So What Do I Wear For My Formal?

Writing by Dr DP // Photograph by Anais Nannini

Like the return of the cooler months, the time of the year where throngs of young women gather at malls and boutiques looking for “the perfect formal attire” is upon us again. Witnessing the palpable excitement of these young women, I can imagine the checklist of dress, shoes, hair, makeup, and, of course, the date running through each of their minds.

These impressionable, beautiful young women bring me back to that particular point of time in my life. Reminiscing back to a decade ago, I now feel proud of my 17 year old self for boycotting this event. In my opinion I felt that events such as the year 12 formal widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The girls from wealthy backgrounds had the dress, hair, and makeup on point, and the not-so privileged girls who had to work on the weekends to support themselves had nothing to show, except to feel left out! Additionally there was the mental anguish to find ‘the perfect date’ to bring to the formal, as after all, isn’t that what defined our status as young women—being seen with the picture perfect guy!!!

Personally, I found the concept of placing so much importance on materialistic acquisitions and finding a date to be utterly opposing to my feminist views, and so I decided not to attend my formal event. Not surprisingly, my decision to not attend was greeted with disappointment and numerous questions, as my friends and teachers felt that my views were idealistic and not relevant to life in the “real world”. However with the support of my father, I persisted in my decision to not take part in an event that allowed less privileged girls to feel inferior, and furthermore emphasised the fact that a young women needed a man as company to make her feel “good ”about herself.

So my beautiful young girls, I hope that if you do decide to attend your formal event that you do it to please yourself. Don’t let your night be spoiled by the girl with the expensive dress or better makeup. If you don’t wish to bring a date, or if no-one has asked you, remember that it is perfectly ok! After all, your dress, hair, and, most likely, your formal date will fade away within the next decade, but your self-confidence will remain with you for a long time. Be yourselves and don’t let society’s expectation steal your sparkle, as each sparkle is unique and beautiful in its own way.



Freelance writer, doctor and wife hoping to make ‘wise and fit’ the new ‘pretty’.

Anais Nannini

Anaïs is a photographer from France. See her photographs on her Flickr, Facebook and website.

One response to “So What Do I Wear For My Formal?

  1. Love. This. Article. Formals are just a consumerist marketing tool targeted at women, and serve to reproduce gender norms. Wish I could have had your insight at that age!

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