Prom and the Last High School Hurrah



The perfect dress and tux, the limo, the flowers, the hair appointment and mani-pedi: if this sounds like the list for a wedding day, guess again. It’s the height of prom season in Ottawa, and that means red carpet-worthy outfits, fancy shoes, and plenty of hair gel—just for the guys.
The girls? Well, there’s a whole lot of primping going on.

As owner of Dominique Levesque Bridal, Dominique Levesque has seen a lot of “big day” shoppers in the 16 years since she opened her first boutique in Gatineau. Quite a number of them have been looking for prom dresses.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” she says of this special occasion. “It’s one of the first times teens get to attend a really formal event.” And, she confirms, the hoopla surrounding prom has gotten a lot bigger than it used to be back in the days when, say, girls had rooster bangs and the dance was the main event. Today, promposals, “pre pre-prom” gatherings and ritzy venues are part of the flashy package. Not a few parents gulp at the sticker price.
Nonetheless, Dominique says, for a lot of families prom represents a milestone. “It’s an important part of their life, of their growing up,” she says of the girls she meets. Even though the quest for the dress is about glamour—open backs, lace detailing and illusion necklines are big for 2016—“They’ll come in with their mom. Sometimes it’s mom and grandma or mom and dad. Sometimes their siblings come too.”




With high school graduation in the offing, this particular date on the calendar is truly significant, she adds. “It’s one of the last times these guys and girls get to celebrate with the friends they’ve grown up with, since a lot of kids go away to school these days.”

So they gussy up their reveling with adult trappings, from chiffon dresses to designer dress socks. In the background, considerable effort is made to ensure they can look and feel special. At the bridal shop, for instance, “We take great care in looking up each dress we sell so we don’t sell the same exact dress to the same school. The girls really want their individuality to shine.”



Classmates without the means to buy designer duds aren’t left out though, thanks to Fairy Godmother of Ottawa. The non-profit organization collects new and almost-new gowns and accessories and provides them free of charge to students in need. To date, the organization has dressed over 1500 local girls for the prom.

For parents, a perennial prom concern is safety. After the outfits are donned, the hair is shellacked and the corsages are pinned, prom-goers are nonetheless still kids. And alcohol consumption has long been associated with the prom tradition. That’s why the occasion serves as an important opportunity to talk to your teen about making smart decisions.

Parent Action On Drugs (PAD), a provincial organization that addresses issues related to youth substance use, has granted permission to share this graphic. Find details about PAD and its offerings at










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