DARLINGTON COLUMN: Find prom dress at perfect price

The Cinderella dress at Butterfly features a bodice embellished with pale pink and cream sequins.

Parents of high school girls probably are well-aware that April means it’s prom season. Helping your daughter find prom attire can be a fun bonding experience, but you may be worried about how much it’s going to cost you.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I never once paid more than $100 for any of my prom or formal dresses. And the jewelry, shoes and purse? Yep, I skimped on those, too. Here’s how I did it, and some other options I wish had been around when I was in high school.

My favorite prom dress was a peach Allen B. Schwarz mermaid-style dress that my mom altered to fit me like a glove. I remember feeling like a queen all night, and I found it at a consignment shop for $50.

Consignment shopping is perfect for prom season because you can find high-end dresses that have been worn only once or twice, and the prices are unbeatable.

“It’s thrifty shopping for those who are fashionable,” says Seana Flynn, owner of Consign Charleston. “You can walk out and look even better than somebody who has spent $1,000. That’s what I love about the business itself, but especially when it comes to prom dresses.”

This is the first year Consign Charleston on Wappoo Road in West Ashley has offered prom dresses, and Flynn said it’s been a hit so far.

The store started accepting formalwear at the beginning of March, so there’s still about 150 dresses left to choose from. Most are priced at about $80.

Butterfly Consignment Boutique, which has locations in the Belle Hall Shopping Center in Mount Pleasant and on Upper King Street downtown, also has a large selection of prom dresses. They cater to all sizes, and most are priced between $55 and $175.

“Cinderella dresses are really popular right now. Long gowns are mostly what girls have been into,” says Kathleen Miller, manager of Butterfly’s Mount Pleasant store.

Her favorite dress in stock is a lavender ball gown with pink jewels.

“It’s stunning, and it definitely has a fairy tale look,” she said. “You wouldn’t find any of these dresses at regular retail stores for anything under $300.”

Both Butterfly Consignment and Consign Charleston have a collection of cocktail jewelry and handbags, so you can accessorize for less, too.

I’ve recommended Renttherunway.com before, but I think it’s worth mentioning again for prom season. It’s a website that offers rentals on high-fashion dresses, so it’s perfect for those occasions when you’d probably wear the dress only once anyway.

Another perk is that they let you rent two sizes at a time, so you can be sure to get the right fit.

For those opting for a shorter dress, I’d say check out lulus.com. They have a decent selection of semi-formal dresses, most of which are fairly priced. I ordered a one-shoulder satin dress for a formal in college, and it’s still my go-to dress whenever I have weddings or other dressy events.

As a final word of advice, try to avoid revealing cutouts and high-cut slits in dresses. Some high schools have implemented dress codes for prom, so make sure the dress you find abides by the rules.

Email Abigail Darlington at Charlestonsavvyshopper@postandcourier.com. Find more ways to save by liking our Facebook page and visiting the blog at charleston savvyshopper.com.