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Dress Dissection

Spark staffer Gabby Weber reviews popular places for students to buy prom dresses.
Dress+Dissection
Gwen Gilbert

STORY GABBY WEBER | INFOGRAPHIC GWEN GILBERT

As the weather gets warmer and students inch closer to the end of the school year, they have one more milestone to hit before summer’s arrival: prom. Coming on May 4 this year, it is about time teens start filling the stores to look for dresses.

When buying a dress, there is much to consider. Style, length, color, and of course, price. All play a vital role in the process. A popular destination for shopping is Liberty Center, which has three formal dress stores: Windsor, Dillard’s, and the new Bella Divine.

Windsor has an extensive inventory for being such a physically small shop. It has a relatively wide range of clothing. They have a lot of tops and skirts for formal occasions as well as dresses. They have a shoe collection consisting mostly of heels, formal sandals, and boots. They have gorgeous earrings and necklaces, along with clutches and handbags.

The dress selection in-store is not enormous, but they do have an online store with many more options and other sizes. Unfortunately, shipping is only free if the customer spends $75, but items can be shipped straight to a home if needed.

They carry mostly dresses on the simpler side for formal prom wear, similar to what one would see at a wedding. There are mostly satin options, however, they still have the more sparkly, “big” prom dresses.

They carry more fitted dresses but have a small selection of more flowy options. Uniqueness is not the best at this location; the dresses are considerably basic for prom. However, the great thing about Windsor is the very low prices.

Most long dresses range from $60-150, which is cheaper than most prom dresses. There are a couple more unique dresses that end up being in the $200-250 range as well, but compared to other stores, this is still a steal.

The only thing to note about Windsor’s dresses is that they do not feel as well-developed or made. The material is thinner and lighter and the sparkles on some of the dresses will likely not stay on. These dresses will not last long and will lose their value after the first wear.

They are stored on the racks very tightly, leaving some of them to have a couple of snags from other dresses catching onto the fabric.

Windsor thankfully allows returns, as long as they are made within 30 days of purchase with all tags and the receipt. Overall, the store is very fit for nice occasions like prom and very budget-friendly, as long as the dress does not need to last a very long time.

Dillard’s is the location to be at when shopping for any formal event. They have a large collection of homecoming and prom dresses year-round, along with heels, bags, makeup, perfume, etc. However, the gowns compared to the price proved to be a bit disappointing.

They have a wide range of dresses and an even wider range online. However, their dresses are very basic. Nothing truly stands out like one would find shopping in online stores or at Bella Divine. Despite the array of options, many of the dresses look very similar.

They focus more on glitter and sparkles than satin like Windsor. A lot of the dresses are made out of a thicker material that can feel more constricted, and a lot less comfortable. However, they feel higher quality.

Their pricing is a lot steeper than Windsor, ranging from $200-400, with a couple of outliers. Some of their very popular brands are Honey and Rosie, Blondie Nites, and B. Darlin.

Dillard’s also has a return policy of 30 days from purchase, no damage, and with a receipt. Overall, if one is looking for a starter store to narrow things down, Dillard’s would be very helpful due to the wide variety. Bella Divine just recently opened in Liberty Center. They sell only dresses along with some jewelry and bags. Almost all of their selection is prom or formal wear with shorter dresses on the back wall. They also have large, intricate quinceanera dresses in the center.

Bella Divine has all types of dresses ranging from $100-600. However, they do mostly carry dresses in the $100-$300 range. Their dresses are all more unique than Windsor and Dillard’s, with many different styles and options.

What sets them apart from the other stores is the service. As you browse through the dresses, once you pick one up, an employee comes and takes it from you to start a fitting room. Once you put it on, you can step outside of the dressing room and there will be an employee waiting to zip and tie you up.

Unfortunately, they do not have an online store, and all sales are final with no returns. They also only allow holds for 24 hours at the most.

There has been a large rise in the popularity of online dress shopping over the last couple of years, especially at Lucy in the Sky, Amazon, Lulus, and ASOS.

While there is a lot of variety on these sites, a lot of them, like Lucy in the Sky and Lulus, do not allow full returns: only for store credit. These stores are also notorious for taking very long to ship. Many people were stuck without the dress they wanted until it came a couple of weeks after the dance. Amazon allows returns and ships mostly on time but many of the dresses look a lot differently online than what ends up coming in the package.

However, online dresses have so many unique options that cannot be found anywhere else. And because there is no physical store, there are so many more to choose from and they are all very trendy and in style, contrary to some Dillard’s pieces.

Gwen Gilbert
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