Tans, tears and tiaras
Forget humble discos – today's school leavers celebrate with U.S.-style proms where 1,500 ballgowns, Hollywood hairstyles and even helicopter rides are de rigueur
22:55 GMT, 27 June 2012
‘I’ve been nominated for Wannabe WAG, Hottest Girl and Rear of the Year’
Amy Powell, 16, lives in Billericay, Essex, with her mother Dee, 51, and father Phil, 52, who own a photography business in Brentwood.
Every girl I know is getting a spray tan for our prom. It’s Essex and you can’t move for beauty salons. There is pressure to look good, as you don’t want people to think you look a state.
I make an effort every day, I’d never go out in a tracksuit with bed hair, and I definitely feel less confident at school, (comprehensive Mayflower High School), without my full make-up — foundation, mascara, eyeliner and blusher.
Wannabe Wag: Amy wears dress 475, Shoes 45, Earrings, bracelet and ring 32, Tan, nails, eyelashes, teeth: 180. Limo: 32. Prom ticket: 35 TOTAL: 799
There’s even more pressure when it comes to the prom, which will be at a countryside hotel near Chelmsford.
It’s a massive excuse to get dressed up and be in competition with everyone else. I’ve been planning my outfit for years.
So far, I’ve had my teeth whitened, my nails done black and glittery to match my dress, and I’ve got a hairdresser coming to style my hair. We get a full sit-down dinner and disco, and all the teachers will be there, they’re more excited about seeing my dress than most of my friends.
Last year, when girls in the year above had their prom, we were on Facebook all the next day discussing the outfits we liked and which ones we didn’t.
Of course on the day, people will be judging everyone else’s look. With that many girls, and that many spray tans and big hair, there will be bitchiness. Even now, everyone is keeping their dress secret as they’re so paranoid that someone will copy them — and they want to keep it as a surprise for their big entrance.
I don’t know anyone who can’t afford to come to prom — there are girls wearing Topshop or Miss Selfridge dresses. But I definitely wouldn’t want to go in a High Street dress — it’s the prom, so it’s all about the prom dress.
I’m quite loud and confident person, so I obviously don’t mix much with shy people, but there are girls in my year who are lacking in self-confidence and who are probably a bit more worried about the prom than me and my friends.
I’ve been nominated for ‘Wannabe WAG’, ‘Hottest Girl’ and ‘Rear of the Year’. It’s quite embarrassing and all a bit silly, especially the WAG thing — it’s only because I dated a guy in the year above last year who played for Southend United. But I love my dress — it’s a bit more than I think my mum and dad intended to spend, so I did feel a bit guilty.
But they know how important the prom is to me, and they love my dress, too. I’m definitely not setting out to impress the boys — my boyfriend Alex is 18, so he’s not coming — but my dress is quite tight, so I’m sure the boys will love it.
‘I will be using my own spray tanning booth mum bought me for Christmas.’
Jade Boswell, 16, lives in Wigan, Lancashire, with her mother Kerry, 40, father Brendan, 44, who owns a landscaping business, brother Corey, 12, foster brother and sister Cameron, 13, and Milly, 12.
I’ve been dreaming about a big pink Barbie dress since I saw Katie Price’s wedding when I was eight.
I spotted my dream dress in the window of a bridal shop in Bolton last November.
It was 1,500 and the same designer as Katie’s. I started crying when I tried it on, it was so lovely. My mum had tears in her eyes. The owner gave us a huge discount, but I think Mum, a social worker, would have bought it regardless. She likes dressing me up as a princess. I am very grateful that my parents could afford it.
Inspired by Katie Price: Jade wears dress: 400. Shoes: 65. Earrings and clutch bag: 145. Nails and
false eyelashes: 31. Transport: Free. Prom ticket: 30 TOTAL: 671
A girl I know isn’t coming because her mum couldn’t pay for an outfit. I felt so sorry for her, and offered a spare dress and crown, but she was too embarrassed to accept as she didn’t want anyone to find out she had to borrow clothes.
There has been a lot of competitiveness over the prom. Some girls have been more interested in their outfits than their exams, though I haven’t gone that far.
Katie Price is my style inspiration, she’s so pretty and glamorous. It doesn’t bother me that she was a glamour model, it’s her choice.
I’d never consider breast implants and I don’t wear lots of make-up, but I will be wearing fake eyelashes and hair extensions for the prom — my hair started falling out in chunks last year after I had too much bleach in it, so I wear extensions for nights out.
I’ll be using my own spray tanning booth that my mum bought me for Christmas, which I set up in our conservatory every Saturday. My best friends have been trying to outdo me by searching for bigger and brighter dresses. Mine is huge — 6ft wide and weighing half a stone. I’ll certainly be making an entrance.
‘You’d feel like a bit of a loser if you came on your own’
Sarah Brown, 16, lives in Stamford Hill, North London, with her television producer mother Gaby, 55, her father Stephen, 55, a film director, her sister Rivkah, 20, and her brother Dovid, 13.
Under pressure to look good: Sarah wears dress and underskirt: 115.30. Shoes: 50 Clutch bag: 30. MAC make-up: 20. Transport: 15 Prom ticket: 15. TOTAL: 245.30
I’m slightly worried that there will be lots of coupling up and slow dancing at the end of the prom.
There will be flirtation on the dance floor, but I doubt it will be in a romantic, long-term way — it’s not the best time to start a relationship.
But one American tradition that has caught on is the prom date.
Everyone has a date, even if like me it’s just a male friend. I do know a few boys who aren’t going, and I have a suspicion that it’s because they were worried they wouldn’t get a date. It is expected — you’d feel like a bit of a loser if you came on your own.
When you see proms in the movies, they all wear ballgowns and it’s very emotional.
For us, it’s just a night of dancing from 9pm to 1am and we wear whatever we want — my Jack Wills dress was originally bought for my brother’s birthday party, not for the prom at all.
But there is still the hype. Back in April, a girl in my year started a Facebook group and invited every girl to post pictures of their prom dress so people wouldn’t wear the same one.
There is a lot of pressure at my school, a Jewish secondary, to look good — there are the princesses who wear expensive brands like Hollister, have rich parents, live in big houses and spend their free time shopping, who will roll into prom expecting to part the crowds and have all eyes on them.
I know I probably won’t look the best at the prom, but I will have the biggest transformation as I don’t normally wear make-up.
But I do really want to look nice at the prom, and I’d love for people to say, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe it’s Sarah.’
‘Mum nearly cried in the shop because she couldn’t afford a 300 dress I loved.’
Chloe Ireson, 15, lives in Stockport, Manchester, with her mother Lynn, 34, a customer services advisor, and stepfather Andrew, 41, a plumber.
I feel guilty about the price of my prom dress, even though I love it and it makes me feel so grown-up.
The money side of the prom has been stressful. My stepdad is struggling for work, so I’ve been trying to find the nicest but cheapest things possible to buy myself — I work part-time teaching dance to children.
I fell in love with a sparkly blue dress, but at 300 we couldn’t afford it. My mum looked like she was going to cry in the shop, she felt so bad, but she was being perfectly reasonable.
Feels guilty about cost: Chloe wears dress: 190. Shoes: 28.99. Bracelet, earrings clutch bag and hair band: 116.96. Hair, nails: 38.60 Transport: 35. Prom ticket: 30. TOTAL: 439.55
Most of the kids at school, (Harrytown Roman Catholic High School in Romiley), don’t have money worries — one boy is going to arrive by helicopter. They only think about how they look themselves.
I know one girl who isn’t going to the prom because her parents are out of work. They offered to pay for a dress, but she wouldn’t let them. I think if I hadn’t been able to get a nice dress, I probably would have stayed at home.
But I know Mum really wants me to enjoy my prom, which is at a hotel near Manchester Airport.
The last few years have been tough. Until last year, I had an eating disorder that started when I was 13.
As a size 12-14, some pupils started calling me ‘fatty’ and saying I looked like a fish. My confidence got so low, I barely spoke and was always convinced people were staring at me.
I’d look at models in magazines and thought I should be that thin, so I stopped eating and got up at 4am to do four hours of push-ups and sit-ups in my room before school. I hid in baggy clothes, and always ate in front of Mum, making myself sick in the toilet afterwards.
At one point, my weight plummeted from 10 stone to 6 stone over four months.
After a year, the school’s deputy head found out. I broke down in tears when I was forced to tell Mum, who was so upset and shocked. But with her support, I gradually started eating small meals again.
Now I’m 8 stone and much happier. Sometimes a plate of food still looks awful, but I just tell myself to eat it.
I have real friends now, and a boyfriend Jake, 17, who tells me how proud he is of me.
I am looking forward to the prom, even though the people who bullied me will be there. They still think they’re better than everyone else, but this will be the last night together before I go to Performing Arts college.
My dream would be for everyone to forget their cliques and celebrate together.
‘I’ll drink sensibly — after getting really drunk once’
Louise Dickinson, 16, lives in Watford, Hertfordshire, with her mother Melanie, 53, a crafts teacher, and her father Steve, 49, who owns a building and construction business.
Looking forward to the prom: Louise wears dress: 90. Shoes: 15. Earrings 6. Nails and hair: 113. Transport: 15. Prom ticket: 20. TOTAL: 259
We’re not allowed to bring any alcohol to the prom. But everyone will bring drinks to the after party at my house — beer for the boys, and vodka and Lambrini for the girls. It makes people less shy.
I’m not really looking forward to the prom at a country house in St Albans itself. My girls’ school, Watford Girl’s Grammar, is having it with the local boys’ school, but we’ll outnumber the boys two to one. And there’s so much division between social groups that everyone will be standing around in their own circles, and nobody will dance.
What the prom is really about is spending the day getting ready with friends and, of course, the after party.
Our boyfriends from outside school will be coming along to that — including mine, Michael, 17, who I’ve been going out with for a month — so there will be more romance than at the actual prom, especially with girls getting drunk.
Quite a few of the guys are 18, so they can buy alcohol.
I’m sensible now with alcohol, but I haven’t always been. The first time I got really drunk was two years ago, at home with friends.
I threw up outside on the vegetable patch after drinking too much cherry Lambrini. That’s all I drink when I go out, as it’s cheap and gets you drunk, and I can usually get through three-quarters of a bottle in a night.
But I know my limits a lot better now, so I tend to be the one looking after friends. I’ve called ambulances twice for other girls, one who got too drunk she passed out, and another who cut a gash in her leg on broken glass in a park when she was drinking.
My mum and dad don’t mind me drinking, and they will be at home anyway — they have the opinion that a hangover is the best punishment, and that shouting and screaming won’t achieve anything.
I recently had my 16th birthday party and that was successful: I cleared up afterwards, even a friend’s vomit from the bathroom door, so I earned their trust.
Hair and make-up: Joy Goodman agency