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How to Do Black Tie on a Budget

Actually affordable evening looks.

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model with a bob wears a light pink velvet dress Zara Velvet Crossover Dress, $50

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If you're getting ready to attend a black tie event, unless you've got a closet full of evening gowns ready to go, odds are you're gonna have to go shopping. And as anyone who's tried to do this before can tell you, it's a frustrating game. You'll probably only wear the dress once or twice, so you don't want to spend a ton of money; but as the occasion requires, you don't want to look cheap. Scan any department store or sort a site like Net-A-Porter by price and the options at the lower end of the spectrum are shamefully few, or even worse — boring.

But more recently, retailers like ASOS, Zara, and Missguided have stepped up to fill in this major gap in the market. It is possible to find a formal dress or jumpsuit for under $300 — and in some cases, well under $100 — without looking like a prom queen or a mother of the bride. Shop our favorite affordable evening looks for the season below.

a platinum blonde model wears a long black dress with combat boots
back view of a long black dress

& Other Stories Slit Slip Dress, $125.

a woman in a burgundy dress
a woman in a slinky burgundy dress

Missguided Plus Slinky Kimono Dress, $50.40.

a model with black hair wears a sequin dress
the back view of a sequin dress with black boots

Zara Long Sequined Dress, $69.

A model wears a green satin jumpsuit
The back view of a satin jumpsuit

ASOS Satin Cami Jumpsuit, $53 (available in tall, petite, and regular sizing).

A pink floral dress with a '50s silhouette
The back view of a floral dress

ASOS Floral Jacquard Bardot Dress, $90.

a model with black hears wears a spakly polka dot dress
a tulle overlay dress with polka dots

Zara Polka Dot Tulle Dress, $99.

A black lace dress with red flowers
a model wears a black lace dress

Missguided Peace + Love Black Lace Rose Fishtail Dress, $270.

A model wears a red dress
The back view of a red midi dress

Self Portrait Cutout Double Crepe Dress, $217.

a redheaded model in green velvet
Velvet dress from zara in dark green

Zara Velvet Crossover Dress, $50.

A detail of a black slinky dress
a plus-size model in a tight black dress

Boohoo Plus Off-the-Shoulder Slinky Maxi Dress, $30.