Dancing into debt?


Infographic by Alianna Torres

Assuming girls spend an average of 50 and boys spend an average of 50 per dance, girls would spend ,500 during the course of ten school dances, while the guys would have spent approximately ,500.

By Alianna Torres, Cathedral Catholic High School

As a Cathedral Catholic High School senior, Lauren Lee ‘20 knows the drill regarding Winter Formal, but the expenses preceding the dance still leaves her in disbelief.

“My dress was probably $50 this year, my ticket was $50, my nails and hair are done by my aunt, and my makeup is done by my cousin, and the party $50,” Lee said. “So, I probably spent around $200 this year. 

Formal is a fundamental high school experience for many students, however, the beauty, transportation, and event fees leave many students who want to be involved with campus events trimming their savings. Unique to girls, time is squandered as much as cash in formal preparation.

The pressure of finding a trendy dress that follows school dress code can make dress shopping an exhausting experience for many CCHS girls. The possibility of spending your savings on this single-wear dress makes the search utterly dispiriting. 

Girls also have to take into account the more traditional expenses such as a ticket and a boutonnière or corsage if they go with a date. 

“I think it is worth it, especially because it is my senior year, but I do know a lot of people who spend $500, probably more, on their dresses and spray tans,” Lee said. “If you spend a reasonable amount of money for the dance and try to budget, then I think it is definitely worth it. Something I have learned over my four years of going to high school dances is that you should try to budget as much as you can, try to thrift a dress, try to borrow a dress, or get your friend to do your makeup.”

Even for parents the total cost of school dance preparations and the dance itself can be quite unnerving. Mrs. Sara Rhodes, the Associated Student Body Director at CCHS and mother of four, speaks on how she sees a drastic difference between the cost of girls formal preparation versus that of boys.

“As a mom, I have four kids, and I have a senior daughter,” Mrs. Rhodes said. “I know that we spend quite a bit on the dress and the hair, and if she wants to have her makeup done that is a whole other expense, where as boys can just toss on their suit and go.” 

The amount of time boys spend on preparing for school dances is a startling contrast to how much time girls spend preparing for formal. Girls usually start preparing approximately two weeks in advance by booking not only hair, tanning, and nail appointments, but also dress fittings, and dinner plans. On the day of formal, girls travel from appointment to appointment until around 3 p.m., when makeup becomes the priority, and then finally, they get dressed. 

“I spent about $250 in total on formal this year because I bought a $150 suit and a ticket for myself and my date,” Trent Teofilo ‘21 said. “I really don’t think it’s worth it. I know that I’m spending a moderate or an average amount in comparison to a lot of people in my class who easily spend over $350 for each dance. 

“I usually spend about 15 to 20 minutes getting ready and just throw on my suit and shoes and I’m done.”

The boy’s expenses for formal are traditional high school dance figures: tickets, a corsage, and a suit, maybe even a tie. But, teenage boys are not held to the same expectation as girls when it comes to high school dances. Girls are expected to have their nails, hair, and makeup done at the very least for these events.

If two CCHS students, one girl and one boy, went to every dance starting with Homecoming his or her freshman year and ending with Prom his or her senior year, the expenses are jaw dropping. 

Assuming girls spend an average of $350 and boys spend an average of $150 per dance, girls would spend $3,500 during the course of ten school dances, while the guys would have spent approximately $1,500.

“At the end of the day, it is about the memories you make at the dance, not about the pictures you take,” Lee said.

This story was originally published on El Cid on February 7, 2020.