Pretty and Cheap — Proms Get a Budget-Friendly Makeover

Though Cinderella might have been the quintessential rags-to-riches story ending in a lavish ball, the current mean-stepmother economic reality has many prom-goers tightening their cummerbunds, and embracing a cheap and charming alternative.

It hasn't been uncommon for modern teens to spend anywhere between seven hundred and a thousand dollars on just the prom dress — a lavish spectacle egged on by shows like MTV's My Super Sweet Sixteen — but as more and more families are finding it harder just to pay rising fuel and food costs, the clock is striking midnight on luxuries like pricey prom-wear. To see how proms are getting an '08 budget makeover, read more.

Several foundations offer lower cost ball gown alternatives, like the Chicago-based Glass Slipper Project. There's big demand for their rainbow of donated dresses that go to those who can't afford first hand gowns. (Not to mention that the reuse has a positive impact on the environment as well as wallets.) San Francisco’s Princess Project is also seeing a big surge in the numbers of people seeking low cost prom dresses. Yvette Nichols, board president said: “Girls are traveling two hours, just to come and find a dress.”

Historically teens might have been embarrassed to shop second-hand for such a milestone outfit in an American adolescent’s life, but many are finding this situation as a nice break from the pressure of spending more than your peers. The penny-pinching is having a positive effect on budding values systems. A senior at a high school in Arizona said: "It is kind of a bragging thing. . . to spend $300 on a dress, but for me, it’s almost embarrassing to spend that much.”

Are the leaner economic times inspiring a return to sanity? Could this be the reality check that's just the antidote to an out of control consumer culture? Will organizations like this make it trendy to be thrifty?