School Prom Season: Student Dyes Her Trade Me Wedding Dress Blue For A Cinderella Look

Mirabella Uphof, a student at Bream Bay College, dyed a wedding dress blue to achieve her dream look for her school prom. Photo / Provided

Ever since Mirabella Uphof was 11, she’s been dreaming of her 13th grade prom – complete with a big blue Cinderella dress.

But when Omicron put New Zealand on the red light, the 17-year-old feared her ball would be stopped for good.

Then the country went orange in mid-April and his school, Bream Bay College, announced the event would take place in just over a month.

“It was pretty overwhelming when I found out it wasn’t too far,” Uphof said.

Finding her dream dress was stressful in the short term, especially in rural Ruakākā, south of Whangārei.

Most of her classmates traveled to Auckland to buy or rent a dress, but Uphof found a wedding dress on Trade Me for $280.

“It was a little risky. I was hoping it would look like the picture and it does, so that’s great,” she said. Although she was nervous about dyeing the dress, it turned out just as she had dreamed.

Mirabella bought a wedding dress from TradeMe and dyed it herself to create her dream ball gown.  Photo / Provided
Mirabella bought a wedding dress from TradeMe and dyed it herself to create her dream ball gown. Photo / Provided

Mirabella Uphof, a student at Bream Bay College, dyed a wedding dress blue to achieve her dream look for her school prom.  Photo / Provided
Mirabella Uphof, a student at Bream Bay College, dyed a wedding dress blue to achieve her dream look for her school prom. Photo / Provided

Bream Bay students also plan to save money in other ways. Her friends will be doing their hair and makeup, and she’ll be wearing last year’s shoes. His date is wearing the same costume he wore in 12th grade.

They won’t bother with a bodice: “It’s a good idea but I don’t think a lot of people do it anymore.” The May 27 event will take place in the school hall, which the students have decorated themselves.

Uphof attended the Dilworth School Ball last year, where tickets were around $120 compared to $65 at Bream Bay. She feels that people in Auckland spend more money on anything ball-related and events are much more formal. Most students at Dilworth arrived in limos, while at Ruakākā students use classic cars and even a tractor or fire engine.

Auckland’s prom season is also well underway after many schools had to cancel last year. Edgewater College, Diocesan School for Girls, Epsom Girls Grammar, Kings College and ACG Parnell all have proms in the coming weeks, but some will be in September or later.

Heather McRae, diocesan director, said the date for the prom was not confirmed until the city went to an amber light in April.

Heather McRae, principal of the Diocesan Girls' School, said all appropriate health and safety measures would be taken at the school's upcoming ball.  Photo / Provided
Heather McRae, principal of the Diocesan Girls’ School, said all appropriate health and safety measures would be taken at the school’s upcoming ball. Photo / Provided

All appropriate health and safety requirements would be enforced, including hand sanitizer and sit-down dining. Face masks would be encouraged and students were advised not to attend if they were showing symptoms, McRae said.

“If Auckland’s settings change, we will address the situation immediately – the health and safety of our young people and staff is always of paramount importance.”

At Howick College in east Auckland, the ball is still six weeks away, but principal Iva Ropati was not expecting a Covid curve ball.

The school was recording Covid cases daily and they didn’t seem to be keeping up. Howick still followed cleaning protocols and encouraged mask-wearing, but only about 20% of students wore them.

“We haven’t really thought about a second wave of Covid – I don’t know why,” he said.

Last year’s prom was canceled, so students were very excited about this year’s event, scheduled for June 25.

Another date was scheduled “just in case”, but Ropati conceded Howick might need to take a closer look at what he would do if there was an increase in cases or a bad new strain.

“Maybe there’s a bit of wishful thinking… But we kind of take the attitude that [Covid’s] not going to be a problem.”

Department of Education chief operating officer Sean Teddy said school boards are legally responsible for health and safety in schools.

Howick College principal Iva Ropati said the school did not expect an increase in Covid cases ahead of the school prom.  Photo / Provided
Howick College principal Iva Ropati said the school did not expect an increase in Covid cases ahead of the school prom. Photo / Provided

“We are able to provide guidance and advice, but as the boards are ultimately responsible, we cannot perform the risk assessments on behalf of the board.”

Off-schedule events should follow the same rules as any other event under the orange setting, Teddy said. Schools knew their communities best and were therefore in the best position to make decisions that prioritized their safety and well-being.

“They waited so long to get dressed”

Skin flashing is in this prom season. Floor-length dresses with thigh-high slits, backless dresses, plunging necklines, and belly-cut cutouts are all in fashion — at least among 13th grade girls.

But Saejung Oh, founder of OhRentMe, said younger students are still looking for elegant and simple dresses.

“Their mothers have had their say. They don’t want to see their 16- or 17-year-old daughter in a low-cut or cut-out dress,” she said.

“While year 13 is their last prom, they tend to be a bit more edgy.”

Last year, hot pink was popular, but this year more muted and elegant colors like champagne were on trend, Oh said.

A prom dress can be rented for around $80, plus a mandatory $7 damage insurance in case it gets torn, stained or damaged.

“A lot of mums come in and say how game-changing it is to not have to spend hundreds of dollars on a dress that their daughters will only wear once.”

At the Style Starter designer rental store in Newmarket, the “dress of the season” was a lace-back maxi dress, according to alterations specialist Jasmine Karsten.

Australian designer Shona Joy’s La Lune lace-back maxi dress was now nearly impossible to get, especially in smoky blue.

Most onlookers were hiring long dresses, but “slowly but surely some girls are starting to opt for a more midi dress — it’s a more hands-free, stress-free style,” Karsten said.

Both businesses lost ground, and Nicki Collett – owner of the Beauty Hub in Auckland – said her 15 mobile hair and makeup artists were also fully booked days after a prom date was announced.

Most customers requested styling with loose waves, but messy buns and ponytails remained popular. Glamorous makeup was the most requested but some girls went more natural.

A hair and makeup combo is $160, and many students were using credit from canceled 2021 events. They were all very excited, she said.

“It’s great the girls have waited so long to get dressed and have their balls.”

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