Formal events – how to look good for less

With matric dances in full swing, and Christmas functions just around the corner, Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood finds out how you can look good for less at formal events.

For the ladies

Maureen Grobler, an image specialist and makeup artist offers a few tips on how women can lower the expense of a formal night out. She says: “One of the easiest ways is to choose a design that is classic and simple. That is why the LBD – Little Black Dress – has stood the test of time and will remain one of the essential items in a woman’s wardrobe. A simple design allows the wearer to play with accessories, and thus, change the look of one outfit to many. It becomes an investment piece.”

Other tips Grobler offers include:

  • Buy at end of season sales
  • Find vintage shops
  • Do a dress swap
  • Ask family members and friends for cast me downs (have it tailored and embellished to change the look)
  • Rent rather than buy

Grobler adds: “Personally I think consumers must become more conscious of what they are wearing. There is a movement in the USA – #30Wears – they challenge people to wear their clothes at least 30 times.”

There are a number of businesses that hire out wedding dresses, matric dresses and other formal dresses, often at a fraction of the price to purchase the dress new.

Glitz-C-Glam: Based in Randburg, Glitz-C-Glam offers dresses suited to a range of occasions, both for hire and purchase. According to the website, prices range as follows:

  • Short Evening dresses: Hire R250 – R350 / Buy: R350 – R500
  • Long Evening dresses: Hire R350 – R450 / Buy: R500 – R600
  • Exclusive range of dresses: to buy from R900 to R2,500 / Hire price on request
  • Wedding Dresses: Hire Prices on request/ Buy from R1,600 to R3,200
  • Custom made /Imported evening and wedding dresses: Prices on request.

Cinderella’s Evening Wear: This company, based in Durban North, hires out evening dresses ranging from R350 to R1,000 per dress hire.

Just Gowns: If you want to spend a little more, you can hire full length gowns starting from R1,600 to R2,500. According to the website, the hiring cost is a fraction of the retail value of the dresses on offer. The company is based in Pretoria East.

Purple Tulip: The main store is based in Durban, with agents based in Randburg/Roodepoort, as well as Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mpumalanga. Hiring starts at R350 for matric dance and evening dresses.

The Princess Project: This organisation gives underprivileged girls access to evening gowns and wedding dresses at no cost to them. The dresses aren’t new though as they’ve been donated by members of the public.

For the men

A smart suit or tuxedo can make any man handsome, and possible make one think of a suave and charming James Bond.

Buying a suit is an option, but before taking the plunge and spending money on an expensive suit, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Will you wear the suit more than once?
  • Can you afford to layout the money for a new suit?
  • Do you have a suit already that will work? (You can always buy a new shirt, tie or bow tie)
  • Is it just the suit you need, or do you require new shoes as well?
  • Do you have a shirt and/or tie/bow tie that you plan to wear? (If yes, make sure they go with the suit you plan to buy)

If you only plan to wear the suit once, laying out money for a new suit would be a waste. There are a number of companies around the country that offer hiring services, whether you are looking for a suit or a tuxedo. What’s more, you could even opt for a design or style that you wouldn’t normally purchase. Below are the details of some companies that offer suits for hire:

Eurosuit: With branches around the country Eurosuit hires suits from R690. However, if you change your mind once you arrive and you want to purchase a suit, they also sell suits.

The Dress Suit: With two branches, one in Johannesburg and the other on the East Rand, The Dress Suit offers suit hires for a range of functions, from matric dances to weddings. They are currently running two specials: The Prospective Groom’s special offers the suit, shirt, waistcoat, cravat, hanky and cuff links for a fixed rate of R899. The Corporates special includes a black tuxedo, dress shirt, bowtie & cuff links for your corporate function for a special rate of R699. Both specials run until 31 October and are valid at The Dress Suit Illovo and Boksburg.

Mr Suit Hire: They have various branches around South Africa, and have a selection of suits on offer for hire. There is a suit for your budget, with some starting from about R300.

Final tips

Whether you are buying or hiring an outfit, you are going to need to keep aside a few hundred Rands. In addition to this cost, you will also need to consider the possibility of new shoes, a shirt and suitable underwear.

Before hitting the shops, make a detailed list of what you will need, such as a dress, shoes, a handbag, accessories to go with the dress etc. Once you have the list, look at the items you already have. Perhaps you already have an evening bag you can use, or a friend or family member has one you can lend. Shoes can be pricey. Don’t feel embarrassed about lending an item – brides, for example, have to have ‘something borrowed’ anyway.

Make sure you know what shoes you already have and try and find something that will match a pair you own. If you do need to purchase shoes, try and pick something neutral that you will be able to wear again.

Also keep in mind what accessories you already have. Try to limit your spending by wearing jewellery items you already own or can lend from someone else. And less is always more. There may be no need to wear accessories if you dress has a design or embellishment.

Besides the companies mentioned above, there are various other retailers that either hire out or sell formal attire. It is important to shop around and look at things like quality and value for money when making your decision.

If you have friends, siblings or family members who have evening attire you can lend, whether it is a suit or a dress, see if they will let you wear it. It will be a lot cheaper than going out and purchasing something, even if it is second hand. Just get them something nice to say thank you.

Lastly, look on websites like Gumtree or scour Facebook groups that specialise in second hand items for sale. People advertise all kinds of items, from old furniture, to wedding dresses, and suits. At the time of writing there are a number of wedding dress and evening dresses advertised on Gumtree.


For more information on how to look good for less, click here.