Friday, June 7, 2013

Tips for Buying a Cheap Dress

Inexpensive dresses are everywhere in the summer. Taking advantage of them makes it possible to wear a whole outfit for $25, so they are a great frugal choice. Here are some tips to make the most of buying an inexpensive dress. (To give an idea of what I mean by "inexpensive," note that the top dress is from the Gap, all others are from Old Navy and H&M.)

Buy 100% natural fabrics.
This is the most important tip. Not only will they work if you get caught in the rain, but natural fabrics like cotton and silk also allow one’s skin to breathe during the summer heat, unlike man-made materials which will cause one to perspire much more. Natural fabrics also take to dyes better than man-made fabrics, making the dress look more expensive than it is, and they last longer because after being washed a few times the fabric holds up better to pilling, and the dyes don’t fade as much.

Pick the color carefully.
Inexpensive stores have an overwhelming number of eye-catching colors, but the dyes they use never look as good as dyes on more expensive clothing.

-Black will work, but only when the fabric is natural fibers. It is the quickest to fade with man-made fibers.
-Navy is always a solid choice. Even if it fades, it looks better than faded black.
-Sunglasses-worthy colors never look expensive in cheap clothing, so avoid neon and other very bright colors like royal blue. If one of these colors is chosen, be sure to temper it with neutral colored accessories. Belts help here.
-Pastels are usually a good choice, as the dyes take well.
-Earth colors take dyes well and don’t show much fading.
-White is another solid choice. It clearly does not fade, so the only issue is keeping it spotless.
-Stripes with white almost always work.

Go for shirring.
Shirring, especially when it’s only on the upper back of the dress, creates a more customized fit. This is important, as a good fit is one of the things that make expensive clothing worth the price. It is particularly helpful in dresses, as the top is the part that must fit – the skirt can do nearly anything.

In strappy styles, look for adjustable straps.
Just like with the shirring, these allow for a better fit. Adjusting allows the straps to not only stay put on one’s shoulders, but also allows the front of the dress to be lifted or lowered to create an appropriate and flattering neckline.

Avoid body-skimming styles.
These are best left to more expensive dresses which are cut carefully from better fabric, and therefore are more flattering.

Find flattering dress shapes.
Because the cuts can be a little askew, knowing what shapes look best on one’s body makes a huge difference with cheap dresses.
-A skirt style that falls somewhere between an a-line and a full skirt is flattering even when it’s made cheaply.
-Shirtdresses are great because one can pick the right size in the shoulders and the rest of the dress should fall into place. There is also more leeway with going up to a bigger size here, as one can add a belt to rein in extra fabric.
-Tent style and loose, straight cut dresses tend to look nice even when made cheaply because there are fewer pieces for the manufacturer to cut poorly.
-Strapless dresses are a dime a dozen at cheap stores, so buy them a little loose and use a belt to show off a waist. This is more forgiving for a poorly cut dress than wearing it tight.

Look for belts that run inside the fabric.
I find that these are great for adjusting the shape of the dress as they don’t slip out of place the way a belt over the fabric might. H&M uses this on a good deal of their dresses, and does so with a subtle dip in the back which flatters everyone’s backside.

Any other tips you’ve discovered? I’d love to hear!

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