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B a l l S E A S O N f e at u r e


Future of the college ball a cause for debate in NZ College balls have been a traditional rite of passage for Kiwi teenagers for decades – generally marking the first time that girls get into a glamorous gown and attend a dance with a partner dressed in formal attire. The atmosphere sets out to be sophisticated and civilised, however in recent years the school ball in NZ has become associated with problems such as excessive drinking and drug use, as well as similar issues at the parties held before and after the balls, requiring schools to adapt their approach and, in some cases, tighten up on the rules. This, coupled with the fact that 17 and 18-year-olds are already socially active, has lead to suggestions that the school ball is an outdated concept that should be consigned to history. Hibiscus Matters put this suggestion to a group of students at local colleges and found that while most believe the ball is still relevant to them, and enjoyable, others think it could be replaced by an end of year ball held as a graduation party for Year 13 students. Aspects that the students identified as bringing balls up to date included the entertainment, which also means today’s music is played, rather than slow dance tunes from days gone by, and the fact they can attend as a group

of friends rather than as couples if they prefer. The girls said while they love the idea of wearing a long, traditional ball gown, they find them impractical when it comes to “running about and dancing freely”. Several commented that students don’t have to attend the ball in order to go to a pre-or-post-ball party, and some prefer simply to attend the parties. While this may, in part, be due to the parties’ lack of formality, it could also be because the ball has become expensive and not all students can afford to attend. The students said alcohol was mainly an issue if it was smuggled into the ball, and that bags were searched on entry, but that at some pre-ball parties, responsible drinking was permitted in the company of adults. Most students said they like the ball for its atmosphere, and for the professional photographs, which they consider will have sentimental value. They also said that it is fun to share the evening with their entire year group. Overall, the students described the ball as “a reward for all their hard work at school”, saying they look forward to it all year – so it seems the school ball tradition is safe for a few years yet, on the Hibiscus Coast at least.

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Students from Whangaparaoa College enjoy last year’s ball. Photo, Daryl Brown.

Ball arrangements now online

The internet and social media are having an increasing impact on the organisation of school balls. Websites dedicated to helping Cinderella get to the ball include, and, all of which provide ideas, and fashion tips for teens (mainly teenage girls). Some of these sites also promise growth on the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter. Local students say pre-and-post-ball parties are often arranged through Facebook, by sending an electronic invitation. Many students prefer this method because is means students can see on the Facebook page who is going to the party. Mobile phones too are changing the way young people prepare for their ball, as it’s now common for girls to take photos of ballgowns and email them to friends or put them on Facebook as part of the decision making process. Facebook and Twitter also provide a forum for discussing ball preparations and generating excitement.

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Grecian gowns find favour Feminine, floaty and feeling like a princess is how teenage girls are hoping to glide off to their school balls this season. The princess/Grecian look dresses popularised by stars such as Taylor Swift, which were to the fore at proms in the USA last year, are now finding favour here according to local ball gown retailers. Jus Jazz owner Lyn Smith says the trends locally also reflect the ball themes chosen by the colleges, as well as movies such as Water for Elephants. She says there is demand for flowing, one-shoulder Grecian style, fulllength ballgowns as well as 1920s and 30s vintage looks this year. When it comes to colour, European style tie-dye fabric is popular this season. This technique creates a subtle blend of colours that softly fuse together. Deep rich colours such as purple, plum and dark blue are still on trend, but those going for a Grecian, goddess style gown are looking for pastels as well. Lyn keeps a register at Jus Jazz in the Whangaparaoa Plaza, so that the

European tie-dye fabric is a trend for this season’s ball gowns. This elegant gown is from Jus Jazz in The Plaza, Whangaparaoa.

girls who purchase a ballgown can be confident no-one else at their ball will be wearing the same dress.

For some overseas ballgoers, limousines are passe. For students of John Kyrle High School in the UK, the desire to arrive in style at their school ball saw them opt for some off-kilter modes of transport. Among the unusual rides there was a fire truck, an ice-cream van, wheelbarrows and a digger.

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Corsages adding floral flair Teenage boys, with their mothers in tow, will be beating a path to Flowers by Joanne in Orewa to arrange corsages for their dates as ball season approaches. It seems that, while corsages date back to ancient Grecian weddings, they remain popular – especially for this year’s school balls. The colours of the flowers and trimmings vary according to preference. White is a safe choice but other hues can used to match ball dresses and accessories. Structural foliage such as succulents and grasses are fashionable, though some opt for the more traditional light and airy gypsophila (baby’s breath). Corsages need to be pre-ordered as they are intricate and can take 2530 minutes to make. The trend for strapless and spaghetti strap styles of

dress is one reason that florists are finding wrist corsages more popular this season, rather than the ones pinned on the shoulder. However, girls can also wear corsages in their hair, on their purse or even around their neck.

Formal wear in style for boys Most boys won’t tell you this, but they do put a fair bit of effort into how they look at the school ball. Brad Horton of His Place in Orewa and Orewa Menswear’s Tim Green say boys make sure they tidy themselves up before the ball, getting a good haircut and appropriate formal wear.

Tim says apart from one teenage boy who wanted to purchase a toga for a Grecian themed ball, most are keen to dress up. “Kids change their whole demeanour when they dress up for the ball, and some find they like that look and come back to the shop later for more formal wear like a nice shirt,” he says. Some buy a suit, rather than hiring one, if they are going to two or three balls or moving from school into an office job. Tim says this season the lapels are slimmer, and long ties are more popular than bow ties. The tie colour is matched with the partner’s dress, or, to play it safe, some opt for black. He says black shirts worn with a white or red tie is also popular with the boys. Brad Horton says the boys who come to him for a haircut before the school ball often opt to shapen up their sideburns, and box out their fringe. He recommends a good neck trim and selection of a nice styling product. Currently styles similar to those worn by English boy band One Direction, or Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams are in favour, as well as the Federation cuts (similar to a short back and sides with a long fringe) and the Skux (a blended in mohawk).

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Transport from fine to funky Getting a group of friends together to share transport to the school ball is popular not only because it provides a social atmosphere, but because of the expense of hiring vehicles. All the local college balls are held at venues in Auckland, so getting there in style can be expensive. Party buses, including double deckers and luxury coaches, are popular for larger groups (25–30 plus) and cost in the vicinity of $25-$30 per person. Groups of a dozen or so may find their budget can stretch to hiring a luxury stretch limousine or Hummerzine ($45-$55 per person). A funky alternative, but still with a touch of luxury, is a pair of refurbished Kombi vans that have been available for hire from Kombined Experience in Auckland since 2010. The restoration of the Kombis includes


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a leather interior and the latest audiovisual systems with iPod connections. The cost for a minimum of six passengers is $45 per person. Most ball transportation is hired based on a one location pick up, and one-way hire, as students generally organise separate (and often more basic) transport to get them from the ball to the after-ball party.

Ball buzz begins

Local colleges are abuzz with pre-ball activity, although for some of them the ball is still two months away. Orewa College’s ball is the first of the season, to be held on June 9 at the Pullman Hotel in central Auckland. The theme is “night in Olympia”. Kingsway School’s ball will be held at The Spencer on Byron Hotel in Takapuna on June 16 and has a “vintage carnival” theme. Wentworth College will hold its ball on August 3 at the Old Elephant House at Auckland Zoo. There is no theme for Wentworth’s ball this year, but the organisers are going all-out to decorate the venue, using lots of fairy lights. Whangaparaoa College’s ball is on August 4 at the Rendezvous Hotel in Auckland, and has a carnival theme.

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HM Ball Feature 2012  
HM Ball Feature 2012  

HM Ball Feature 2012