How to Find Cocktail Dresses on Sale

Two Methods:Finding New Dresses on SaleWearing a Used Dress Instead of a New One

Finding the perfect cocktail dress is difficult, but finding one within your price range may make the task seem impossible. No matter if you are going to prom, a wedding, or a fancy party, you can buy a perfect dress without breaking the bank. You just need to do a bit of creative shopping to find dresses on sale.

Method 1
Finding New Dresses on Sale

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    Shop clearance racks. Instead of heading for the full priced dresses, find the racks that contain marked down dresses. Most department stores will mark down merchandise anywhere from 20%-80% off the original price.
    • Racks are usually grouped according to percentage off. Start with the racks containing the most mark downs if you are on a tight budget. Go towards the back of the store or section if you are having trouble finding the clearance racks.
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    Watch for sales. This is extremely important for saving money on a dress, especially a dress that is part of this season's fashion. Most major clothing and department stores run sales around holidays, like Labor Day, Presidents' Day, Independence Day, and Black Friday.[1]
    • Watch for circulars or television commercials advertising these sales around holidays. Most stores use every small and large holiday for an excuse to have a sale.
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    Look for coupons. Many clothing and department stores offer coupons to encourage consumers to come to their stores. These coupons can be found in advertisements received through the mail, in newspapers, or sometimes in the front of the stores.
    • Search online for coupons. Sometimes, stores provide coupons on their websites or mobile apps that are not well publicized through sales papers or commercials. Googling a store's name plus the word "coupon" may also yield coupons you can use.
    • Sign up for stores' mailing lists. Stores send coupon rewards to their loyal customers that they don't give to the general shopper. These mailing lists will also alert you to sales and special promotions.[2]
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    Buy online. Shopping online for a dress can be one of the best money savers. You can comparison shop easily without driving between different stores, which can help you find the best deal.
    • Many websites offer discount deals for dresses. Try ASOS, Blue Fly, Fly Jane, Simply Dress, Adoring Dress, Zulily, and A'GACI, among others.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9]
    • Google simple search terms to help you locate what you are looking for. Try typing in "cheap cocktail dresses," "cocktail dresses on sale," or "cocktail dresses under $100."
    • The downside to online shopping is that you can't try on a dress. If you buy your cocktail dress online, make sure to buy it early enough that you can send it back if it does not fit. Also remember to look at their size charts to make sure you are buying the right fit.
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    Shop at discount stores. If department and clothing stores are too heavy for your wallet, try going to discount stores. Stores like T.J. Maxx carry designer brands, while Marshalls, Ross, and Dress For Less carry a mixture of brands.[10]
    • Look for outlet stores from your favorite retailers. Places like Nordstrom Rack are a great way to find quality or designer dresses at a fraction of the price.
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    Shop off-season. End of season sales are a great time to pick up dresses at low prices. Doing this does require some forethought, but if you know that you will be going to prom, homecoming, or another formal event in the future, save yourself some future stress and buy the dress early.
    • Early fall and spring are two common times when clothes are being rotated out for the seasons. When you see winter and summer clothes being brought out, check the clearance racks for dresses.[11]
    • Shop after common formal events. Most department stores carry formal wear around the time of high school proms (spring) and homecoming (fall). Look for dresses when the stores put these event-specific dresses on sale.
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    Visit bridal shops. Some bridal shops, such as David's Bridal, don't just carry wedding and bridesmaid gowns - they also carry other formal wear. Visit these stores and see what they have to offer. These shops also run good sales on their dresses throughout the year, especially when they are getting a new season's selection in stock.
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    Set up online sale alerts. Websites such as Shop It To Me and Shop Style can be set up to troll the web for great deals.[12][13] You enter your size, your price range, the type of item you want, and even a brand, and you can log into your account daily to check for the deals they've found.[14]

Method 2
Wearing a Used Dress Instead of a New One

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    Shop thrift and consignment shops. If a new dress just isn't in your budget, or you want to try to save as much money as possible, visit thrift and consignment shops. Places like the Good Will, the Salvation Army, and other thrift stores sell dresses that have been donated. Many of these cocktail dresses are nearly new and been worn only once. Consignment shops are a great place to find used formal wear. Consignment shops generally have nicer clothes than thrift stores, so they may charge a little more than a thrift store, but you might have a larger selection of consignment cocktail dresses. Many of these dresses have only been worn once or twice, so they should be in great shape.[15]
    • Thrift stores and consignment shops may have vintage dresses from ten, twenty, or even fifty years ago. Shopping in these stores for your perfect cocktail dress may lead you to a unique dress that will have everyone talking about your style!
    • Try garage sales in addition to thrift stores. You might even find a dress cheaper that way!
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    Shop online for used dresses. Sites like ebay are great for buying used cocktail dresses at reasonable prices.[16] Other sites like Pageant Resale, Tradesy, Twice, Etsy, and even Craigslist offer used dresses at discounted rates.[17][18][19]
    • Some of these websites allow you to speak to the owner of the dress directly, so you can request measurements, more pictures, or even a Skype session to get a better idea about the dress before you buy it.[20]
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    Rent a dress. Some websites, like Rent the Runway, offer designer formal evening wear to rent for a fraction of the price. You have to return the dress, but you can end up wearing a dress that costs thousands of dollars for much cheaper.[21]
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    Wear hand me downs. Raid the closets of family members or friends. If you want a cute cocktail dress for less, what's better than a free dress? You never know - maybe the perfect little black dress is in your mom or aunt's closet.[22]
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    Trade dresses with someone. If you have some formal wear you don't mind loaning out, trade that for the perfect cocktail dress. Ask around on social media for people selling dresses who might be willing to trade cocktail dresses with you.


  • Budget dress shopping takes time. Make sure to allow yourself enough time to search for the sales, find the right dress, and return online purchases if necessary. You probably won't find the perfect dress at the perfect price if you shop the day before your big event.

Article Info

Categories: Sales | Dresses and Skirts