When Should You Buy a Prom Dress If You Want to Save Money?

Published on: Friday, February 3, 2023 16:00

With prom season just a few months away, we’re seeing an uptick in inquiries from young folks about prom dresses. Namely, we have a lot of young ladies wondering how to obtain their perfect dress. We know that thinking about prom can be just as stressful as it is exciting, but the good news is that your besties at Terry Costa are here to help! Here are our tips for when to buy a prom dress, as well as HOW to buy a prom dress:

Go Shopping Early

First things first: in order to have the best selection possible, it’s absolutely vital that you don’t wait until the last minute to go dress shopping. Really, we can’t overstate the advantages of shopping early. How early is “early”? Most retailers actually have the bulk of their selection out and ready to browse by January, so it’s not a bad idea to spring into action at the beginning of the calendar year.

At Terry Costa, Weekends from January-May are our busiest days. If you want to avoid long lines and waiting hours to get in a fitting room, try coming in during the week. We are open 7 days a week, but Saturdays and Sundays are A LOT busier. Weekdays you’re more likely to get undivided personal help from your fashion consultant. There’s also more inventory out on weekdays since it’s not being actively tried on within our 50+ fitting rooms. And trust us, you’ll want to see all your options. TC buyers work 7 days a week to bring in the hottest styles and we process shipments of new merchandise Monday-Friday.

We understand that it might seem a little odd to look for a prom dress in January if your prom isn’t until May or June. You may feel like you’re planning a little TOO far ahead, especially if you haven’t even found a date yet! But think about it: if you start early, you’ll have your pick of colors, styles, and sizes. There will also be plenty of time for you to have any essential alterations done without needing to pay a “rush” fee. And, of course, the sooner you buy your dress, the sooner you can pick out matching shoes and other accessories. Buy them on the same day you buy your prom dress and Terry Costa will give you an additional 15% off all your accessories!

Go Shopping with a Buddy

There are certain benefits to taking along a friend or family member when trying to find the perfect ensemble. Not only will you have someone to give you a second opinion if you’re having trouble choosing between two different looks (“The green one! It brings out the color of your eyes!”), but they’ll also be able to provide confidence-building reassurance (“Okay, yeah, I know it’s not your usual style, but that asymmetrical neckline looks AMAZING!”), serve as a personal shopper if you need a different size (“I’ll see if they have that one in a 14—you just stay in there so nobody takes the fitting room!”), and help you out in a pinch (“You’re stuck? Okay, don’t panic! Unlock the door, and I’ll come in and pull the dress over your head!”).

All silliness aside, most of us can agree that it’s nearly always more fun to shop with someone else than it is to shop alone. And if you’re planning to go to prom with a group of friends, then browsing dresses as a group can become one more happy memory surrounding the event. Plus, if you have a friend who has similar taste in clothing, shopping together can help prevent you both from accidentally picking the same dress!

Don’t have someone in mind you want to shop with you? Leave it to the professionals. Terry Costa employs professionally trained personal stylists that are assigned specific fitting rooms and work with our clients to find the perfect silhouette, color, and size dress. The fashion consultants are also there to clip up, zip up, lace up, and make minor adjustments to demonstrate the perfect fit. The consultants are very knowledgeable and go through training to ensure you get the best experience possible.

Go Shopping Online

Now, the above section is primarily applicable if you’re shopping for a dress in-person. But that’s certainly not your only option.

In recent years, it’s become more and more common to skip the stores and find the perfect dress via the internet. At Terry Costa, we have dedicated associates working to fulfill web orders 7 days a week. We guarantee the lowest price and are authorized retailers for the brands we carry. We have access to a wide range of styles that can be delivered to you as soon as tomorrow. Although it is two different experiences, online gives you access right at your fingertips and our instore experience offers you professional assistance and the experience to say "I said yes to my Prom Dress!" by our flower wall with neon sign.

Prom dress shopping online can also be extremely advantageous since you’re not limited to dresses available in your area. That can be great if you’re worried about looking like everyone else and want something truly unique. It’s one reason our Terry Costa exclusives are so popular.

TC Exclusives are prom dresses specially designed for and sold only at Terry Costa. Since they can’t be found anywhere else, the chances of someone walking into prom with the exact same dress is extremely unlikely.

We actually discussed tips and tricks for buying prom dresses online in a blog post back in 2021. In case you missed it, though, here were a few takeaways:

  • Familiarize yourself with the store’s online return or exchange policy before clicking ‘buy’. While most reputable vendors will allow returns with a small restocking fee and/or offer limited free exchanges on digital purchases, some really do have strict “ALL ONLINE SALES FINAL” policies.
  • Confirm the estimated delivery date of the dress before you finalize your purchase. Depending on how soon your prom is, you may need to pay for expedited shipping instead of just taking the standard/free option. Once again, this is why it’s very important to shop early!
  • Check offsite (that is, third-party) reviews to verify that the store you’re considering buying a dress from is reputable. One or two bad reviews in a sea of good ones usually isn’t cause for concern, but if you can’t find anything about the seller, or the majority of information available is negative, then take your money elsewhere. Also remember that any deal that sounds too good to be true probably is. If a vendor has a $500 designer dress listed for $100, then it’s almost certainly a scam!


When does prom season start?

Prom season buzz starts in January and lasts until May.

How early should you buy a prom dress?

As early as possible! Designers typically release their new collections in November and they hit stores in January, so starting your search during that period of time ensures you have the best possible selection to choose from.

Don’t see what you want the first time around? Keep coming back! Supply chain disruptions have had some restocking shipments delayed recently.

Where should I go prom dress shopping?

In years past, it was common for girls to hit up local malls or shopping centers for their prom dresses. While you can get your dress at any store where formal gowns are sold, you’ll likely have the best luck hitting up a store that specializes in special event attire. This includes online boutiques (see our “Go Shopping Online” section above).

When do prom dresses go on sale?

If you’re big on bargains, you can make a point to seek out “leftover” dresses at the end of June or the beginning of July. Early in the summer, many sellers will be trying to get rid of their remaining stock in order to make room for the new designs that they’ll be offering in January; as a result, it’s not uncommon for vendors to start slashing prices in order to drum up sales. If you don’t mind an extremely limited selection or being restricted to last year’s styles, buying a dress after the end of prom seasons is a great way to save money! Just keep in mind that some of these dresses will have minor damage, have been discontinued, or be in need of a little TLC.

How long do prom dress alterations take?

Between a week and two months, depending on the alterations needed. Simple changes, like hem adjustments, can often be done within a few business days, while more complicated jobs (like neckline modifications or adding sleeves and beaded/embroidered embellishments) can take much longer. The speed at which a seamstress or tailor can complete a job for you may also depend upon how many other jobs they currently have on their plate.

Note that Terry Costa does not offer alterations services in house. Because we have such a large inventory selection, it leaves no room for any tailoring services. We do, however, have a list of recommended trusted, local tailors that we have referred people to for years.

Once again, get your dress early so you can make plans for alterations as soon as possible!

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