Schools are softening the financial burden of annual balls by running dress sales where students buy cut-price second-hand dresses and sell last year's garb.
The costs associated with senior balls have spiralled since they moved away from being a humble dance at the local hall. A single ticket costs more than $100 and many girls want professional make-up, spray tans and help from hair stylists.
"It can be really hard for parents, there's a lot of peer pressure to compete and spend a lot of money," said Karen Howes, who has a daughter in Year 12 at Rangitoto College on Auckland's North Shore.
Her daughter, Alice, 16, was hoping to find a floor-length, blue number at the sale. She said it was a great alternative to buying online, where a buyer cannot always try the dress on before handing over the money.
Year 13 students were looking forward to offsetting costs by making some money on gowns from the year before.
Last year Karlien Burger, 17, paid $220 for a new dress. This year she hoped to get $150 from it to cover the costs of sewing her own dream dress.
Nicole Kruger, 17, paid $320 for her blue beaded gown and said she would sell it for $180. Last year Lena Kemp picked up her green off-the-shoulder number for $200, reduced from $900, and she was still deciding whether to part with it.
The girls, who all have part-time jobs, planned to splash out on spray tans, make-up artists and hair styles because it was their final year.
"Mum pays for the dress and I pay for everything else," Lena said.
Last year they all kept costs down by doing their own hair and make-up and wearing borrowed shoes.
"I couldn't tell the difference between the girls who had paid for their make-up and the girls who had done it themselves," Nicole said.
It cost $10 to register a dress in the sale at the school today, the fee going towards a student trip to Mexico to do humanitarian work.
Botany Downs Secondary School, in East Auckland, held a successful sale last weekend.By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss @Cagorrell Email Celeste