Dress Shopping That Pays Off

It may not feel like May in the UK right now, what with all that erratic change of weather from hail one hour to blinding sunshine the next. But many of us have had to start planning early for summer party occasions nonetheless. Whether it’s that senior prom, University graduation ball, you’re heading to ASCOT or perhaps like myself you have a family wedding coming up – shopping for the ‘perfect’ dress can quickly become a stress. And the last thing you want to do is resort to the leftover party dresses on the ‘last chance’ rack in Topshop. Or even worse (and probably an all-too-familiar situation for most girls), you end up frantically buying any dress you see online that has your size. Then, either it doesn’t arrive in time or you realise it looks awful and end up resorting to that safe LBD that already has over 200 tags on Facebook. So what can be learnt from these experiences?

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(Image via Sphere.)

This year I’m lucky enough to be able to attend a wedding abroad and will be jetting off to Singapore for part 1 of my cousin’s special day. Part 2 will take place a week later here in the UK. So not only did I have to shop for a dress for a big family wedding, I had to look for two – one suitable for humidity and one that is ‘rain-safe’! And after scouring the market since March, I’ve not only managed to find two dresses that I absolutely love, but I’ve even bagged myself a bargain party dress which can be worn at upcoming occasions for later in the year. Here are some useful tips for organised dress shopping:

Timing – As soon as the first batch of Spring/Summer collections are launched online/ in-stores, have a look what’s there! It’s very easy to think that it’s too early to look at summer party wear in February, but if your dress size sits on either end of the spectrum it is likely that your size will be out of stock very quickly.

Buy it, decide later – if you’re dithering over more than one dress and not sure which one to buy. Purchase both and try them on again at home with different heels/ accessories etc. which will allow you to make a more informed decision on which one you prefer. Also, you then won’t be gutted if you go home and realise you’ve made the wrong decision, only to go back to the store and find the other dress gone!

Do your research – sounds intense, but essentially that’s what you’re doing when you’re shopping around anyway. It’s helpful to bookmark pages or take photos in store (obviously when the sales assistants aren’t looking) and keep a log of the styles that you like. It is much easier to then go back and compare everything that you have seen.

Know what suits you – there’s no point wasting time looking at dresses that you a) wish you could wear, but “think you need to lose 10lbs before going there” b) will only wear once because it is too over-styled and only appropriate if you get invited to a red carpet event and c) know you can not afford! (Well, to be fair I’m rather guilty of the latter myself and it does actually make you see everything on the main high street in a very negative light – so be careful!) By all means, try on as many different styles of dresses to find what you like and see what suits you if you’re not sure. But I have found myself wasting entire shopping trips because I was looking at the wrong things before!

Budget and be realistic – I think this one will come hand-in-hand with doing your research. If you don’t want to be spending anything more than £35 on a proper party dress, you have to know that you will struggle. Generally a dress for special occasions will average at around £60-80 on the high street. Having said that, more and more low-end, very on-trend online clothing stores are popping up. Besides the wonderful world of ASOS, the following sites have some extremely cheap party dresses, with new designs in every 2-3 weeks: boohoo.com, misguided.co.uk, meemee.com. I would also advise going on the dedicated websites of the concession brands that retail at Topshop and Newlook such as: InLovewithFashion and AXParis.

The two dresses below are the ones I have chosen for the Wedding. First one is a skater tailored, fitted dress from French Connection in a gorgeous summery blue £120 (though I don’t think the photo does it justice). The second is a bodycon ASOS midi-dress (although I had mine shortened) in an amazing tattoo print £35 (bargain!).

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I absolutely love this strapless black dress from H&M’s Conscious Collection, which priced at £49.99, I think is a bargain! It has delicate organza details around the bustier and comes with an arrangeable, couture-esque feature. The only downside is that the fitting isn’t quite right, with the bustier section being on the tight side and the skirt too baggy. Perhaps this is why this was the only dress out of the collection with plenty of sizes left! Nevertheless, I will be taking the skirt in at the side seams for a better fit and I’m hoping I will not have to bend around too much when I do wear this dress – as I do love it so much. I think when I find a dress on the high street that could easily be a product of a Parisian fashion house, I am willing to do anything to ensure I keep it!

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Do you have any dress shopping tips you would like to share?

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