At Bramham’s Bowcliffe Hall, Stephanie Smith highlights the rise of the UK school prom in a fashion shoot featuring three young Yorkshire models and three Yorkshire-based special occasion brands. Pictures by Simon Hulme.
Once upon a time, the end of formal education was marked with The School Disco held in the school hall, which, if you were lucky, had been “transformed” with a few balloons and a trestle table manned by weary teachers overseeing a sorry supply of crisps and cherryade.
Now we live in the era of The Prom and school leavers of 2019 can expect a far more lavish affair. These events grow bigger year on year – and so, it seems, do the dresses.
Most British schools now hold a prom (two actually, for Year 11s and then again for Year 13s), usually in May, June or July. Although some take place on school premises, many are held in a large hotel or even a country house, and feature limousine arrival, dinner and dancing, maybe even candy floss machines and photo booths.
Research shows that some parents are spending £300 and more on prom outfits, and then there’s hairstyling, professional make-up, nails and, of course, fake tanning. It’s worth noting now that far from all parents spend so much money – prom queens and kings can look beautifully dressed in cheaper high street choices and especially in vintage clothing.
Born in the US in the 1950s, the prom celebrates not just the end of school but a coming of age for a cohort of young people who might well have known each other since nursery. In many ways, it’s an ending as they go their separate ways, to university or work, to different sixth forms or colleges or apprenticeships. It’s natural that they should want to honour their friendship and their school by putting on their finest, maybe causing a stir of surprise.
We celebrate the annual phenomenon known as the school prom with a fashion shoot featuring three young models from North Yorkshire – 16-year-old Hannah Slater, her sister Millie and their friend Harvey Ashford. Hannah and Harvey have their prom coming up in May, so this was a timely dress rehearsal for them.
We also feature three Yorkshire brands specialising in prom wear. Although both long and short dresses are worn for prom, floor-sweeping, show-stopping numbers are on the increase.
Based in Knaresborough, Eternity Bridal supplies retail shops with its brands, Eternity Bride, Art Couture, Christina Wu, Adrianna Papell Platinum and Eternity Prom. It recommends buying a prom dress from a store which keeps note of dresses sold to each school, to avoid same dress horror. “Every prom season sees celebrity style heavily influencing the prom look, as each girl wants to feel she is on her own red carpet,” says Eternity’s Giles Turner.
Kate Fearnley is based in Middlesbrough and has just won bridal designer of the year. Kate also designs prom and occasion wear made to measure and specialises in beading and embellishment. “Current colour trends in prom are red, which is always popular. Also jewel colours and pastels have made an appearance the last few years,” she says, adding: “Silhouettes are very much the very fitted fishtail style or a full skirt. Styles are based on bygone eras.”
Johnny Tuxedo focuses on prom and smart formal wear for young men. “The suit market is full of ill-fitting cheap suits that will wear out, or well-known brands which don’t make small sizes, or whose styles are too boring or expensive,” it says.
Its offices and design studio in Ilkley are where the designing and pattern- cutting happen. Sister company Norton & Townsend, a bespoke tailoring company with shops in Yorkshire and London, takes care of manufacturing.
The backdrop for our shoot was Bowcliffe Hall, Bramham, near Leeds, and its lovely landscaped gardens and atmospheric Drivers Club, with decor inspired by the glamour of the 1920s and the golden age of motoring.
Owned by Jonathan Turner, Bowcliffe Hall has business tenants and holds conferences but also hosts special events and weddings. Its history began in 1805 when William Robinson, a Manchester cotton-spinning magnate, bought the land. The house and gardens were completed in 1825. A massive recent development and restoration scheme has created a tranquil yet spectacular events venue (and the Bowcliffe Wedding Fair takes place there tomorrow, see website for details).
Hair was by Russell Eaton, which has salons in Leeds and Barnsley. Stylist Stephanie Fielding, assisted by Maria Ricketts, gave Hannah and Millie glamorous updos, first creating volume with curl. “Whatever total look you are creating for a prom, hair is always one of the biggest accessories,” says creative director Robert Eaton. “Hair trends over the last few seasons have become much more natural, more casual and soft, with lots of texture. These more undone and lived-in looks can still be tricky to get right and it is often about creating the perfect base to your hair by either setting, waving or curling hair first so it has more body and texture to be able to pin into place.”
The make-up looks were the work of Leeds make-up artist Ash Fehners, who had just returned from London Fashion Week, where she and the MAC team worked backstage at catwalk shows. Ash also provides make-up for wedding and proms and here created a young and fresh but defined look for Hannah and Millie. “Prom is a long day to night so ensure your skin is well prepped before make-up is applied,” she says: “The key to getting a flawless lasting base is well-hydrated smooth skin so before the big day make sure you exfoliate and use a hydrating mask.”
We hope this provides some inspiration for 2019 prom queens and kings everywhere. This is your time to shine.
Fashion shoot credits – Photography: Simon Hulme / Styling and shoot production: Stephanie Smith / Location: Bowcliffe Hall at www.bowcliffehall.co.uk, 01937 541111 and firstname.lastname@example.org / Clothes and accessories: Eternity Bridal at www.eternitybridal.co.uk and is stocked at Proms and Pearls in Leeds and Halifax, www.promsandpearls.co.uk; Casamiento in Barnsley, www.casamientobridal.com; Hoops a Daisy in Wakefield, www.hoopsadaisy.com; Its Bliss in Doncaster, www.its-bliss.co.uk / Kate Fearnley at www.katefearnley.com, 01642 227344 / Johnny Tuxedo at www.johnnytuxedo.co.uk / Hair: Stephanie Fielding and Maria Ricketts at Russell Eaton Hair, at www.russelleatonhair.com. The Leeds Salon & Spa is on Boar Lane, 0113 246 9162, and the Barnsley salon is on Shambles Street, 01226 244809 / Make-up: Ash Fehners, at www.ashfehnersmakeup.format.com/Leeds and Instagram: @ashfehners and @ashfehnersbridalmakeup / Models: Hannah Slater, Harvey Ashford, Millie Slater.