We Asked a Stylist How to Find That PERFECT Dress for Your Next School Dance

Sometimes, it can feel like all of your preparation for the next school dance revolves around finding the perfect dress.

Whether you're getting ready for homecoming, winter formal or prom, you can't truly start putting your look together until you've found that ultimate dress as the centerpiece. Not sure where to start? We weren't either, so we reached out to celebrity stylist Ali Levine for her top tips on finding the dress that'll help you be your best self at the dance.

Sweety High: Where should the hunt for the perfect dress start?

Ali Levine: I recommend starting one or two months in advance of the event, depending on how specific you want to get with the look. Starting online is probably best, just to give you ideas of what you might want. That might even inform where you should shop for your look!

Some people will actually need to create vision boards to see that dream dress, which is great. Leaf through magazines to find something that inspires you. I always advise clients, as well as friends, to look at different aesthetics and looks that appeal to them, or a designer that stands out to them, and start there.


SH: Is there anything you should have prepared before you go dress shopping?

AL: Knowing your sizes and budget is very important. Also, come up with a list of the styles or details you really like to remind you what you're looking for. Want something with a V-neck, or off the shoulder? Maybe you want to make a specific statement with gems or glitter. Is there a color you love? Look around with those things in mind and find the dress that'll help you make that statement.

Of course, you should also bring along friends for a second opinion. If you can, come prepared with the right undergarments and a pair of heels to see the height of your dress properly. Also make sure your phone is charged so you can take pictures of the dresses you try on.

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SH: What are your feelings about shopping for dresses online?

AL: Buying online can absolutely work. First, know your measurements. Every company has different sizing, so refer to their size guides and go based on your measurements, rather than relying only on your typical size. Pay attention to fabrics. Whether it looks loose and stretchy or tight and form-fitting matters. Also, make sure you know you're buying from a reliable store or brand.

Shopping online narrows down your search and cuts down on the time it takes to visit a bunch of stores. It's also possible to save money online. On the other hand, if it doesn't fit right, you might not be able to return it, or it might take a while to get to you. Plus, you're missing out on the real experience of trying it on in the store.


SH: Where are some of your favorites places to find great dresses?

AL: Some of my favorite spots are Speechless, Jovani and Lulus. Other than that, don't forget to try small boutiques and vintage shops. Even places like The RealReal, Marshalls and Nordstrom Rack can have some amazing finds. I've seen some great dresses on Poshmark, too.

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SH: What other things should be kept in mind while searching for that perfect dress?

AL: The fit is everything! If it's breathable and you're able to move around in it comfortably, that means it fits you well. If you're able to dance in it and have fun, it'll make you feel even more beautiful and confident.

Avoid dresses that don't fit quite right, have bad zippers or binding or are made of cheap materials. Affordability is great, but you don't want the dress to look and act cheap.


SH: Are there any style rules you think people should always follow?

AL: The four F's of shopping are fit, fabric, feel and fashion. Yes, trends are important—but not as important as the fit. Fit is what makes you stand out, what shapes you and what makes a statement. You should wear the dress. The dress shouldn't wear you. As I always say, confidence is your best accessory.

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Not sure you even want to wear a dress? Click HERE for some dance look ideas that aren't dresses.