Excited young ladies from Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School proudly show off their colorful outfits at the Sandy Springs school’s junior and senior prom dinner on April 16.

It’s prom season, every teenaged Cinderella’s chance to be transformed into a princess for a night.

Frantic high school girls scour malls, websites and friends’ closets for their perfect dresses. But, like Cinderella’s gown, these dresses last only a night. Who would be caught dead wearing the same dress to her junior and senior prom?

But, considering a prom dress can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000, the buyers face a budgetary dilemma. Should they rent, borrow or buy their prom dresses? And what do they do with the gowns after the big night?

Alexandra Hunger, who graduated from The Lovett School in 2005, found one answer: Keep wearing the dress. She says she has re-worn almost all of her prom dresses.

“I made a point to buy dresses that were classic,” she said, “and I’ve worn them enough, to formals in college and other events, that they have been well worth the expense.”

If you have an older sister, you’re in luck. You can wear dresses your sister wore, and really only your parents are going to remember. Some of Hunger’s dresses stayed in the family: Hunger’s sister wore two of them to proms of her own.

Holy Innocents’ senior Meghan Barrett plans to keep her prom dresses, too.

Seniors Anna Marie Sokolowski, left, and Meghan Barrett, happily model their dresses.

“I can always re-wear them in college, or use them to trade with friends for their dresses. Once I’m old, I’ll just give them away or sell them,” Barrett said.

Holy Innocents’ parent Angela Sokolowski also kept her old prom dresses. “It’s cool to see what her dresses looked like compared to the ones I’m buying for my proms,” says her daughter, senior Anna Marie Sokolowski.

Buying dresses you can wear again, sell, or trade between friends is a decision that makes the prices a bit more bearable. But, if dropping the cash is still something you just don’t want to do, there’s another choice: Rent.

Websites like www.RentTheRunway.com are fairly new on the radar. That website was started in 2009 by two Harvard Business School classmates. Now more and more prom-goers rent designer evening gowns from this kind of website for a fraction of the gown’s original cost, and they never have to endure the hassle of dressing rooms and malls. Another perk: There’s no concern about what to do with it afterward; just package it up and mail it back.

Rachel Walker, a junior from Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, rented her prom dress from www.RentTheRunway.com.

“One of my best friends told me about the website, and I found a dress on it that I fell in love with,” Walker said. “I know there’s not a very likely chance that I’d wear my prom dress again, so I have no problem with not keeping it after prom.”

Fit, however, may be a bit of an issue, because there’s no chance to try it on before renting.

“You don’t really know for sure that it’s going to fit perfectly before you get it in the mail. You can read the reviews and select your size according to the fit and measuring chart, but it’s more difficult than just trying on a dress in real life,” Walker said.

Walker was happy with her dress’s fit, though, and happy she avoided the chaos of malls and prom dress boutiques. After all, even the most beautiful prom dress likely turns into a pumpkin and disappears for a least a while once prom night is done.

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