Fashion: Fast rise of the school prom

PIC: Dan Kennedy
PIC: Dan Kennedy
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As the all-important school prom season approaches, Stephanie Smith has tips on where to go to kit out teens, excited, or so NOT.

Once upon a time, the only events teenagers had to worry about at this time of year were a few life-changing exams.

But then, about 10 years ago, the school prom arrived on UK shores, having sailed across from the US on a wave of High School movies and teen soaps, and that was that. Year on year, they have gotten bigger and bigger as British teens have discovered that they too want the big frocks and limousines usually reserved for the stars of Hollywood and Hollyoaks.

Prom is big business, estimated to be worth about £80 million a year, with an average spend of around £250 a teen.

Girls tend to take their fashion tips from TOWIE and Made in Chelsea, which this season means embellished one-shoulder and halterneck short chiffon tunics, cute brocade prom shapes and long, designer-style showstoppers. There’s a mix of bright pastels, caramel nude shades and whites, with a smattering of navy and black for those in search of grown-up sophistication (although this is really not in the true spirit of prom).

The Victoria Quarter in Leeds is a good place to start, with Karen Millen, Reiss, Ted Baker and BCBGMaxazria at Harvey Nichols all offering inspiration, at the very least.

Coast always excels at teen special occasion dressing, while online The Vestry, Little Mistress and Ruby Prom all have a vast range of styles at really excellent prices.

The boys seem surprisingly well into the whole prom business too, with fashion companies increasingly stepping into the breach to offer cool tuxedo attire to cater for them.

Based in Ilkley, Johnny Tuxedo is an online company (sister company of tailor Norton & Townsend), that specialises in suits for the graduate and prom market.

It offers a tuxedo jacket, trousers, dress shirt and tie (self tie or pre-tied) all for £120, and you can take your son’s measurements, check with the size guide, order and a big box arrives usually the next working day – along with an amusing and informative style guide leaflet full of tips both sartorial and flirtatious.

Parents might have their reservations, but the school prom is here to stay. Yes, it can cause trauma and tantrums (usually about pre-parties, post-parties and who is going with whom), but it’s now an established rite of passage, allowing young people to look and feel special – and it’s hard to argue with that.

In my experience, it’s the Year 11s who want designer gear and limos. By Year 13, it’s more High Street bargains, shared taxis, and leaving early to hit the bars. Shame.

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