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Frocking up for the ball

Elisa Scarton

Wed Sep 14 2011


WHERE do you go to shop when you need to frock up, ladies? Elisa Scarton gives you the top-to-toe lowdown.

Figuring out what to wear to your next university ball can be a hair-raising experience for even the most fashion-savvy girl.

First you start stressing about whether you’re over-dressed, then under-dressed, showing too much skin, not showing enough skin. And then you begin to panic at the thought that someone else might have the same dress as you. What starts as a niggling doubt, soon eats away at you until you change dresses, twice, or go to some really obscure shop 30km away from Melbourne just to make sure you’re the only one in your chosen party frock.

By the time you get to the actual event, your nerves are so frayed that you can barely enjoy yourself in between all that worrying, which is why we thought we’d put you lovely ladies out of your misery and share our favourite dress shops in Melbourne, whatever your budget.

But before you rush out to buy that perfect outfit, check out our absolute dos and don’ts for this year’s uni ball season!

Zara on Bourke St
What they sell: The hottest spring trend in formalwear – bright colours. Make a bold statement on this year’s dancefloor in Zara’s signature red and orange dresses
Why we love them: There is so much to choose from, especially when it comes to the length of your dress
Cons: Everyone is shopping at Zara at the moment, so you risk wearing the same dress as someone else
Average price range: $150-300

Forever New
What they sell: Fun, floaty and feminine dresses. You always get a beautiful selection of soft fabrics and pastel colours with the accessories and shoes to match
Why we love them: You can’t help feeling like a princess in Forever New’s dresses. The cuts are always flattering and the detail work on the dresses make them look way more expensive than they are
Cons: Again, it’s the hottest shop in Melbourne. Also sometimes their dresses can seem a little too immature, especially if you’re trying to project the sophisticated and mature uni student look
Average price range: $80-$150

Alannah Hill
What they sell: The ultimate statement pieces, perfect for girls with a quirky sense of style
Why we love them: It’s impossible not to stand out in Alannah Hill. Her dresses are works of art that never go out of fashion. And you can be sure most of your uni classmates won’t be shopping here
Cons: Sometimes Alannah can go overboard, so you look less like a style queen and more like a clown. If you don’t like prints, you’ll struggle to find anything
Average price range: $300-$600

What they sell: Provocative, barely-there dresses that will have the boys tripping over one another to ask you to dance. Beautiful colours and plenty of LBDs (Little Black Dresses) for a more classy look
Why we love them: Sometimes uni balls call for risky minis and sexy cocktail dresses and Bardot never disappoints
Cons: There is a fine line between sexy and skanky and Bardot crosses it often
Average price range: $90-$150

What they sell: Fashion on a budget
Why we love them: There is nothing more satisfying than looking like a moviestar in a dress that didn’t cost this month’s entire allowance
Cons: The quality of the fabric isn’t great, so your dress might not see another ball season
Average price range: $50-$60

And the accessories…

What they sell: Everything you need to complete your ball look, from earrings to bracelets, necklaces to hairpieces
Why we love them: Almost always affordable statement pieces that match whatever style you’re going for
Cons: It can be hard to justify spending $25 on a stack of bangles at times
Average price range: $13- $30

What they sell: Shoes, shoes and more shoes
Why we love them: Their range is amazing. You can get beautifully bright, attention-seeking heels or demure suede numbers and there’s plenty of different heights to choose from
Cons: Quality isn’t the best, so you might end up dancing a hole in the sole if you’re not careful
Average price range: $60-$90

What are the girls wearing to this year’s ball? Here’s what some of you said:

  • “I think I’m leaning towards a maxi dress. It’s definitely this season and not too many girls I know are planning on wearing one, so I’ll stand out” – Andrea, 22
  • “Something really short and bright. Maybe a strapless dress. I always feel really special in a strapless dress because I hardly ever wear one” – Stefanie, 21
  • “I’m a great believer in the idea that your should only ever show your boobs or your legs, never both. I’m going to keep it classic and modest in a black one-shouldered dress. One-shouldered is really big at the moment” – Hannah, 21