Once upon a time, teenagers chucked on ugly hand-me-downs from their second cousin Glenis before wheeling it to the school formal in a maxi taxi.
Not any more.
For today’s 17 and 18-year-olds, nothing is more important than the Year 12 formal.
Professional makeup! Blow waves! Spray tans! Designer gowns! Hummer limos! Champagne! Credit card debt! are now all part of the formal deal, along with fancy three-course meals and glittering dance floors.
Today’s formals are more like weddings. Except potentially more expensive and with patchier fake tan.
I know this because, for too many years while paying my way through university, I worked at an expensive retail boutique, selling formal dresses to picky girls and their exasperated mothers.
Mums and daughters would walk out of our shop having spent upwards of $450, fully aware that lace/chiffon/sequin creation would be worn just once. Once.
On one particularly outrageous occasion, I even had a mother and daughter waltz in with a third person – a stylist. A fuh-reaking school formal STYLIST.
Many more would explain to me they were having their daughter’s braces removed for the night of the formal, only to be put back on by the orthodontist the very next day.
The point is this: Formal culture is out of control, people. And we’re losing something rather special because of it.