Flash frocks, high hair and long limos are creating ball-breaking budgets for the parents of high school students preparing for their big night out.
The budget for tonight's Hillcrest High school ball has surpassed $35,000 but principal Kelvin Whiting said the cost was fully covered by the $80 ticket price, paid for by about 440 guests. The money covers a multi-room venue at the University of Waikato, supper, drinks, a jazz band in a side room, a second band in the main room, a DJ to follow the live music, decorations and security.
It's not just the cost of the ball itself, a growing number of girls are wanting the full glamour treatment in preparation.
Make-up artist Michelle Devereux said three years ago she didn't have any girls from state schools booking into her salon.
"It used to be just private schools. Now all girls are even," she said. "It's become the norm to go all out. The bar's been raised, the stakes are higher. I do think competition comes in to it."
Her salon, Devereux and Villiger, is booked out months ahead of the balls.
It puts on a hair and make-up ball deal to make the salon more affordable to high school students.
"Sometimes the parents are paying, but a lot of the time they're paying themselves," Ms Devereux said.
Ellen Tyrrell, 17, who heads the committee that organised tonight's Hillcrest ball, agrees that more girls are getting professional hair and make-up.
“There's a lot of talk about where you're getting your hair done,” she said.
Miss Tyrrell saved on the cost of her gown by ordering online.
“Quite a lot of people do that,” she said.
“There's more range [online]. In Hamilton there's not many places you can go, or if you want to get a dress made it costs $700 or something ridiculous. You can get dresses quite cheap online now. Mine was about $100.”
Ruth Carson, who owns the The Limo Company with her husband Doug, said she was surprised hiring a limo for balls was still popular despite the depressed economic climate.
“Limos are a luxury item - not a necessity,” she said. “They get their fancy dresses and their hair done and they want the limo to go with it. You find it (money) somewhere.”
But not everyone is going all out. Hamilton's Melville High School, which also has its ball tonight, scraped its together for $5500, which is covered by the 120-150 ticket sales.
The $50 ticket price includes supper, a DJ and decorations, and to cut costs the event will be held in the school hall.
Principal Clive Hamill said."We have it here at school, which may sound boring for some students, but really the whole essence for students is the enjoyment of this pinnacle of their school life."
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