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Style > Fashion

Formal Dresses That Won’t Break the Bank

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wake Forest chapter.

Formal Dresses That Won’t Break the Bank (Alice Bragg)

Do you have a special event coming up and want to wear something new, but don’t want to break the bank? Look no further! In the past year, I stepped away from my usual shopping go-to (revolve.com) and found more affordable and unique alternatives for formal dresses that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. I compiled a list complete with the pros and cons for each brand below.

  1. Hello Molly

Pros: I just purchased my formal dress from Hello Molly, and was impressed with the quality and fit. I have never ordered from here before and was hesitant to because the return policy. However, the dress I got fit perfectly, it arrived two days after I placed my order, and the color was even prettier in person.

Cons: They sell out of sizes very quickly, which I found out the hard way with some other dresses I had been eyeing on the website. They also don’t restock quickly either, as I have been on the waitlist for several months for multiple dresses, and never received a restock notification. Also, the return policy is only for store credit, which is important to note and a big pet peeve of mine. I think it’s time for all clothing companies to go ahead and phase this policy out…

  1. Meshki

Pros: I purchased a dress there for a date function, and loved the uniqueness of it. The particular dress I ordered featured a low cowl back made of white silk material and was absolutely gorgeous. I got so many compliments on it and the long-sleeve aspect was nice for a January night. 

Cons: This dress was a little more expensive than the other ones I have previously bought, but it’s definitely more versatile. The fit was slightly off, but I fixed it with a pretty tie-back detail to ensure a better fit. Meshki has a lot of unique dresses that will definitely stand out in a good way at your next function!

  1. Zara

Pros: Everyone knows about the viral pink midi Zara dress that blew up Tiktok about a year ago. I was immediately influenced and bought it in the most gorgeous green last year. At least five of my friends have borrowed it and it looks just as new as the day I got it! It was also pretty affordable and looked way more expensive than it actually cost.

Cons: Zara is notorious for their inconsistent sizing, which is super frustrating. Their items can also be a hit or miss, looking so cute on the model but turning out to look like a literal paper bag when you try it on. Their website is also a headache to shop on, but I find it much easier to shop on the app and use filters to sift through the large quantities of merchandise.  

  1. Windsor

Pros: I went on their website one day and immediately noticed how many affordable and stylish cocktail dresses they had. I immediately ordered one for an upcoming date function and was impressed with the corset detailing and mesh cutouts. They also had some trendier styles and I love this one with the feather trim, which is a trend I’m a big fan of. The dress I ordered there has been worn probably ten different times already!

Cons: Windsor is definitely a younger and trendier brand, and it can be time-consuming to scroll through many different pages to find something a college student might wear. However, it’s affordable and a good way to try out styles you normally might not reach for. 

  1. Nuuly Rentable Fashion

Pros: This would be perfect for someone who has several events coming up in the next month or two, but doesn’t want to buy separate outfits for each one. One of my suitemates has a subscription to Nuuly, and I’m in awe at the amount of designer and name-brand clothing and dresses she receives monthly for a flat rate of under 100 dollars. It’s also more sustainable and much more affordable for shopping fiends such as myself. They also make it super easy to return dresses each month with a prepaid return label, and each clothing item comes in its own cute little case.

Cons: Although you can rent many different types of clothes from loungewear to formal dresses, one thing you cannot rent is shoes, much to my disappointment. There is also a limited selection in some departments, and it might not have the exact clothing item or brand you’re looking for. Another big con for me is the shipping and return aspect. I avoid the Wake mailroom at all costs if I can, and receiving monthly clothes means returning a lot of packages once they’re done being worn. 

Alice Bragg

Wake Forest '25

My name is Alice Bragg, and I'm a sophomore at Wake Forest University from Davidson, North Carolina. I'm currently majoring in Communications and Psychology and minoring in Entrepreneurship. I'm excited to write for Her Campus and get to know the community better!