When I'm looking for original and quirky dresses to wear to parties and dances, I usually go to Urban Outfitters. I'm usually looking in the $50-60 range, and I've had pretty good luck there. The black sequin dress above is by Silence + Noise, priced at $98, is just one of the great finds from Urban.
Naturally, not everyone likes Urban Outfitters. In my research, I came across two other great dresses: one from JcPenney's (the white babydoll) and the other from Topshop (the beaded, long-sleeved LBD). I believe the JcPenney's dress was $61, while the beaded was $90. And if you really want to find something chic and EXTREMELY cheap (of the inexpensive variety) head on over to Forever 21.
My favorite pastime happens to be thrifting. I cannot say how many wonderful dresses I've bought while in vintage stores. The dress I wore to prom last year is a simple black sheath from the '60s with a gorgeous bow on the back. It was downwards of $50 in NYC. My homecoming LBD was only $20. However, my favorite purchase has to have been this baby blue dress that I found at the Woodstock Reunion concert this past summer. If you have vintage stores, Goodwill or flea markets, check them out. You might be surprised at what you find.
The dress is only part of the equation. You'll need leggings, pantyhose or tights to cover up your naughty bits (the key to being sexy is only hinting as to what lies north of the thighs; overly revealing outfits rarely look enticing.) One constant I usually use when I go out is the simple black tight. However, if you are wearing a plain dress, a pair of sequin leggings, like the ones from Topshop ($85) above. Granted, these are a bit pricey (in my opinion) for leggings, but as a statement piece I'm certain they could get a lot of use.
Underneath those shimmering legs better be a great pair of heels, wedges or flats. I generally shoe shop at DSW, but I've found great pairs of durable flats at places like Urban Outfitters and Steve Madden. However, pictured above is a beautiful metallic wedge from H&M that really caught my eye. For $59.95, that shoe is really something.
Accessories happen to be my favorite part of the complete party outfit. Featured in my collage is a rhinestone bracelet by BleachBlack ($28 at UrbanOutfitters.com) as well as a statement ring ($18, UO), barette ($16) and a gorgeous Kimchi Blue beaded clutch ($48). Department stores tend to have really wonderful accessories, and even the local drugstores like Walgreens and Rite Aid carry great little trinkets for mere dollars.
When it comes to shopping for luxurious pieces, use judgment. Occasionally I will spend a bit more on an item if I believe it will be a true investment; mostly, I budget myself and learn to work within the line I've drawn.
And here's a little secret: you really don't have to spend a lot on shine luxe. Go for one flashy item and temper the rest. The purpose of sequins really isn't to attract children with ADHD, so you can and should tone it down a bit.
Images courtesy of Elle, UrbanOutfitters, Jcpenney, H&M and Topshop.