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The multi-talented and super cute Gen got in touch with us with the following request:

Ladies, help! I’m going to a wedding in April that goes from day to evening so it could be both hot and cold but it is indoors so that shouldn’t matter too much. There will be dancing so I have to be able to move. Here’s the thing, I have no money and need to pull something amazing out (and hair ideas and makeup ideas). What can you do for me?

Bec’s Response

Hey Gen,

Unfortunately you don’t really have the time to wait for dresses to be shipped to you because normally I would say the best way to grab a bargain would be to hit the net and let your fingers do the walking. There are a few Australian retailers that may be able to ship something to you in time so check out online stores for your favourite dress shops and see if they have an e-store offering discounts (sometimes these are better than the in store prices) and if you can get things delivered in time. Myer and David Jones are other options but their prices are a little high.

So depending on exactly how limited your budget is here are a few options:

  • The Clothing Exchange are based in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra and by the looks they have a few events every year. Unfortunately the Melbourne group had an event on the 12th of March which you have missed but they may be able to put you on the right track of a local swap or an event before the big day. A swapped dress would be free which is of course the price ever, all you would need to do is take along one or more quality items that you are happy to trade.
  • Gumtree (or something similar) is one place you can go for most items, I normally wouldn’t recommend shopping for clothes through them though. I kept an open mind and in a few minutes I found a couple of sellers who seemed to have quality items at very reasonable prices. I saw that most appropriate items started around $25 and went all the way up to $500 or so depending on the label etc. It is an option worth considering.
  • There are some great factory outlets in Melbourne where you may be able to find great quality items for less. Have a look at some of the ones close to you and see if you can find a bargain.
  • Try a more modest brand. Target is a good choice for dresses, they often have nice styles and cuts for a fraction of what you would pay in a boutique. Kmart is another good option. Most of their stock is somewhere between $20 and $80 but if you get lucky you might find further in store reductions on prices.
  • Try a vintage or second-hand store, you are petite so there is a good chance they will have some thing to fit you. I would recommend this option if your budget is really small. I’d also recommend taking a friend and trying a million things on if you take this path, there are treasures to be found but it takes patience and a commitment to keeping an open mind.
  • Are you handy with a sewing machine? Do you know someone who is? This is the another option I think could work. You could make something yourself or have it made (if a friend is doing it you can offer them your undying love as payment and a big hug, maybe even throw in a batch of home-made cookies). If you combine this with a second-hand shopping trip (ie buy a dress for the fabric) you could get out of it for less than the cost of a coffee.

Add a wrap or shrug in a complementary tone for warmth.

Hair and make up on a budget:

DIY – If you are confident enough to do it yourself then go for it. I think that lovely long soft curls are a brilliant wedding hair choice, especially if accented with a cute hair pin or head band. There are a million You Tube tutorials that you can watch to learn how to do this if you don’t already know and most of the time all you need is a flat-iron/ hair straightener or even just a blow dryer. If you’ve never done it before just practise a million times in front of the mirror.

My other tip would be that if you think your hair needs a major overhaul (eg. visible roots etc) buy a relatively inexpensive hair colour and treat your hair a night or two before the wedding, colouring your hair usually gives it a bit of extra oomph for a few days and it is a cheaper alternative than going to the hair dresser.

Make up is not always easy, especially if you are not in the habit of wearing a lot of it. There are many tutorials you can watch but none of them are any replacement for practise unfortunately. I would recommend that you go for a slightly more dramatic look than normal for a wedding. I love smokey eyes but a metallic/ shimmer look would work for a more formal occasion as well.

Find a friend! –

Put the word out that you want a hand. Chances are you know someone who you think always does a brilliant job of their hair and makeup. You can either ask them to do it for you on the morning or get them to teach you how to do it yourself. Even better if you know someone else who is going to the wedding who fits the bill, say you want to have a girly getting ready session and ask for help if you need it.

Jewellery – I would encourage you to accessorize, there are plenty of cheap options but the cheapest is to borrow something off friends or family, it’s only for one day after all.

Shoes – My tip would be have a look and see if anything you already have is suitable, if so let that guide your decision regarding what dress to buy. That way you don’t have to spend a cent. Try to find something with a mid sized heel or failing that make sure that you have some good sturdy straps to give your ankles plenty of support.

Bags – Either get yourself a cheap one or again ask around. I have a brilliant one in deep red (from Nine West) that I have lent to about three different people for weddings, I also have a great floral pocket-book that has been to more formal occasions than I have. So I guess I am saying the practice is pretty wide-spread and that if you get stuck let me know and I can send one to you via express post!

Hope this helps, Bec xox

Do you know of any other places that have great dresses for formal occassions?