Bitch, Don’t Steal My Dress

School Formal season is once again upon us, and I always reflect on a time where formals were fun, rather than a competitive sport that they seemed to have morphed into.

Gone are the days when you and your mum would flick through the large pattern books at your local fabric shop, squabbling over the style of your formal dress. Once you reached an agreement as to how low the sweetheart neckline was acceptable and how puffy the sleeves should actually be, you would then select which colour water wave taffeta your creation would be, pay for it and drop around to Mrs. Gascoigne’s place so she can make it for you.

Once the dress was completed, you would borrow a pair of your mums court shoes. The ones with the one-inch heels. You would wash and brush your hair, decide that now was a good time to experiment with coral lipstick and VOILA!

You were good to go to your formal. In the back of your Dad’s car.

These days, things are done a little differently. The Modern Formal has lifted the expectation bar so high; you need to really squint to see it. And with my fuddy duddy hat firmly pulled down over my ears, I have got to wonder when the madness will end.

Maybe it will end with a Brazilian? I just cannot imagine a Mum saying to her 17-year-old daughter… “Darling, you must not have any pubic hair at your formal!”

But before you even THINK about ridding your body of pesky hair, you must think about what you should be covering it with. Enter….


 Bitch, Don’t Steal My Dress is a Facebook Group that you can join and upload a photo of your dress, so that other young ladies from your school will know not to dare show up in the same frock.

Holy Hemlines! I wish I were making this up.

But at least you do not have to worry about planning the event anymore. Gone is the Spit Roast and Salad option. Now there are specialty organizations that will take care of the lot for you. Including, but not limited to the following.

Individual cupcakes, Chair covers and sashes, Table Linen co-ordinates, Balloons, Big Screens, Comic, Magician, Flash Mob Dancers, Flowers, Long Stemmed Red Roses for each girl, Video Kiosk, “Selfie” Booth and perhaps my favourite. Etiquette Training.

This is the only inclusion conducted at school BEFORE the School Formal. We send out a trainer to bring your year into line with polite society before the night.

Because it would be just too much to expect your parents to address this issue, as they are too busy working their Asses off to pay for the disco stretch hummer, that will transport you to the Hilton.

Aren’t I sounding old and bitter?

The thing is, I worry about the expectations of the future generation. They are growing up in an extremely narcissistic environment driven by celebrity endorsements and giant, shiny fake boobs. They are the generation that thinks that this existence is normal, inspirational even.

They are a sophisticated people, the teenagers of today. But I for one think that they might be missing out on something. That longed for night, the right of passage that means you go to the school formal with the son of a family friend, sporting a full bush that no one has a chance in hell of seeing, while wearing a dodgy dress.

The school hall hosting, the Mobile Disco screaming out the tunes while the ever-creepy geography teacher dances by himself in the corner.

And no one is going to publicly shame you on social media if you turn up to your event wearing the same dress as the alpha female. Gone are the simple days, and I kinda miss them.

How did you get to your high school formal?

Who did you take? And what did you wear?

  • Heidi D

    I took a friend to my year 12 formal. He picked me up & drove us there. I wore a black & silver dress that was probably designed for “the more mature lady” . Just about every other female there was wearing the style of the times, strapless & full skirt in various colours of the same shiny fabric. I wasn’t brave enough to go for this style as I had nothing to hold up a strapless dress & a quite significant scoliosis hump that doesn’t flatter a bare shoulder. I probably didn’t do myself any favours by teaming my dress with a hairstyle done for me by my elderly great aunt, a strange roll thing on the back of my head. Very glamorous ?

    • Your description is GOLD! I was also unable to wear strapless. I wish I could have, and topped it off with elbow length gloves!

  • Jane

    I went with my first boyfriend and wore a peacock blue, watermark taffeta dress (made by a dressmaker) with puffy sleeves AND a sweetheart neckline. Accompanied by a Lady Di haircut, white kitten heel court shoes, a string of pearls and Cutex frosted pink lippie. The best part is that after 31 years I still have the dress and my 14 year old daughter is very into 80s style fashion so it might get another (reincarnated) guernsey!!!

    • Amelia

      Cutex frosted pink lippie – I loved that. Super age appropriate and cute. I remember my mother pleading with me to at least put a little bit of lipstick on before I headed off to an after school party. She was probably right but I certainly looked better for not being caked in makeup and fake tan.

      • Jane

        The lippie and maybe a bit of mascara was all the makeup I was allowed to wear…bit different to the false eyelashes, fully made up glamour girls of today! ?

        • My Mums friend did my make up for one of the formals I went to and she did me up in purple eye-liner!

      • I had that frosted pink lipstick! The cute one. Pink in the Afternoon!

        • Jane

          AHHH I couldn’t remember the name!! Wonder if they still make it?!

          • THEY DO! $23.99

          • Jane

            ??? wonder if we could still make it work?!

    • You sound like you were so ON TREND!

      • Jane

        Fashionista circa 1986 ?

        • Yes, it was a fine year for fashion!

  • Lia Saunders

    1976. My mother sewed me a stunning backless, halter neck cream silk dress – full length – from a Vogue pattern. Went with my then boyfriend (who I still know!) and we walked across the road from my house to the school hall. I have short curly hair so not much you could with that! Don’t remember anything about make up – but I’m pretty sure some aquamarine Pot o’ Gloss would have made an appearance!

  • The first, and only, high school formal I ever went to – my country school back in the 70s didn’t have one – was my eldest son’s. His Catholic high school combined a formal with graduation and it was a full black tie family affair… HE took me shopping – to make sure I didn’t turn up in something weirdly ‘arty’ – so I ended up in a black organza skirt with matching bustier, hair up and a very blingy necklace feeling MOST unlike myself – he said I looked fabulous…. My best friend, his godfather, squired me – HE didn’t recognise me. The weirdest thing of all though, was that his year 12 coordinator had been MY high school art teacher – the one I had the crush on…and he was there in his full black tie get up still looking ridiculously dishy… It really was quite a night! The ‘parent and child’ dance…, the big buffet, when said Year 12 coordinator/my old art teacher asked me to dance…(I’d have thought I’d died and gone to heaven had that happened back in the day when I was writing in my diary about him!).

  • Went to the formal in the back of my dads tarago. Did my own hair and makeup, and whacked on a dress. Had the best fun.

  • Kate in Melbourne, Australia

    1983. Apricot satin with a large embossed floral pattern, from an offcut bolt at Dimmeys. Big flat bows on the shoulders and at the waist. Think Fergie! My grandmother made it with tissues stuffed up her nose because she was suffering a dreadful run of blood noses. Bronze court shoes, also from Dimmeys. I felt SO good in it. Boys who’d never glanced at me paid attention and a few people told me I had the best dress at the dance. I’ve still got the dress somewhere. So fab, happy memories.