For students of a certain age, the end of the school year is synonymous with prom. Whether attending this penultimate high school event in a group or with a date, it's a can't-miss opportunity to glam yourself up. Making a statement is what it's all about, and for most girls that starts with the dress. But it doesn't end there. The guys need a tux (or suit) and the entire evening needs a plan. We found several free prom apps that can get you there in style and on budget.
One caveat: Our research revealed that most free prom apps have problems loading, force close, or black out at times. The reviews we read indicate that these issues are particularly notable on Android devices. We tested all the apps mentioned here and didn't have any problems, but even if you do, these are free prom apps so you have nothing to lose by giving them a whirl.
Before you do anything else, you'll have to figure out what you and your date can do with the money you have allotted for prom night. Visa's Plan'it Prom (free for iPhone and Android) offers a countdown timeline and a way to manage your budget. From accessories to the after party, nothing has been left out. Because it comes from Visa, there are also restaurant prom specials (i.e., discounts) on multi-course dinners. The free prom app also provides plenty of cost-cutting tips, a photo gallery, and the ability to share it all on social networking sites.
Once the plans are in place, it's all about the dress. The 2014 Cool Book showcase (free for iPhone) is a collection of dresses from the top prom dress designers. You can search for dresses by style or designer and see both pictures and videos of trendy styles. Once you've amassed a collection of favorites, you can share them with friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. before making a selection. Then, you'll be directed to an authentic Cool showcase retailer near you (most seem to be east of the Mississippi, except for major cities).
A word of caution: A big issue with ordering prom dresses online, says retailer Dress Goddess, is the possibility of being snared by sham companies selling knock-off designer gowns at huge discounts. If you do place an order with one of these sites -- and assuming it arrives at your doorstep -- Dress Goddess warns that it's likely to fall apart at the seams, literally. If you have your heart set on a designer look, you're best off giving your business to an authorized dealer.
Prom360 (free for iPhone and Android) promises that whatever you purchase from the site is the real deal. Prom360 is a one-stop shop that augments the process of selecting and buying a dress with a host of hints for all things prom-related. This free prom app features a countdown calendar that tracks the time remaining, down to the second, until the big night. It also provides a budget calculator for everything you might wear, but ignores other expenses. There's also a checklist so you won't forget anything, whether it's making a dinner reservation, arranging transportation, or buying a boutonniere for your date.
Tux: The Tuxedo Builder (free for iPhone and iPad) targets the male portion of the prom-going population with a selection of jackets, pants, vests, shirts, ties, shoes, and more. If you choose pieces that don't go together, this free prom app will tell you -- no worries about making a fashion faux pas. To assure a match with your date's outfit, use the app to select items by color, which are then added to the virtual model. Finally, you'll be pointed to a retailer who will sell it all to you. Oh, and men, if you need to figure out how to deal with that tie, vTie, a free necktie guide app (for iPhone and Android) gives step-by-step instructions for all kinds of knots.
Tux or Dress.
The JC Penney app (free for iPhone, iPad, and Android) appeals to male and female prom goers alike. Although this free prom app lacks a dedicated prom section, doing a search on "prom" brings up plenty of budget-friendly dresses, shoes, suits, and tuxes that are super affordable.
Hair and Makeup.
You might think that mobile devices were tailor-made for testing out hairstyles on your uploaded photo. But according to online user reviews and our hands-on research, most of the best free prom apps don't do this very well. HairChange, a free Android app, performs better than most; the hairstyles are realistic enough to ask your hairdresser for a copycat look. Virtual Makeover by ModiFace (free for Android and Apple products) is a virtual make-up artist that lets you try out make-up combos on an uploaded photo so you don't waste money buying colors that don't work. The makeup suggestions are readily available at local drugstores.
Once you arrive at the prom, you'll surely want to take lots of pictures. PopBooth Photo Booth (free for iPhone and iPad) lets you take four-picture photo strips that can be emailed or shared on Facebook. There's a choice of effects and filters, although the number of effects are limited. Saving or sending pictures, though, is easy. For Android phones, PhotoBooth Vintage offers vintage effects like sepia and retro colors. Once these pictures are stored in your phone, use the free Visage Lab photo retouching (for iPhone and Android) to take care of any imperfections that might mar the memory of a perfect evening.