The School Formal

For most girls (and boys) the Formal is the social event of their school lives and countless hours are spent agonising over a partner, a dress, the pre party, the post party and everything in between. At best, preparations for the Formal become a distraction, months ahead of time. At worst they can become a fully-blown obsession. Girls now seem to take the event just as seriously as if they were planning a  wedding.                                                              

For me, one of the more memorable aspects of the Formal was going shopping for ‘The Dress’. Both of my daughters asked for my opinion with every dress tried on (amazing as that might sound). And afterwards, I realised it was probably the only chance I would get to go formal shopping with them (since I was buying!!) until the next big event – their wedding!

Some tips that worked for me and others:

Set a budget before you go shopping. I found that by setting a limit of what I was prepared to contribute to this outfit, it then placed some reasonable expectations in my daughters’ minds. The girls would regale me with stories of friends and friends of friends that bought their ‘designer dress’ for some astronomical price on their recent family trip to Paris!  Right… I realised later that was just their devious plan to guilt me into increasing the budget!

Feedback from girls two years later: I asked recently a group of my daughter’s friends, if you had to do it over again what would you do differently? There was unanimous agreement on two things: Go shopping early, at least 6 weeks ahead and don’t buy BLACK as it was considered the safe bet so everyone wore it!

Allow at least 2 shopping excursions to find the dress. Formal dress shopping can be exhausting. You will probably find after four hours of pounding the pavement that your daughter will get disheartened. Take a break and try again another time. We needed three separate trips to cover the different locations as there are numerous shops in the CBD/Paddington/Fortitude Valley and the suburban malls of Brisbane. You might be lucky and find perfection on the first outing. However, we didn’t realise this until after we had exhausted all possibilities (and ourselves).

Having the dress made: This doesn’t necessarily save you money but your daughter will have a dress that is probably a perfect fit. Fabric, dressmaker fees etc. can add up and allow 7-8 weeks for the finished product. If you are handy with the needle, I applaud you, as this will be the least costly route.

Get an idea of what your daughter might like before you venture out: She might have discussed this with friends and have an idea of the style and colour of dress she would like. Hey, this was one of the few times my fashion opinion meant something and I exploited the opportunity to steer her away from some of her initial choices. Take a gander at the numerous designer and department store websites.  Also, the red carpet fashion at the Oscar’s is a great starting point to gain some insight as to where she might already be sourcing some ideas. Here is a small sample:

Red carpet images –

Bec and Bridge – an e-boutique 

Boutique Stores in Brisbane:

Bessie Head –– Broadway on the Mall, Queen Street, Brisbane

Carla Zampatti –– Level 1, Queen Street, Brisbane

Sass & Bide – most department stores

Violet Green Fortitude Valley – (fashion week 2011)

Ultra Suite: 709 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley;

Good luck and enjoy!


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