Formal season is upon us, collegiettes: whether it’s your sorority formal, your boy toy’s fraternity formal, or a school-wide, season shindig, that invitation in your mailbox (or your Inbox) might be all it takes to send the shopaholic in you swooning. Sick of your tired, old LBD and in need some dress-shopping direction? Check out HC’s favorite formal dresses under $100 for every style and shape.
If your style is... EDGY
Formal may be a long-standing college tradition, but that doesn’t mean you have to play it safe when it comes to style. Shake things up with an unusual silhouette, unexpected sheer, and this season’s hottest color, oxblood.
Go for Gatsby Gold
The newest film version of The Great Gatsby isn’t due out until spring, so you’ll be cute and ahead of the curve in this ‘20s-inspired silhouette. Play up the look with sheer black tights and Mary Jane pumps! Leave your headpieces and feathers at home, though; there’s a fine line between quirky and kitsch!
Try: Frock and Frill Beaded Layer Dress – $96 at Republic
While we usually prefer to save this tailored silhouette for meet-the-parents, tea-party-type get-togethers, the semi-scandalous sheer inlay and the brocade pattern make us weak at the knees. Mixing boardroom tailored chic with street-style is always a risk, but when done correctly, the combination is a head-turner!
Try: Embossed Skater Dress - $99.99 at Topshop
Oxblood, Oxblood, Oxblood
If you’re not already repeating this mantra to yourself every time you step into a store, you need to tune up your trend alert radar! Stay on the cutting edge with a splash of oxblood red, this season’s “It” color! The intricate strap and flowy skirt keep the color fresh and formal-appropriate.
Try: Little Mistress Embellished One Shoulder Dress – $88.50 at House of Fraser
A Sheer Thing
Make the most of this almost-maxi dress style by pairing glam glitter with sexy sheer! The see-through skirt keeps the style from looking beach-y and is right on-trend when paired with a thick pair of platforms.
Try: Black Embellished Maxi Dress – $95 at Wallis
If your style is... GIRLY
Pump up the pretty factor with unique new takes on the romantic look: crosscuts, high-low cuts, and cross-body sashes. Of course, no girly formal look is complete without the ever-flattering sweetheart neckline!
Pump up the pretty factor with dip-dyed fabric and waist-cinching belts. This tiered style puts a fresh spin on our old favorite, the sweetheart neckline. While we never lost our love for the curve-hugging silhouette, we have to admit that this facelift is doing the style wonders!
Try: Beautiful Dip Dyed Chiffon Dress – $99.90 at InDress Me
The popular high-low style is yet another way to give your standard sweetheart dress a bit more oomph: show some skin, work the train, and let that Campus Cutie catch a glimpse of your impressively high heels (finally, those “break-in” days hobbling around the house in blister Band-Aids will pay off!).
Try: Rare London Mullet Hem Chiffon Bandeau Dress – $72 at Rare London
Take a Bow
Nothing says romance like a frilly hem and a big bow! Sure, none of us wants to look like Sleeping Beauty for formal, but the dark blue hue and V-neck keep this dress looking more fit for a sweet Spanish dancer than a Disney princess.
Try: Arklow Dress – $89 at Jack Wills
Pretty in Pink
If you like to keep it simple – or you just want to add a little Audrey Hepburn magic to your night – you should look for sheath-style dresses with waist-cinching bands in feminine colors. The belt will highlight all the right curves and the pink will make you pop!
Try: Silvian Heach Dress Ashley Purple – $68.80 at We Like Fashion