Monday, June 8, 2009

Prom Princess on a budget

Well Prom time is here again, with most taking place in late June, early July. It can be a really awful time for parents who have very little money but want to make their daughter feel like the "belle of the ball". Lots of parents spend a fortune on the dress, shoes, fake tan etc and hopefully a few handy hints from Recessionista(UK) will see you on your way to providing a wonderful evening for your daughter where she can look as good as her peers, but on a budget. Recessionista(UK) gives ideas on everything from getting the dress of your dreams at a fraction of the retail price to doing your nails, hair and lashes at home.

Dress: Usually the biggest spend and often there is the cost of alterations to contend with as well. Most Prom dresses are available from Bridal Shops and Boutiques that stock Ballgowns. Most stores will have a sale rail at this time of year where they might be trying to get rid of last years stock or are panicking, with the recession, that stock is not moving fast enough. To save hours trawling the High Street, set aside a few hours where you can ring around shops in your area to see if they have any dresses reduced in your required size. Once you have narrowed your search, you know exactly where you have to go and can set out with your daughter to make that special purchase. Most shops stocking these kind of garments will offer an alternations service, but this is not always cheap, so get a quote before committing or leaving your dress behind. Failing this, try local dressmakers, ask around for recommendations or try the local dry cleaners as lots of these also offer an alterations service.
If buying a new dress, for say, £300, never be afraid to ask "will you accept £275 as that is all I can afford". Haggling is all the trend these days and if you don't ask, you don't get. If the sales assistant won't budge, do ask to speak to the manager or owner as most shops selling these kind of garments are small independents who are struggling in the current economic climate. If you still get no joy but don't want to look a fool and lose the dress of your daughters dreams, leave a deposit and say you will have to come back to collect when you have been paid, your cheque in the bank clears etc or if you still have other shops to visit, just ask if they can hold without a deposit for a few hours whilst you try and find something within budget.
If money is really tight then check out Ebay. Either search by your preferred colour ie purple, yellow, mango prom dress or by designer i.e Mori Lee, Jora, Jovani, Alyce etc. You can get some beautiful dresses on Ebay at the moment with most costing between £75 and £100 for a used dress and from £100 upwards for brand new with tags. Never be afraid to ask questions before you bid and buy. If looking at a new dress they may be old stock from a bridal shop, so do ask if it is shop soiled, marked with make-up etc. If buying a used dress, ask if it has been cleaned, if not, is it dirty round the hem, is it marked inside with fake tan or make-up. Check dry cleaning costs locally, before buying a gown that is marked in any way. Remember that gowns with a lace up back can usually accommodate a size up or down, always ask the seller the dress size of the person who wore it and their height and what size heels they wore. Taking up a dress that is 9 layers of net and tulle can work out pretty costly but if you follow these guidelines there will be little room for error.

Shoes: Usual styles are strappy in gold, silver or bronze depending on any sequin or beading detail on the dress. Shoes in this style from shops like Faith and Dune will be somewhere in the region of £70. To cut this price in half try shops like Shoefayre, Barratts or New Look and even cheaper will be Matalan but if your budget is really tight, let good old ebay come to the rescue.

Tiara: For a good range of Tiara's check out your local bridal shop but these will be costly unless they have some on Sale. Brands such as Amanda Wyatt will cost a small fortune, as will Jon Richard which are available from Department Stores, but do check out ebay for these and other more specialised brands such as Halo. A cheaper option is to check out the High Street for diamante Alice Bands. Accessorize usually have a good range but Claires Asseccories will be cheaper. Has your daughter or any other teenager you know been a bridesmaid recently, if so can you borrow their tiara? Diamante pins or fascinators to match the colour of the dress, although not as popular, also work well.

Bag: Most girls will carry a Clutch to Prom and you can either choose a metallic colour to match the shoes or maybe a satin bag in a colour to match the dress. Check out Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and New Look if buying new or good old ebay. Ebay will bring up thousands, so narrow your search by typing in blue clutch or gold bag depending on what you are after.

Hair: Never use a new hairdresser if you can afford for your daughter to have her hair done on the day. Lots of hairdressers don't do "up do's" but do have colleagues in the same salon, that do.
Expect to pay upwards of £20 for hair up at a salon or £10 upwards just to be curled, depending on where you live.

DIY Treatment
If you can't afford a trip to the salon, hair can be curled at home using either a specialist curling tong or ghd hair straightners. Lots of teenagers are really good with their own hair and a few curls can make all the difference. If nobody at home can put hair up, use some kirby grips and just pull back the sides and pin up. A little backcombing on the crown will give some height and will sit nicely behind a small tiara. If you intend to do hair at home, do have a practice session and don't forget to use a good firm hairspray to hold in place. Check out You Tube for videos of how to do hair and also lessons in make-up. Google has thousands of images of Prom Hairstyles if you are lacking in inspiration.

Fake Tan

Nothing beats a salon tanning application and if you can afford this (from £20 depending on area) Fake Bake and St Tropez are the most popular. Check with local salons to see if they have any Prom packages available, tan, lashes, nails etc can often work out cheaper if booked together. If there are no special offers at your preferred salon, ask for a discount when booking multiple treatments.
DIY Treatment
If attempting to Fake Tan your daughter at home, the cheapest option will be a product such as Johnsons Holiday Skin which you can start using now and build up gradually to an acceptable colour. Fake Bake and St Tropez are more expensive but give a professional result and you can checkout their websites for application tips and to buy online, if not available to purchase locally. Fake Bake have just introduced a new wash off tanning product called Faux Glo, which costs £10.99, I have one daughter who loves this, but if new to using Fake Tan products - do try in advance.

False Nails

Lots of teenagers like the Acrylic or Gel False nail look which starts at around £25 for a basic set of pink and white, french manicure. Crushed Ice and nail art looks will be more expensive but again check with your salon for discounts and packages.

DIY treatment
You can buy false nails in a vast array of finishes from Boots or Superdrug below £5 which can be applied at home. Always follow instructions carefully to get the best results but don't expect them to last as long as Salon acrylic nails.
An at home manicure treatment can also give a great result for those teenagers who prefer not to wear false nails. The short, square, darkly painted look is sported by many celebs (the girls from "The Hills" etc) and always looks stylish. Short nails can be difficult to paint but any mistakes can be cleaned up with an orange stick with a small amount of cotton wool wrapped around each tip then dipped in nail varnish remover. If you are looking for a colour to match your dress then check out the Barry M range available at Superdrug or online, for a vast array of colours including blues, yellow, orange, purples etc. Make sure you daughters nails are neat with no rough edges to snag on her dress. Do toenails to match, or if you have a french manicure on your fingernails, go for a colour to match your dress on your toes. Always allow at least an hour for nail polish to harden before showering, doing up dresses etc otherwise your efforts could be ruined.

False Lashes

If opting for a false lash application at a salon always ask for a patch test or for a few lashes to be applied at least a week in advance. I once had an application of individual eyelashes and about 2 days after the application, suffered with bloodshot eyes which is not a good look for a Prom Queen!, it is not worth taking any risks by getting this done without a test, well in advance. Cost upwards of £30.
DIY Treatment
You can buy individual flared lashes (3 joined together rather than individual) at Boots for approx £5 or strip lashes for a similar price. This months Sugar magazine has false lashes as a freebie so if you buy this your daughter will have something to read aswell!


Lots of Teens will be travelling to their Prom in a Limousine which is becoming more and more popular. Limo hire usually costs hundreds, even if only travelling a fairly short distance. If this is your desired form of transport but not within your budget, speak to other parents to see if costs can be shared between other Prom Princesses. Most Limos carry upwards of 8 some holding as many as 14 depending on vehicle, so could carry just a group of girls or couples, if they intend to travel with their partners.

Getting Ready

Make it as special for your daughter as you can, buy a cheap bottle of Bucks Fizz or something similar with a low alcohol content from your local supermarket (approx £2) for the over 18's or for the Year 11's, make some alcohol free punch or cocktails. Make sure she is ready in time to take lots of photos and ensure her phone is fully charged and has credit, so she can contact you if necessary. Get the mobile phone number of her partner and best friends, just incase she is later home than expected and you are unable to get through to her mobile. If travelling by Limo, get the drivers mobile number when he picks your daughter up or if another parent is driving and collecting your daughter, make sure you have their number aswell.


  1. Even though this is not relevant to me right now, I think you deserve kudos for a great post. I hope it is helpful to some "prom mums" out there!

  2. Execellent post.!! Prom time is around the corner. I am just wondering for some affordable prom dress

  3. Great post - another way to save at checkout is using vouchers at checkout - has some cool voucher codes for proms.