Flash back to 1989: My school formal

It was 1989, I was singing along to Poison ‘Every Rose has a thorn‘. My mum and dad were working, so it was just my hair lacquer and me. No need to worry about tan lines because no-one faked tanned and tan lines were everyone’s permanent summer accessory.
I was wearing a Studibaker dress bought with hard earned money I earned from working part time at Chicken World. The bottom was all tulle and hemmed with wire to ensure it was big. It hit mid calf. I hunted down perfectly matching purple stilettos. My father picked me up and took me to my BFF’s house where we would meet our partners and limo.
Their Rottweiler ripped the tulle from the back of my dress. Then I stepped in it’s massive poo and smeared it all over the carpet of the limo. Lucky, I was drowning in my signature scent Yardley English Lavender body spray, this may have covered the odour a little.
First, we had cocktails at the Brisbane Hilton. I was only 16 but they weren’t as strict with I.D back then. I had a Pina Colada and snacked on their complimentary rice crackers. Then off to the formal at the Sheraton. We were feeling so grown up in our gaudy gowns. We snuck sneaky cigarettes in the toilets between courses.
Then we hit the dance floor. Who can resist Milli Vanilli ‘Girl you know it’s true‘ or The Bangles ‘Eternal Flame‘. I was like Madonna, working up a sweat with all my awesome moves on the floor until my zip broke. And it broke all the way. Not good for a strapless dress that didn’t have a safety hook. I caught it just as it started to fall off, held to tight and ran back to the smoke filled toilets. I few tears and 10 minutes of giggling friends and it was okay.
No more dancing for me. Madonna had packed up her stilettos for the night.
Here is the only photo of my night.

What was your best memory of your night?


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  1. The year was 1988 and I had a severe Annie Lennox crop, bleached pure white. My dress was emerald tafetta with a flared skirt and a box the size of Tasmania. I loved myself stupid in it. Unfortunately there’s no photographic evidence of it.
    Love your photo.

  2. I was so jealous of anyone who had a Studebaker frock!

  3. That’s so funny Rach. My date, who picked me up in HIS car, decided to drop someone else home after the formal who was going to put out that night. Dumped his sorry arse! My gown was a homemade electric blue slinky shoe-stringed straps, taffeta number my Mum made but the year was 1979!

    Anne xx

  4. My formal was ’93. We had moved on from tafetta (although some girls still embraced it) and my group of friends and I opted for sleek, floor-length spaghetti strap dresses. No teased hair in sight. We though we were just oh so glamorous. Our parents came to our formal dinner, so I don’t have any outstanding memories because we were all on our best behaviour. The after-party is a different story…

  5. Gorgeous frock! I wore pale pink, and as soon as I got to my formal I knew it was ALL WRONG. Everybody else was wearing pouffy taffeta in jewel bright colours (it was 1983). Next to theirs my simple dress felt all wrong, I felt like a little girl which is the last thing you want to feel like at your formal! Yet I’d loved it when I got it …

  6. How funny! You look amazing, 80s style. I wrote a post the other day about my formal creative vision, I always think about it this.time of year. Happy days!

  7. oh glory!! You look WONDERFUL!!!

    xo em

  8. Oh Rach, you crack me up. So much hairspray in that ‘do!

  9. That’s one of my biggest high school regrets – I didn’t get to go :(
    Apparently it was crappy and just a chance for the mean girls to gyrate against the boys, but I couldn’t come up with the ticket cost let alone a dress and shoes. We marginally homeless people weren’t invited anyway!

  10. Love your perm! I remember coming downstairs all dressed and ready to go, and asking my mum to drive me and my friend’s date who lived around the corner (whom mum didn’t want me associating with). She started crying saying I was such a disappointment. Apparently she’d been looking forward to this night as being one of HER proud moments. It’s always about her. I refused to get drawn into another argument on MY formal night, so I didn’t say anything and my friend and I both went by taxi. Then my dad turned up and started writing me off about being a bad daughter. Hmm, not the best memories…

  11. Oh Rachel! What a nightmare! But you looked beautiful! I remember I went to my prom with my brother and my friends. After, we went to a night club for the first time. My father told me that if I wanted to go, I had to bring my bro!

  12. You had a wardrobe malfunction before it was stylish? If only you’d realised then, that fifteen years down the track Janet Jackson would be doing a Rachel!

  13. What a gorgeous story! I could totally picture you on the dance floor! The school formal isn’t really a thing in the UK, I reckon we missed out!

  14. Mine was a knee length, fitted electric blue taffeta dress, with straps with about 6 inches of frill coming off them! I had matching blue mascara lol. It was 1989 too. My hair looked like yours, with enough hair spray in it that it didnt move and inch :) My formal was pretty uneventful.

  15. I graduated in 2005 and I felt like a princess. Right up until I was sweltering so much in my dress that I could feel sweat dripping between my legs, which made it even harder to walk in my impossible high heels. The things us girls put ourselves through.

  16. LOL! Love this! My best friend wanted to wear a Studebaker for our Yr 10. I think she got her mum to make one that looked similar.
    Oh, and the hair spray! I think I’m one of the biggest causes for ruining the Ozone layer :)

  17. The year was 1990 and my year 10 formal involved fur and big hair! Loved this post – it was obviously a memorable night :)

  18. Oh Rachel! I love this story! I think I may have grown up in the wrong decade. My formal was in the late 90’s, by then everything was sleek… no frills, no frizzy hair sprayed do’s.
    LOVE that dress! I’m so sorry to the young you for your wardrobe malfunction, that would have been horrifying at the time :-/
    PS.. I meant to comment on this last week, but my kids had other plans for me :-/ so please excuse my lateness xo

  19. Lisa Mckenzie says:

    Great Pic Rachel mine was in the 70s 1979 to be truthful and it was a great night ,stayed out all night and may have drunk a lot!