Baller Gowns That Don’t Break the Bank

Vic gives the ultimate guide on what to wear during St. Andrews’ ball season.

Thanks to Ines Tramarin and the EmpowHER Galentines subcommittee’s genius, St. Andrews finally saw an all-female, all-pink ball last month – giving me the perfect opportunity to dissect the go-to ball gown bazaars of St. Andrews. As someone on a uni-student budget but also planning on attending entirely too many balls this upcoming semester, diversifying my wardrobe for every occasion has become somewhat of an impossible feat. Consequently, I’ve been on the seemingly never-ending lookout for cheaper places to buy ball-appropriate attire, and now, I’ve done my research. I spent all too much of EmpowHER’s Galentines Ball drunkenly interviewing girls on where they got their dresses (the most extroverted I’ve possibly ever been), and instead of the list remaining selfishly hidden within my notes app, I’ve decided to do the charitable thing and collate a list of the top shopped-at spots.


Charity Shops

The leading provider for ball attire was, surprisingly, Save the Children. A hidden gem gracing Greyfriars Garden (the Spoiled Life Street), the charity shop dedicated an entire rack dedicated to red and pink formal wear during the week of Valentine’s day, most pieces on which boasted prices of less than £15. 

Another form of charity shop that cropped up a few times – where payment took the form of love and doing the dishes on occasion – was their mother’s closet. This was a personal favourite of mine, and perhaps a solution to those with suffering budgets and struggling with bouts of homesickness. It’s not the kind of vintage we see plastered over Depop pages, it’s real vintage. Clothes that have been well-worn, well-loved, and a few stories of their own stitched into the lining. 

High-Street Brands

Uber-mentioned brands of the night included Zara and Urban outfitters, known for their sleek styles and student-led demographic. They’re not the cheapest options around, but tend to be reliable quality and relatively inventive in the fabrics and cuts on offer. Proceed with caution, though, as the popularity of Zara or Urban leave customers at high risk of unsuspected dress duplicates. Still, I’d always choose to consider it as affirmation of my superior dress sense.

Modest Fashion

For those whose style resides in modest fashion, look no further than ASOS. The most popular shop among the Hijabis I spoke to, it seemed to be at the perfect crossroads between affordability and quality – especially at a time where many styles trend towards showing more skin.



Shorter dresses

On the flip side, for those looking to show off freshly-shaven legs, Vinted seems the place to be. The untainted version of Depop and Ebay’s proverbial granddaughter, it seems you can still find good deals and great dresses without too many hours spent searching. The key is to know what you’re looking for before you start looking – start your search through friends or on Tiktok, gather your brand names, and then start searching. 

Suit yourself

A personal favourite of mine, but one which was a rare occurrence at the Galentines Ball, is the suit. Brands for all budgets – H&M, Arket, Alchemy London to name a few – all cater towards this more masculine take of female formal wear. Trend like these trigger other conversations, and ones which I think are long overdue in places like St. Andrews. At smaller, intimate balls such as EmpowHer’s, spaces have been created where there’s wider freedom of fashion. Hopefully, more and more people will be encouraged to take further steps into uncommon forms of formal wear, or even perhaps more traditional and cultural takes. The only judgement in the room that night I felt was because I didn’t know the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s All Too Well (10 minute Version)


I hope that this list helps shorten the struggle to find ball-appropriate attire that we all tend to leave until the last minute. It’s important to remember that although balls come with a lot of expectations and anxiety, erring on the side of comfort and confidence is always the best option. But as The Saint’s Leo Berenson said, if the question is “to serve or not to serve” – there’s only one thing to do. 


Photography by Tala Mencej and Hanna Sabu.



21 thoughts on “Baller Gowns That Don’t Break the Bank

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