This Is Where You Shopped For Formal Wear In HS

by Melodi Erdogan
woman getting ready to go out
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images

The one outfit from their youth that millennials will probably always remember? Whatever they wore to the school dance! The stores where you shopped for a high school dance dress will likely bring back loads of memories. Because let's be real, the dance may have only lasted for a few short and forgettable hours, but the dress? You'll be thinking about it for years to come.

OK, not to be too dramatic. But honestly, the stress and pressure that we put on ourselves as high schoolers to choose the perfect dance outfit is intense. I blame the golden era of teen comedies, which make The Big Dance seem like the most important night in any teenager's life. Either way, we spent hours scouring the racks of a few go-to stores in search of that oh-so-important piece of formalwear. From millennial classics Delia's to high school friendly formalwear hubs like JCPenney's shopping for a dance outfit was no easy feat.

So, without further ado, here are the nine stores you probably shopped at when looking for the perfect dress when you were a teenager. From your favorite department store to your tried-and-true trendy boutique, there's a good chance these places were your top picks for finding your dream homecoming/prom/spring fling out.

1. Delia's

While Delia's was the go-to place for fun graphic T-shirts and colorful denim, the store also had an extensive formal dress collection as well (you must remember it from the infamous catalog). From strapless mini dresses to longer pieces with spaghetti straps, Delia's was a top pick for prom-friendly dresses.

2. JCPenney

JCPenney has always had a killer dress selection — and it was affordable to boot! The store is still one of my personal favorite places to look for basics like T-shirts and jeans, but I personally made it a go-to for dress shopping back when I was in high school. From dramatic floorlength numbers to sequined minis, JCPenney always had a wide of selection. Plus, with lots of shoe and clutch options, it was a one-stop shop.

3. Forever21

Sheer Ornate Crochet Mini Dress, $32.90,

Back when Forever21 was pretty new in malls and shopping plazas, there's a good chance you were gushing over the brand's trendy mini dresses and girly maxis and considering for your big debut at the school dance. I rocked a F21 dress for my 9th grade dance and loved every moment of it. Ahh, the memories.

4. Macy's

Department stores are always great places to look for dance dresses, but Macy's was like a whole different world. It seemed like whenever prom season rolled around, your local Macy's would just turn into a dance dress wonderland. We probably are all guilty of trying on waaaay too many dresses at Macy's — and having a blast while doing it. Hey, it's all part of the experience, am I right?


Elinne Cutout Pleated Jersey Gown, $338,

BCBG Max Azria was another relatively affordable designer boutique that offered some seriously gorgeous dresses for high school dance season. They were definitely more formal and red carpet-esque, but that must have been the reason why everyone wanted to rock one. From jewel toned gowns to ones with pretty embellishing on the bodice, BCBG was a sure-shot to finding a gorgeous dress.

6. bebe

Remember those tightly cropped top shirts with "bebe" emblazoned across the chest in rhinestones? Don't be embarrassed, we all loved it. At the end of the day, the brand was a perfect hot spot for gorgeous event gowns, a.k.a. the answer to your high school dance dress woes.

7. Marshalls

Marshalls has something for everyone, from the home decor selection to the discounted designer handbags. But back in the glory days of high school, it was also a go-to for dance dresses. The formal dresses they carried were always chic and affordable. Plus, the feeling of finding a high-end dress for a fraction of the price at Marshalls was truly one to savor.

8. Guess

Evelyn Lace Up Dress, $108,

Before Gigi Hadid was the face of Guess, it was the spot that made dance dress dreams come true. There's no doubt the brand carried designs that were a bit sexy, but that made them all the more covetable.

9. Express

There's no feeling that compares to stepping into a store and loving everything you're seeing, which is exactly how I remember feeling about Express in high school. The more formal options were just casual enough to be worn on several occasions, but still fit the bill for a more laid back dance. Clearly the brand has still got it, because that slinky slip dress pictured above is seriously '90s chic!

While the dances themselves may not have been memorable, you'll always have fond memories of these stores thanks to your gorgeous dresses.

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Images: Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images, Courtesy Brands