I hear parents talking about how expensive school dances are. The dress, the hair, the shoes, etc.
The year I spent the most on my daughter's dress for her high school's homecoming dance was the year that she was most disappointed in how she looked. The first year, she was a freshmen, therefore not technically eligible to go the dance, except as someone's date. So we did not have a lot of advance notice for shopping. We looked all over town, found a dress we could live with, and paid full price for it. We weren't the only ones. There were a couple of other people at the dance in the very same dress.
The next year, planning ahead a bit, we found a dress in an outlet store in Branson, and spent $35. Much better. Much cheaper. And no one else had one.
This year, I found a vintage dress at a Goodwill. The price? $12.
The best she's looked yet. I did her hair, because a $4 can of Aquanet makes up for a lack of skills on my part. The necklace is vintage rhinestones, from when I was in school. She wore a pair of black pumps that she already had.
Including the boutonniere for the boy, the hairspray, the pins & combs for her hair, and the new eyeshadow, and the earrings that she didn't end up wearing, I spent less than $40.
Thrift stores are full of beautiful formals. Some take a bit of imagination, although nothing so drastic as Pretty in Pink. Some need a trip to the cleaners. And, truthfully, it helps if the person you're dressing is thin, as I have not seen a wide selection of fabulous size 16 dresses looking for a home. But taking time to look through those racks can show gems hidden among polyester satin monstrosities.