was the first time I did not need to have it taken in at the waist or hip area. Good luck, I'm sure she'll look great in whatever gown you choose, and most importantly, remind her to stay safe and have fun!



answers from Chicago on

I went to a charity resale that sold all the dresses for $5 and shoes for $1 a pair. You were allowed to buy 1 long dress and 1 short dress per teen, and 2 pairs of shoes per teen. Both my girls got dresses and shoes. We have to do some fixing on them but for that price worth it! Look around for similar things in your area.

There are also facebook groups selling used dresses where you can get them for cheaper.

Unless you find a Bridesmaid dress or a dress on clearance it will be hard finding a dress for under $100 unfortunately. Maybe she can pay 1/2 the cost of a dress or you pay $100 and anything over that she has to pay you back for.



answers from Oklahoma City on

It's a twice in a lifetime sort of thing. I wouldn't go drastic but I would expect to pay dress, hair, nails, jewelry, handbag, and shoes all in about $500.

Hair appointments with the hair dressers that do actually pretty hair are more expensive but you go in with a photo of what you want and you turn around and there's that photo of hair on your head. It's about $60-$80 for an updo. If it's intricate it can be over $100.

Shoes can be as expensive as the dress.



answers from San Francisco on

Honestly, I think prom dresses are way overpriced, so my thoughts are going to sound really cheap. I would throw in the $100 and tell her that if she wants something that costs more, she needs to come up with the rest. There are lots of options besides buying an expensive new dress: renting, consignment stores, borrowing, buying one from a friend, looking for sales, etc. I bought my prom dress off the deep discount sale rack at Penney's and it was beautiful. Not the most glamorous place to shop but it worked. Good luck!

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