I’ll admit, I have a love-hate relationship with college formal season. Sure, there’s the free food—I mean who doesn’t love a buffet of bite-sized appetizers? There’s the rare occasion to swap out my nightly sweatshirt and sweatpants ensemble (bonus points for a classic groutfit) for a dress, heels, and hair that isn’t in a messy bun on a Thursday night. And, who could forget the definite high point of any formal? The moment the whole room breaks into song when the DJ inevitably plays Abba’s “Dancing Queen.”
But with every formal, semi, and date party also comes the internal debate over whether or not to buy yet another new dress for the occasion. Especially for those of us in Greek life, it can seem like every month brings another formal event that calls for a new look. To ease the stress of stocking up on formal wear, we’ve rounded up 20 unique rompers, jumpsuits, sets, and formal dresses under $100 that are sure to make a statement without breaking the bank.
If You’re Looking for a Maxi Dress
Every semi, formal, and date party calls for a different dress code and depending on the event, you might be seeking out a more formal floor-length look. While more fabric often means a higher price point, there’s plenty of chic and affordable maxi dresses out there for any style and occasion.
- Tobi Helena Black Halter Maxi Dress ($46): This flowy, halter maxi dress is a classic and versatile style. The high slit is perfect for letting your favorite pair of heels be the star of the show.
- Dee Elly Twist Front Maxi Dress in Pale Blue ($65): The twist front and knotted back offer visual appeal from any angle, earning bonus points for the soft, pale blue that works as a go-to color for both winter and spring formals.
- Revolve Lola High Slit Maxi Dress in Pink Metallic ($78): With a low-cut back and a pink metallic fabric, you’re sure to make a statement with this strappy maxi dress. There’s no doubt you’ll shimmer and shine on the dance floor.
- Tobi Eyes on You Taupe Maxi Dress ($44): The knotted front and neutral taupe color make this dress ideal for a polished and timeless look that works for any college formal.
If You’re Looking for Cocktail Dress
Cocktail dresses are an essential staple in every college girl’s wardrobe, especially when it comes to formal season. From velvet mini dresses to classic LBDs, the timeless cocktail dress takes endless forms that will fit any mood.
- Urban Outfitters Sparkle Moon Beam Empire Waist Mini Dress ($69): This mini dress mimics a starry sky with a metallic fabric practically made to be complemented with some equally sparkly accessories.
- Fraiche by J Velvet Minidress in Ice Pink ($99): If there’s one fashion rule I live by, it’s that velvet never goes out of style, and this mini dress is no exception.
- Farrow Chloe Dress in Champagne ($24): If you love to play around with prints and patterns, this strappy snakeskin dress is your chance to incorporate some texture into your formal ensemble.
- By The Way Vivian Deep V Dress ($70): This simple dress is a great basic piece to have in your closet. The plunging neckline is the perfect space for accessorizing with a statement necklace.
- BB Dakota Aggie Dress ($63): Something about silver makes it feel like the perfect color to wear to any party or formal occasion. The shimmery metallic finish on this cocktail dress definitely does the trick.
If You’re Looking for a Romper
Rompers are definitely the trendy (and way more comfortable) alternative to your quintessential cocktail dress. And we’re here for this fresh take on formal wear. With styles ranging from strapless to bell sleeve, and tons of options under the $100 mark, they’re an ideal option for your next sorority formal.
- Urban Outfitters Twill Tie-Waist Romper ($59): If your style leans more toward classic and preppy, this sleeveless, tie-waist romper is about to be your formal wear staple. The scoop-neck and simple silhouette allow it to be dressed down for brunch or dressed up for date parties.
- Tobi Ring Me Grey Bell Sleeve Romper ($42): For those chillier winter formals, these long bell sleeves will keep you warm while outside. On the reverse, the lightweight fabric will keep you cool when you’re tearing up the dance floor.
- Revolve Rouje Romper ($56): Take a chance and try something a little more bold with this statement red, side bow romper. We’re fans of the eye-catching wrap and V-cut.
If You’re Looking for a Jumpsuit
Jumpsuits are definitely having a moment right now and it’s easy to understand why. The elegant silhouette makes the jumpsuit well-suited for formals. Having pants as the bottom half rather than a skirt, definitely makes these pieces feel cozier than any bodycon mini dress.
- By The Way Gloria Deep V Jumpsuit ($84): The boys aren’t the only ones who can rock a pinstripe at formal. This vertical pinstripe and plunging V-neck are ultra-flattering, while the clean, straight silhouette is always in style.
- Urban Outfitters Plunging Shimmer Jumpsuit in Rose Gold ($79): Rose gold has been trending for a while now, and there’s no better place to wear this luxurious hue than a formal event. With a ’70s inspired flared pant and plunging neckline, this shimmery rose gold jumpsuit is a winning formal ensemble.
- Farrow Camino Jumpsuit in Sage ($19): Another ruffle-accented piece, this shimmery, dusty blue, one-shoulder jumpsuit is another way to add a little bit of spice to your formal wear.
- ASOS New Look Sequin Jumpsuit ($48): Sequins and champagne-colored fabric are the hallmarks of a perfect formal jumpsuit. The wide leg and deep V-neck top make this suit just as gorgeous as a typical dress you’d wear to these types of events.
If You’re Looking for a Set
Sets are easily the best of both worlds—they come in two pieces (making it super simple to mix and match styles), while also mimicking the looks of cocktail dresses, maxi dresses, rompers, and jumpsuits depending on the style. Whether it’s a set with a silky blouse and pants to match, or a lace skirt and cropped top, these two-piece looks are a fun and unexpected twist on classic formal wear.
- Free People Sabrina Ginger Set ($88): Lace is a perfect fabric for formal occasions, and this two-piece set elevates red lace with a turtleneck and crop top design.
- Forever 21 Velvet Cropped Cami & Mini Skirt Set ($35): Just add heels or booties and this cropped top and asymmetrical skirt set is a fun, unique way to wear velvet to your next date party or semi.
- Nasty Gal Bud Seriously Floral Top and Pants Set ($30): High-waisted cropped pants and a ruffled, tiered blouse come together perfectly in this playful, rose-printed set.
- Zara Combined Lace Top ($26) and Contrasting Lace Pants ($36): Subtle lace details on the top and the hem of the wide-legged pants make this set a polished, yet relaxed look for your next formal.
Where are you shopping for formal dresses this season? Show us your all-time favorite formal looks on social by tagging @cfashionista!