Whew! My inbox (and Tumblr inbox) is filled with requests for prom dresses. I thought it was really early and then I remembered that my senior prom was the second week of March. And, um, it's already the middle of February.
I'm including dresses here that would be great for a prom but that would also work for any kind of formal event, whether it's a sorority formal in college or a black tie/fancy wedding. So don't be deterred by the word "prom" in the title if you're not in high school.
The best advice I could give while searching for *the* perfect prom dress is to consider the dress' longevity and versatility. I loved the dresses I wore to my proms: a long white dress my junior year and a Lilly dress my senior year. But I couldn't really wear either of them past prom. In college, I attended formal events and even a couple of balls (lived the life back then) where a simple gown would have been perfect. It would have been so much more useful had I picked out dresses that would work for lots of events. I think if were to do it again, I'd get a nice short formal dress for junior year and go for a long gown my senior year so I'd have two great options to wear in college.
The other thing I'd recommend considering is wearing what you feel confident in. Wear what you want to wear even if it's not a traditional "prom" dress. You only get a chance (or two) at going to prom so wear what you want... but at the same time, I'd avoid trends. (Especially if you intend on wearing the dress for college events.)
(I hate doing disclaimers, but I've been doing this long enough to anticipate certain comments/critiques.... So here we go.... Everyone has different budgets for prom dresses. I did my best to include all options.)