Can you hear that? The rustling of satin and the soft clink of heels on floors so well-buffed it’s nearly an OHS issue? Formal season is upon us and it’s time to get ready to get polished up… only to inevitably get messy at the very unsanctioned after-party.
When it comes to the question of what to wear, the formal season can be a bit of a challenge. Wanting to break necks when you walk in the room with your formal dress, versus not bankrupting yourself with a designer buy is a difficult balance to strike.
Some of us also want to wear our formal dress again in regular life—check out our guide on how to rewear your clothes.
Then there’s the question of whether you even want to buy your formal dress as all: tonnes of options for renting dresses have cropped up in recent years and they’re often a really good shout if you want something super special, without a huge price tag.
We’ve got the low down on a tonne of options for affordable formal dresses. Get fancy.
Maybe you’re on a budget, maybe you don’t need to own your formal dress, maybe you’re an extreme minimalist and can’t imagine adding another item to the five you own (no judgement, just awe).
Renting a formal dress is an excellent and affordable way to get fancy without getting into debt. Glam Corner offers both one-time rentals on a giant array of ~occasion~ dresses and month by month memberships for renting clothes. Get the pic, save ur coin.
This South Yarra boutique specialises in designer dress hire and ships Australia-wide, praise be. Their well-curated selection of affordable formal dresses for formals has you covered, quite literally. Mini-dress or full length?
Similar but different to the above dress renting options, The Volte is the self-proclaimed AirBnB of dresses. The site allows you to list your own dresses for other people to rent, or rent a dress from someone else. Sharing is caring!
You can find formal dresses from Sass & Bide, Manning Cartell and Bec + Bridge to rent for a clean $50. Niiiiice.
Bec + Bridge (and Kookai and Sir The Label)
Now, wait a second, you might be wondering why Aussie label Bec + Bridge is making it onto an affordable formal dress round-up. Well, first of all, never pay full retail—the sale section is your friend. But what we wanted to highlight here is a number of brands, specifically Bec + Bridge, Kookai and Sir The Label that have very active reselling and renting Facebook groups in Australia. Seriously, thinking about 440 posts a day just makes me tired.
Have a search of the groups by your size to find these covetable dresses at a much lower price point. And if you’re after a specific dress you can also post in the group asking if anyone is keen to rent or sell it, easy.
Hansel & Gretel
Girly, but with a bit of edge. Hansel & Gretel is one of our go-tos for dresses inspired by classic femininity for a modern context. They’re stocked by a number of retailers but we highly recommend stalking them on The ICONIC where you can nab the perf formal-then-all-the-time dress for a steal.
Uh… can we talk about how nice these dresses are for relatively inexpensive they are? Fans of Victoria Tik’s line include the likes of Chrissy Teigen, Kim Kardashian, Laverne Cox, Lea Michele, Lana Del Rey, and Leighton Meester—a pretty diverse mix but it makes sense when you see the dresses.
Frock LA strikes the perfect balance of sleek, sexy, modern and classic, and you can feel good about the fact they’re made of high-quality no-pill eco-friendly fabrics and are pretty low-maintenance (the entire collection is hand or machine washable).
One from our friends across the pond, the London-based company Monsoon makes dresses for formal occasions and beyond—a lot of these styles are ones we reckon would translate well with a denim jacket thrown over the top for every day, and start at around $50 on sale.
Okay, so not necessarily the most wallet-friendly option on this list, but definitely one of the coolest. Keep an eye out on not only the Reformation sale section to nab one of these sexy susty dresses, we think the slightly higher price is worth it for how re-wearable these dresses are. Plus, many of their styles come in extended sizes.
This homegrown label is serving up Ganni-esque silhouettes without the Ganni price tag. Styles range from slightly more relaxed to uber-glam, and they’re often on a deep sale in the depths of The ICONIC.
This label is another good shout for a formal dress you can wear off the overly bright dance floor (I don’t need to see anyone or have anyone see me when I’m dancing, okay?).
Do you know who has cool shit? Your friends! If you attend different schools and have formals at different times, going in on a dress you can both wear is a good way to soften the cost of formals (all that hair and makeup eats a lot of time n cash). As well as putting a lot of good vibes and memories in the dress, it’s a nice way of consuming a little less while still getting your pics.