The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

Ask BB: Wedding Guest Dresses That Look Expensive But Aren't

Preppy chic designer dress inspiration

I have 5 weddings to attend this summer but I'm in college and have an extremely limited budget. Some brands that I love but usually cannot afford are Lilly Pulitzer, Kate Spade, J.Crew, Tory Burch and Vineyard Vines. In general my "vibe" is preppy, polished, playful, and sophisticated. I'm not afraid of bold color but can appreciate a more subdued look as well. Do you have any brands or specific dresses that may be able to fit my style and budget? Ideally I would love $35 or under, but I know that isn't exactly realistic with the quality and styles I am looking for. Definitely under $50 per dress, though. —Brigid M.

{Inspiration from left: Lilly Pulitzer "MarieKate" dress, $378; Kate Spade "Carol" dress, $398; J.Crew "Arabelle" dress, $275; Tory Burch "Jacqueline" dress, $425}

It sounds like you have a classic case of champagne taste on a beer budget - and I think I can help! Here are five dresses from brands that offer the same preppy-chic vibe you love, without the designer pricetag:
1. LC Lauren Conrad for Kohl's ponte dress, $39 (down from $60)
Lauren Conrad wears a lot of Kate Spade in real life and her love of the label shines through, shall we say, in her affordable clothing line for Kohl's. This classic LBD has a flirty shape and unique bow detail. I've shown it in black because you can always switch things up with different accessories, but it also comes in an irresistible shade of mint green or vivid coral.

2. JCP all-over lace dress, $35
JCPenney has dozens of stylish dresses under $50 for spring, like this all-over lace dress in a bright tropical green hue that reminds me of Lilly Pulitzer's girly, Palm Beach aesthetic. Pair it with silver pointy-toe pumps or wedges for a totally on-trend look.

3. mac + jac jacquard fit and flare dress, $30
This dress is also available at JCP from a new contemporary brand called mac + jac. The silver fabric is striking while the cut and silhouette are totally classy, reminiscent of something you might find at J.Crew.

4. Forever 21 dotted dress, $29.80
Believe it or not, my first stop would probably be Forever 21 if I were dress shopping. With designs that are derivative of just about every runway designer you can think of, you are sure to find at least one dress that suits your tastes. How gorgeous is this dotted dress in a soft spring yellow? Tip: Look for dresses with the label "Love 21" for more mature styles and longer hemlines.

5. H&M Conscious Collection dress, $19.95
Let's not forget about H&M, either, for super affordable dresses that look more expensive than they actually are - like this coral confection that's just $20. It comes in sizes 2-16 and it's from their eco-friendlier Conscious Collection.

H&M conscious collection coral dress

For more ideas on where to find affordable wedding guest dresses, check out my "Where to Shop" guide (and scroll down to the "Cute, Cheap Dresses" section to help narrow down your options).

What advice would you share with Brigid? Let her know in the comments!

Those are amazing suggestions. That dress form H&M is so adorbs!
#1 Rene' (Homepage) on 2013-03-12 11:16 (Reply)
What stylish alternatives, Dianna!!!
#2 lisacng @ (Homepage) on 2013-03-12 13:17 (Reply)
Loving the Forever 21 dress. So cute and feminine.
#3 Fiona on 2013-03-12 14:09 (Reply)
Great alternatives!
#4 Allison W. on 2013-03-12 16:45 (Reply)
Leave a comment
E-Mail addresses will not be displayed.
Enclosing asterisks marks text as bold (*word*), underscore are made via _word_.
Standard emoticons like :-) and ;-) are converted to images.
E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.