The Rise & Rise Of The British Prom
Almost unheard of in the UK twenty years ago, now, 17 out of 20 senior schools hold an official event to mark the milestones of the end of schooling. Love it or hate it, the School Prom, just like Halloween, has made the trip from across ‘the pond’ and has rapidly grown in popularity. So much so that it is now cemented into teenage popular culture here in Britain.
Before the Millennium, schools in the UK held the leavers’ ball or leavers’ disco, which was very much the poorer English cousin to the US-styled prom. The United States introduced us to a much more lavish affair where attention to detail is paramount.
Designer dresses, shoes and accessories, including jewellery. Evening bags, limo cars, hair, nails, makeup, spray tan sessions and professionally taken photos add to the cost of preparing for elaborate ‘passing out’ parties. Which range from low-key dinners and dancing in school halls to tailor-made summer balls in five-star hotels. Prom can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It can also get expensive. Quickly. Your mileage will vary, of course. A second-hand prom dress, hand-me-down accessories and DIY makeup will mean you’ll pay much less than someone who opts for all-new everything.
The school prom is an attractive addition to the school calendar for many head teachers because it provides a ‘reward’ for all the students who have got through their exams and are ready to face the next phase in their lives.
The latest extra expense is the after-prom party which requires a second outfit for the evening. This has become part of the official celebrations, and almost all proms end this way. Getting dropped off by your parents in their SUV is no longer deemed acceptable by today’s debutantes. Anything from hired stretch limousines to a Rolls Royce are essential nowadays.
Although the school prom is relatively new here in the UK. It’s already estimated to be worth over £90 million a year. According to a recent report, the average UK household spends £220 per teenage daughter and £157 per son attending the school prom! This may seem a considerable expense, but not when you compare it to our counterparts in the United States. A recent report by Visa estimated that the average US parents spend a whopping $919 (£630) per teenager attending prom night.
As if finding a prom dress wasn’t stressful enough. There is now an added pressure to find a dress that no one else has to avoid the dreaded ‘Who wore it best?’ comparisons. In addition, dress stores keep registries of which dresses they have sold to students at specific high schools. To get the dress they want before their classmates do. Many girls begin shopping for dresses months before the prom. And It’s not just the girls who start planning and spending money months beforehand; promposals – elaborate invitations to proms – are setting some teenagers back hundreds of pounds!