School balls, formals, proms - call them what you will, there's no doubt these much anticipated events are a rite of passage for every teenager - a chance to dress up like a celebrity for a night and be treated like one too. And with the majority of high school balls underway now and happening right through until August and September, we decided to pick the brains of some students in the middle of prep mode to suss out what it really takes to be the belle (or beau) of the ball in a time when appearance seems to be more important than ever.

Up until the early noughties, teenage girls sought inspiration for their hair, makeup and ball gowns from the glossy pages of their favourite magazines or by chatting amongst their girlfriends. But now that we can see what's happening on the catwalks of Paris and the red carpets of Hollywood in real time, it makes sense that the internet could provide all the inspiration a girl or guy could ask for.

"I actually used celebrities as my inspiration," says Northcote College student, Mikaela Rushton, 17. "I was Googling red carpet outfits and eventually found one I liked. I've chosen to create a two piece dress that Taylor Swift wore to the ACM Awards."

.@taylorswift13 has some serious leg on show at last night's @ACMawards! See who won what here:

Mikaela adds that looking at what other girls have worn to their balls is also an inspiration, something that Waikato Diocesan student Hayley Kay,17, acknowledges too.

"I got my inspiration from blogs like Tumblr and websites such as Pinterest, as well as looking at previously ball photos and seeing what other girls wore.


"It seems that the general trend this year is for long dresses. Classy is definitely a theme as well, whether the dress is short or long," adds Hayley.

Mikaela Rushton.

And while some girls may think the guys have it easy in terms of picking out their glad rags, Hayley's boyfriend Tipene Atama, 17, of Hamilton Boys High School admits that when he chose his suit last year, he took some time to research the trends too.

"I went through websites like and some magazines but I ended up going to Hallensteins - they were really good and cheap," says Tipene, who will be wearing his Hallensteins suit again this year and will therefore not have to worry too much about sticking to a pre-determined budget.

"For this year's ball I don't have a budget at all," he explains. "I imagine that it's a lot easier for guys to stick to or even pay under the amount they expected for balls because they only have to worry about the suit and hairstyle. For girls it would be very different though."

Last year, Hayley spent over $600 on everything for her big night, so she's made it a priority this year to keep costs down by "doing my own hair and makeup and finding a relatively cheap dress".

"I didn't want my parents to have to pay that much again," she admits.

As for Mikaela, she'll spend "whatever it takes" to get the perfect dress, but she's also looking at ways to come in under budget with her grooming.

"I have booked FaceMe to do hair and makeup for my best friend and I," she says.


"I would prefer to have it done professionally so that I know it will look good. Although, a hair and makeup trial is too expensive so we have no idea what we are going to look like until the actual day."

She adds, "Having your hair and makeup done by somebody else adds to the fun of the day."

Mikaela's mother, Karen Rushton, admits that with all the prep that's involved, she worries about the pressure it places on the parents.

"We have concerns about the pressure it puts on families to provide ball gowns that need to be 'keeping up with the Joneses,'" she says.

It's a subject that's not only concerning for the parents, but for the teens who are determined to have everything perfect on the big day.

"My ball is just over a month away and I still haven't found a dressmaker," worries Mikaela, while Tipene is concerned about how his accessories are going to come together and whether his skin will play ball on the night.

Hayley Kay and Tipene Atama.

"There are a lot of stresses; getting to and from the ball, whose pre and after balls you're going to go to and the things that are out of your control like pimples and zits," he says.

"You also have to tick the boxes of whether [to wear] a tie or bow-tie, which colour scheme to go for, but I try not to work myself up too much about it and everything just seems to work out."

So we've got the dress, the suit and the hair and makeup is sorted, but what about a date? While American high school movies would have us believe that you'd rather go to the ball with your brother's nerdy friend than attend stag, Kiwi teens see things differently.

"I don't think it's important to take a date. I mean all a date really is, is someone to take photos with," says Mikaela.

Hayley, who will be attending her ball with her boyfriend Tipene, doesn't think it's important at all, unless all your friends are partnering up and you're the only one going it solo.

"But once you get there it doesn't matter too much, as everyone hangs out in a big group anyway."

So it seems that whether you're a DIY-er, spending the big bucks or going for something in between, the highs, lows, concerns and triumphs of teens preparing for their nights of opulence are just the same today as they were 10, 20 or even 30 years ago. The only issue now is, your big night - and that big unwanted zit - will be documented for all to see on Facebook. Forever.