Violet* ’15 wriggles into her Herve Leger dress and slips on a pair of heels, glancing out the window to see if the limo has arrived. She fluffs her hair — just blown out at the Dry Bar salon — with freshly manicured nails, and grins excitedly at her reflection in the mirror.
This is how Violet envisions her lead-up to the Homecoming Formal Sept. 28 in Taper Gymnasium.
While some students have been feverishly preparing for the dance, others feel that their classmates are devoting too much money and energy to an event that will barely span one evening.
“I think some people go overboard,” Agnes* ’15 said. “I do feel pressured because I feel like I have to put my standards higher to fit in with everybody else. That’s actually why I’m not sure I want to go, because I don’t want to be wearing the wrong thing, or under-dressed. Money is a barrier.”
Though officially called a formal, prefects have told students to come in semiformal attire.
Agnes is on financial aid, and said that the school’s decision to charge $50 per ticket may also deter her from attending.
“When I saw the invitation I was like ‘Oh yay, that’s something I would go to’, and then I saw the price,” Agnes said. “My brother goes to Cathedral High, and his [formal] tickets are like ten bucks. One of my friends is actually thinking of going to the Loyola dance instead because it’s cheaper.”
While financial aid is available for those who qualify, it comes out of a package that students receive at the beginning of the year and that they would otherwise spend in the bookstore or cafeteria.
“We give students about $1,000 and they decide how to use it,” Director of Financial Aid Geoffrey Bird said. “There’s always problems when you get into discretionary spending. We do far more than most other private schools.”
Some students think that the real problem is not the admission ticket but the pressure to spend additional money.
“I do find some of the traditions surrounding formal a bit excessive,” Teddy Leinbach ’15 said. “It shouldn’t be necessary [to spend a lot of money] or required as a sort of tradition. That kills some of the enjoyment in my opinion. You should spend as much as is practical. If you need to spend money on a limo if you’re going as a group, that’s fine. But you shouldn’t be expected to come in a limo. I guess it’s just LA private school culture.”
While most students will rent a limo or party bus, a few plan on driving themselves or being driven by parents.
“[If I took a limo] I would be paying out of my own pocket, and I’m saving up for college,” Eugenie Lund-Simon ’14 said. “I prefer to keep my money for more important things. I get why people would want to [rent a limo] and definitely if they have the means to, then that’s cool for them. I’ll probably just drive with a group of friends, so it’ll still be fun. You don’t have to have a limo to have fun, but it definitely helps.”
Others believe that finances need not be a concern for students who want to attend the formal.
“I think you can spend however much you want to spend,” Ashley Volpert ’14 said. “You can easily go without spending anything other than contributing for a limo. If money is an issue, there are definitely ways of getting around it.”
Volpert plans on borrowing her sister’s dress, buying a new pair of shoes and getting her hair and makeup done professionally with a group of friends.
“I think the people who are more disapproving — I know this sounds kind of mean — are the people who haven’t gotten asked [out to formal], which is totally understandable,” Morgan Choi ’15 said.
Choi is still searching for the right dress, but is contemplating buying one from Parker Dresses, whose formal wear typically ranges from $150 to $400.
She also plans on getting her hair and nails done professionally and sharing a party bus with her friends. While Choi says she personally wants to try to spend as little as possible, she considers at maximum a couple thousand dollars to be reasonable for others.
“I think that a lot of people are spending more because this is, at least for our class, the first semiformal type dance, so it’s more important to us. My dress is Herve Leger, but I got it on sale online. I don’t remember how much, but it was way under the normal price,” Violet said.
Herve Leger dresses usually range from $2,000 to $6,000. Not including the cost of a party bus or limo, Violet says the maximum amount girls should spend on formal is $400.
*Names have been changed