One thing I love about being a military spouse is being able to go to formal events often. We usually have a military ball to attend about once a year, and it’s so fun to get all dressed up! And in true affordable Kristin fashion, I still don’t like to spend a lot on my look even though we’re going to a formal event. You really don’t have to nowadays with so many avenues for finding budget options for dresses, shoes, makeup, and hair.
For this year’s ball I spent $36 on my dress (Calvin Klein!) and $26 on my shoes. Other than that, I did my own makeup and hair and used jewelry and a clutch I already owned. A grand total of $62 isn’t bad at all for a formal event!
So today I’m going to talk about where I find affordable options for getting ready for a formal event, so hopefully you can do it for under $100 as well.
Where to Get An Affordable Formal Dress
I got this year’s dress at Dillard’s Clearance Center (exact style in different colors and prints available here), and generally discount stores are my go-to for budget formal wear. You can also try Gordman’s, TJ Maxx, and Nordstrom Rack for affordable dresses. My goal is always to find a dress under $100. I won’t pay any more than that, and prefer to find them even cheaper.
Some of the dresses I tried on at Dillard’s Clearance Center are below. I didn’t grab the right size for some, but you can get an idea of the different styles that were options. They were all under $100, and some under $50.
I have also gotten great dresses from Amazon in the past. There are so many nice ones under $50! I have worn this drop shoulder peplum dress in black to multiple balls since it’s very basic and can be dressed up differently. The first time I wore it with red lipstick and big diamond statement earrings, and the next time I wore it with a cobalt blue statement necklace and pink lipstick. So versatile! The fabric is also stretchy and easy to wash at home– very low maintenance.
Where to Get Affordable Shoes and Accessories for a Formal Event
Before I talk about where to buy these things, let me just say that it helps a lot to have in mind what kind of accessories or shoes would go well with your dress BEFORE you buy it. If you already have some black strappy heels and make sure you buy a dress that looks good with them, then you don’t need to buy new shoes! If you think of your whole look instead of just pieces at a time you’ll see where don’t always need to spend money.
And ultimately if you want your dress to shine then you probably can lean towards more neutral accessories. For example, I have this pair of large diamond statement earrings that look great with almost any formal dress. I also have a simple gold clutch that I almost always use because I prefer gold over silver, and it works perfectly. So I typically never have to buy new accessories or shoes for a formal since I already have items that will work well with any dress.
When I do need to get shoes or accessories, I’m a big fan of Amazon. Like I said earlier, my shoes (these strappy gold heels) were on budget and I’ve bought lovely statement jewelry for around $10-15. To be honest I’m not terribly concerned with quality for these pieces since they’re just being worn for one night and for a short time frame. If you’re not an Amazon fan then DSW and Zappos are other options for shoes.
I also think a great place for jewelry is Charming Charlie. They have so much affordable jewelry and in store it’s all organized by color, so if you have something specific in mind it can be easier to find. Forever 21’s online selection of jewelry is also really good and the most budget friendly.
How to Save on Hair and Makeup for a Formal Event
The most budget friendly way to save money on hair and makeup when getting ready to is to just do it yourself, which is what I did (also because I didn’t have time for an appointment after work!). There are so many Youtube and Pinterest tutorials out there that you can find a step by step guide for almost any look you want to achieve. Browse Pinterest or Google celebrity formal events (like the Oscars or Grammys) for some inspiration and do it yourself!
My favorite parts of my makeup look were my deep red lipstick and highlighter (which I don’t normally wear, so it felt fancy!). I recently reviewed them both in a post all about PYT beauty, a new cruelty free cosmetics line. Thanks, PYT, for the products!
What you can also do is contact a beauty or hair school and see if a student can do your makeup or hair for a discounted price. Getting your makeup and hair done at a normal salon can be so expensive and usually student prices are much more reasonable.
It’s also fun is to get ready with some of your girlfriends so that you can each help each other out with your makeup and hair. This is especially helpful for hair– it’s hard to get those bobby pins in at weird angles sometimes!
I hope that if you have a formal event in your life you don’t feel pressured to spend a ton. It’s totally possible to have a killer dress, great heels, sparkly accessories, and flawless hair and makeup without breaking the bank. I spent $62 on my look this year, and I’m sure I’ll spend even less in some upcoming years.