Free Prom or Homecoming Dress! Learn How!

If your closet has a collection of prom or homecoming dresses and you are hoping to sweet-talk your way into a new or different dress for the upcoming dance, but your parents are saying, “No way, we can’t afford it” then you need to try hosting a Formal Dress Exchange. It’s fun, you get to hang out with your girlfriends and your parents will absolutely think you are the most thoughtful, caring daughter they ever had.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Used Formal Dresses
  • Friends with Dresses
  • Invitations (Homemade)
  • Place to Hang Dresses
  • Bed Sheets
  • Long Length Mirrors
  • Garage Sale Tags & Pencil
  • Snacks & Beverages

Step 1

Decide on location. Ask parents if you can host a Formal Gown Exchange at your house. Choose a spot that has enough room for the number of guests you want to invite (including a parent/s), clean floors, room to hang dresses and set up temporary changing rooms. Plus, a separate area for eating.

Step 2

Decide if you want your Formal Gown Exchange to be a Discounted or Swap Exchange. At a discounted event, all dresses are for sale. At an exchange event, girls are free to just swap/borrow dresses of any value and return them to the original owner in the same condition they received it in.

It should be required that all dresses are dry-cleaned and free of defects before and after they are returned to owners. Defects can be noted on sales tags and dresses offered at lower costs too.

There are pros and cons to both types of exchanges: You don’t have to worry about damaging someone else’s dress at a discounted exchange, but you don’t get a dress at zero cost either. So, choose the best option for your group.

Step 3

Pick date (1 month before dance is best) and time and create homemade invitations. The invite should explain the purpose of the Formal Gown Exchange and invite a parent to attend if they wish. Give a start and end time, 4 hours should be sufficient.

Be creative. Make your invites shaped like a formal gown or high heel shoe. Use the dance theme in your invites–make it fun!

Outline the purpose and ask girls to bring ALL their gowns, as well as any shoes and accessories if they wish. Be sure to mention the quality and dry-clean rules up front in the invitations and whether it is a swap or discount exchange.

Ask each guest to bring a snack. Hostess provides the beverages.

Step 4

Day of Exchange: Set up several full-length mirrors (can be borrowed) and bed sheets hung over a rope works great for changing rooms. Set up separate area for beverages and snacks to avoid accidental spills/damages to dresses.

Have a pencil, garage sale tags and a place to hang dresses ready.

Step 5

As guests arrive, check over dresses for the dry-clean/damage rule. Write the owner name, dress size and price (if discount exchange) in pencil on each tag and attach to dress. Do the same for any shoes and accessories. Hang on the rack by size.

Do not allow anyone to try dresses on until all the guests have arrived. Before you start:

1) Explain the type of exchange you are hosting to be sure everyone understands.

2) Ask guests to treat each gown as if it was their own to avoid damages.

3) Request they keep comments polite. Even though they may not be caught dead in a particular dress, some girl there DID wear it.

4) Rule: Keep all food and beverages in the eating area and wash hands before handling the dresses.

5) Rule: Guests should review tag and check with owner of dress to pay for or negotiate swap exchange directly. Nobody leaves with a dress without the owner’s knowledge. Advise them to check for defects themselves.

Tips & Warnings:

  • Invite guests you can trust.
  • Invite guests of similar sizes. It’s fine to have different sizes, but be sure there are at least two people about the same size or they won’t have anyone to exchange dresses with.
  • Be sure to make it clear you are hosting the event to help everyone save money, but the sale or swap exchange is strictly between the dress owner and purchaser/borrower.