Sunday 23 June 2019


Beverley Lyons
A ‘moonie’, a talking dj and a plastic cup of warm punch in the dusty old assembly room at school used to mark the end of secondary school in Scotland, but now the all American prom has taken over.
The seed might have been planted by Grease in the late seventies, but since shows like High School Musical,  Glee, and Keeping Up With The Kardashians properly invaded these shores over the last fifteen years, the once humble school dance has turned into a multimillion pound business where parents can pay as much as £1000 for a dress, before splashing even more on tan, professional make up, hair, nails, swish transport  and then a five star venue.
Where once a random assortment of sad mouth blown balloons, tables laden with limp cold sausage rolls and a dance with the art teacher were de rigeur at any self respecting end of term bash, now the trend is to go all out - LA style.
Blame the internet if you will, but kids these days are more sophisticated than we ever were.
Limos, air conditioned coaches and even helicopters are hired in while the school gym hall has been swapped for five star hotels with red carpets, flower walls, photo booths and special guest appearances.
Forget Sandy’s innocent A line frock as she got down to the Hand Jive, now embroidered designer gowns are in demand for the coming of age celebration while little Danny's choose the latest suits and shirts from Milan.
Sarah Wilson, proprietor of Lilian Rose Boutique on a farm in the outskirts of Irvine, has over the past ten years, become the largest stockist of prom dresses in the West Of Scotland. She sees thousands of teens and their anxious mums come through her doors each season.
A chandelier hangs from the ceiling while intertwining roses adorn the Instagramable walls and three floors of prom dresses provide a fairytale fashionista experience for discerning clientele who are willing to pay from £200 to £700 for a dress they may only wear once.
Sarah said: “We start our social media for the year ahead in August and take most orders over September to Christmas for the following June or July. Most people know what they are wearing by March but some girls send away for a dress from abroad online and come to is in a panic in March when it arrives and it’s wrong.  
Mums sometimes give them a budget and a dress that looks amazing online for a hundred pounds can sometimes be unwearable when it comes .
We have an amazing array of dresses for two hundred pounds but some girls look for a dress at eight or nine hundred pounds.
Every year we reduce some dresses to ninety nine pounds for one day without an appointment and it’s first come first served and we get queues of forty people round the door.
“We offer something totally exclusive, a private one hour long appointment with each girl and only one dress of each style and colour.
We have a very strict diary system and only sell one style of a dress to a particular event. I travel the world to  hand pick couture dresses and meet with a lot of designers from as far afield as Australia where they really are at the top of their game.”
Sarah, a former teacher, initially offered cocktail and Saturday night glam style dresses but three years ago concentrated on more full length Prom style and award ceremony gowns when she realised not enough retailers had quality offerings
She said: “Prom dresses are totally unique and different from graduation dresses. They tend to be more fairytale style dream dresses and 2019 has seen a lot of tuile, vintage tones, blush nudes and rose violets or silver pewter. Red dresses are also popular and the cut is definitely backless with a plunging neckline, not cleavage, but with perhaps crystals coming down and  a very fitted bodice. The occasion warrants full length and there is lots of detail like handstiched appliqué flowers this year.”
Sarah says teens don’t even ask if they will wear the dress again.
She said: “They just want a wow dress that will work for them and they are influenced by what Kylie Jenner and Kardashians wear or what they might see on programmes like Love Island or on local fashion bloggers.”
“Some might wear them again if they can cut them up or make them into a top.”
Mum’s and dads are often anxious when they visit the boutique.
Sarah said: “Mum’s have heard their kids talking about the boutique and I talk them through it and how it works. When you are spending that amount of money you want an experience and girls often bring their gran and mum.  When daughters step out from the screen and see themselves in the mirror they are so surprised.  Even the dads see their wee girls transformed. We go through so many hankies. People can choose their dress in September and for a minimum deposit we hold it over eight or nine months free of charge. The dress is the starting block and then come shoes and accessories, hairstyles and nails.”
Sarah has been asked to supply Prom dresses for primary sevens recently but says that is not currently her market.
She explained: “Our full length dresses are age appropriate for sixteen year olds and are not suitable for primary sevens who are better in knee length dresses.”
Things can get emotional as dresses are chosen and tears of joy can turn to tears of sadness as young promzillas may find their dream dress has already been picked.
She added:”Generally people are well behaved but you might get the odd ‘promzilla’ who might not be happy that the dress they want has been sold and may have to go away and come back for another appointment after exploring the options.
Some mums have a definite style they want and that can be at odds with what their daughters want. It can be a mother of the bride scenario and sometimes they need to eat and sleep on it.
“We remain calm because it’s an experience we want everyone to enjoy.
We also have a strict no photograph policy unless someone is purchasing a gown because some people don’t want others to see their dress until the day.
There can be tears but mostly of joy when mum’s  dads see their children dressed up. We’ve heard of people getting sports cars and tractors to proms and going all out to make it a night to remember:”
Clyde 1 DJ Cassi was booked to provide entertainment at a prom and couldn’t believe the extravagance of it all.
She said: “Just this week I was asked to present awards at a swanky Prom in Glasgow’s Oran Mor. I was booked for half an hour just to hand out some awards. The guys were suited and booted from Slaters and there were giant lit up letters spelling Prom and helium balloons from the Thrill of It All. There were linen table cloths, singing waiters and waitresses and a lit up dance floor and it looked more like a wedding or red carpet bash.”
Olivia Bishop From Giffnock had her end of term Prom on Tuesday.
Olivia, 17, and her pals from Mearns Castle school booked the city’s Hilton hotel by committee at £50 a head.
They also ensured no girl bought the same dress as their peers by having an online group chat where each student posted the outfit they were wearing in advance.
Olivia said: “The s6 committee chose a hotel because it had a better feel to it.  We had a dance floor, flower wall and photo booth with balloons and a dj. Everyone was happy to pay the £50 and around fifty of my friends and I met at a house for pre drinks then got an air conditioned bus with party music on it. The dresses were all long and different  colours and we started getting them from August. We had a Facebook chat and had to post pictures of our dresses on it so none of us had same dresses on it. There were a lot of red dresses and darker colours,  baby pinks and a lot of sparkle. Some people spent up to eight hundred pounds on a dress but others got seventy quid dresses from the high street which looked equally as good.
Everyone wanted to have their own individual styles. I didn’t want a puffy or sparkly dress. I wanted something more simple and got matching nails with love hearts on them. I got make up at Lux Glasgow because they are good at prom make up and I  got my Penny Levy jewellery from my mum Phil’s Boutique . We were all really excited and had been forward planning for months and mum and dad thought I looked really grown up. I felt that I was moving onto the next chapter and I’m going to do fashion marketing at university in Nottingham now.”
Olivia’s mum Philippa, 53, a personal  shopper, stylist and proprietor of home atelier Phil’s Boutique is a mother of three girls.  
She says it’s been all change since her oldest Gaby, now 26, first attended her prom ten years ago.
She said: “When it started with Gaby, who is now 26, people certainly weren’t spending as much on dresses. Now it’s more competitive and everyone has to go through the whole shebang of hair, make up and nails.
Gaby will never forgive me. I sent her in an old bridesmaid dress to the Prom. She still talks about it to this day whereas Cara and Gaby got proper Prom dresses. The boys make such a big effort too.
“The growth of the internet means kids  have become more aware about what A-listers are wearing. Some go very glam and OTT while some are more understated. It has grown into a real business.”
Philippa believes there is a way to do Prom on a budget and still look good.
She said: “You can buy dresses from Boohoo and ASOS, and Top Shop and then add little clips from places like Primark to  customise them.
“There are lots of vintage and second hand shops now too and you’d never know the dresses had been worn before. Kids can look just as good if not better because it’s all about style and that is not always something that can be bought.”
Phil has been asked to supply prom dresses and accessories by some of her clientele and is considering expanding her business.
She said: “At the boutique in my house I specialise in everyday wear for women of all ages although we have had a few enquiries into Prom wear. It’s certainly given me food for thought. Young people today are a lot more sophisticated. They are more interested in fashion than when we were younger. I quite like the quirky fashions. It’s an emotional final ending to mark the end of school and it makes you really proud as a parent to see your kids going onto the next step.”
Excerpts of this article have since appeared in the Scottish Mail on Sunday 
From Scotland with Love

No comments:

Post a Comment