- Shop Vintage
An afternoon spent vintage shop-hopping can yield great rewards. Many of today's dresses are modeled after classic ballgowns from the 1950s. Cinched waists, sweetheart necklines, and mid-calf hemlines were all over the runway, and original vintage versions are waiting to be uncovered from the depths of the sequined, rhinestoned, embellished castoffs of the '80s and '90s. Just dig deep.
- Be Exclusive
So you don't have the funds to enlist a designer to whip up an exclusive concoction? Getting your hands on an exclusive number is easier than you think. When it comes to fancy frocks, small boutiques routinely stock only one of each dress. Similarly, most independent prom shops have a policy of refusing to sell the same dress to two girls from the same school.
- Make Alterations
Even tiny alternations can change the entire look of a prom dress. Tie a bright silk scarf around your waist to create a waist-slimming sash. Shorten the length from floor-dusting to thigh-grazing. Add a glammy floral corsage to a shoulder strap a la Carrie Bradshaw. Swap buttons, switch straps, add embellishments -- let yourself loose in a craft store.
- Design It
If you moonlight as a seamstress, pick up a pretty dress pattern and fire up that sewing machine. If designing is your thing, draw some sketches and hire a tailor. When it comes to making your own dress, keep it simple and focus on glamorous extras like rhinestone buttons, sequin appliqués, and satin ribbons.
- Project: Runway
If you have the means to pluck a gown straight from the runway, by all means utilize those resources! If, on the other hand, your budget is tighter than Britney Spear's wardrobe, consider eBaying your way to a designer gown. Remember to only use reputable sellers -- the most experienced vendors provide very detailed measurements that make for a foolproof fit!