Here in the States, prom season is quickly approaching. That means millions of girls are going to be looking for formal dresses. From experience, I found doing these things before I went shopping is helpful in finding the perfect gown.

1.) Established A Budget

Who is paying for your dress? If your parents are, ask them what their limit is. Keep in mind you might have to pay for shoes, hair & makeup, tickets, dinner, etc. If you are paying, how much can you save until you have to buy a dress? Unless you buy something you can wear to other events, you are only going to wear this once. I’ve bought formal dresses in every price range. From this, I’ve learned you don’t have to buy a “traditional” prom dress. Second hand, vintage, and renting are also options that are budget friendly; it’s almost certain that no one else will have your dress this way.

2.) Find Inspiration

Looking through the prom tag on Pinterest is always a good starting point in finding a dress. Typically these kinds of dresses are crazy expensive, but they can still provide inspiration. Each year I pick up a few prom magazines, such as a Seventeen’s prom issue. They are fun to look at and can show you how to style different kinds of dresses.

3.) Check Your School’s Dress Code

Lucky for me, my school’s dress code doesn’t apply to prom. With schools with stricter codes, it never hurts to ask. Typically, either the counselor or Vice Principal can help you with these questions.

4.) Allow Plenty of Time

You can’t always walk out with your prom dress after you purchase it. I would start looking for dresses at least two months in advance. This is to make sure you have enough time for alterations. In some cases, the dress you try on is just a sample dress, and they have to order it.

5.) Buy Dresses During A Sale

Department stores have sales all the time, usually happening around holidays. Also, buying out of season can get you huge savings as well.

6.) Buy Undergarments

Before you head out looking, wear the appropriate undergarments. This can cause a dress to look completely different on you. Maybe even try a body shaper. My current favorites are the ASSETS by Spanx available at Target and Kohls.

7.) Keep An Open Mind

You might walk into a store thinking you know what you want, but end up leaving with a completely different idea. It’s important to try on every kind of dress, because you really don’t know if you like something until you try it on.

8.) Don’t Go Alone

Honestly, it’s no fun trying on dresses alone, and it’s good to have a second opinion. Bring a parent or a few friends, but don’t bring a huge group.

9.) Don’t Buy The First Dress You Try On

It’s very tempting to just buy the first dress that you try on that fits nice, but you need to keep looking. If you’re worried that someone might buy it before you come back, put it on hold. You never know what the next store might have.

10.) Buy A Dress That Fits You Now

Don’t buy a dress that you have to lose 20 pounds to fit in. Just buy a dress that fits, and you can always have it altered.