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Where to find holiday party dresses on the cheap--and fast

Posted by Karyn Polewaczyk  December 13, 2013 02:45 PM

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woman-at-holiday-cocktail-party.jpgCredit: iStockphoto

It’s Friday afternoon, and if you’re anything like me, you 1. have at least one holiday party to attend this weekend, 2. are on a budget, and 3. don’t have time to cruise your preferred shopping mecca in search of the perfect holiday frock to wear to said holiday party.

Fortunately for you, I’m somewhat of a miracle worker when it comes to scoring designer duds on the cheap, and can tell within seconds of sizing up a dress whether it’s weekend-worthy or belongs back on the rack. Kick your panic to the curb and get yourself to one of these five dress destinations for something sparkly, bright—and affordable.


I’d almost never (never!) suggest a fast fashion destination under any other circumstances. But year after year, H&M puts out a decent holiday collection, with most pieces under $30. There are two locations in the city and one at Cambridgeside Galleria; I recommend the store at 100 Newbury Street, which tends to have higher-end (and less picked-over) pieces.

Consignment stores

Consignment shopping is your gold standard if you want something fancy for a fraction of the price. (Ask me about my $130 Céline flats, $70 Diane von Furstenberg dress, or $60 Prada sunglasses that met their untimely departure on an MBTA bus. Or don’t ask! Just keep reading.) There’s Second Time Around (my go-to), The Closet and Buffalo Exchange, to name a few; you’ll need a bit of patience, since most everything is one-of-a-kind—but in the end, worth it.

Thrift stores

Ask me about the $7 vintage Balmain clutch I scored at Goodwill three years ago. (Kidding! Again. But if you really want to know more, I’m happy to tell you.) What I’m saying is: places like Goodwill and Salvation Army (and even The Garment District, to an extent) are treasure troves. You’ll need time to dig, and in most cases, time to have it cleaned. If you can swing that, you’re golden—and oh-so financially savvy.

American Apparel

If you’ve got major disdain for AA's infamous founder, feel free to continue on to my last suggestion. If you’re just like, “Please stop with your anecdotes and give me something cute to wear fast,” then, okay! Because American Apparel is a gem, even for us grown women (thanks, Beyoncé) who aren’t comfortable in glitter leggings and terrycloth hot pants.

I’ve worn their halter dress as a dress and a skirt; the ponté skirt with sweaters to meetings and lacy tops to after-5 get togethers; the lacy tops with just about everything. Most of their stuff is pretty basic, so dress it up with accessories accordingly. Just don’t go with theirs, which tend to be overpriced and flimsy.


Do your mom proud and hightail it to Macy’s, a coupon-clipper’s haven. I almost never venture into department stores unless I need a staple, but I’ve had luck at Macy’s before when I’ve needed something pretty (and dressy) in a pinch. You can even find steals in the juniors’ department; just shop judiciously, since you’ll need to dig through piles of hot pink and faux-fur-trimmed things to find what you’re looking for.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Karyn Polewaczyk lives and writes in Boston, and believes that heading out into that good night, like any adventure, begins with the first step. Let's Go Out is a conversation about dating and nightlife in our notoriously chilly city, with first-hand tips from the trenches. Karyn's writing, which focuses largely on women's lifestyle topics, has appeared in the Weekly Dig, Jezebel, xoJane, Northshore Magazine and, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @KarynPolewaczyk.

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