How much do school formals cost in 2021?


Credit Union SA

Member Experience Team

15 Apr 2021

| Budget Planning

Ahh, the school formal, an important event for most year 12 students to celebrate with their classmates. 

But with the rite of passage now costing some parents over $1,000, is it worth the splurge and how can you minimise costs without minimising the memories?
We spoke to a few colleagues about the costs of their children’s formals from the outfit to the transport and here are some of the average spends:
Finding THE dress or suit$150-$1,000
The perfect shoes$90-$400
Accessories for the night $50-100
Transport like limo/hummer hire$80
Makeup and hair $185
Spray tan $50
Nails $35-$70
Undergarments or underwear $50
Formal ticket $60

After party ticket

After party outfit $80
Professional photography$70
Flower corsage $40
TOTAL$1,030 - $2,425
And this year might cost parents even more due to COVID-19 regulations, with some schools cancelling group photos and instead suggesting parents that want professional photographs look at hiring their own photographers.

So,how can you avoid a formal budget blowout?

Hire an outfit

For students who want high end fashion at a fraction of the price, hiring an outfit might be the answer to cutting the costs from $600-$800 to $100-$200 instead! Great for an outfit that is often only worn once. Plus, most stores will keep a registry of hires to reduce the chance of two people wearing the same outfit. Stores like One Night Stand Boutique, The Volte and Ferrari Formal Wear and Bridal are great places for dress and suit hire in Adelaide.

Purchasing second hand

Since so many formal dresses and suits are only worn once you can often save some moolah by grabbing a second-hand outfit in amazing condition. Try your local Op shops or Facebook Marketplace to save money and reduce extra land fill – it’s win-win for everyone!


If your kid is going to a few different formals at other schools it can be a great idea to do a swap with a friend or family member so they don’t have to wear the same thing twice but without splashing out on another outfit.

Sale time!

If you plan ahead you might snag a bargain in a seasonal same earlier in the year. If your teen loves a particular store or designer, you can sign up to their newsletter to be alerted of sales and you might be able to find an outfit they love at a fraction of the cost.


Online retail stores like The Iconic and ASOS have a growing range of evening wear at accessible prices in a range of sizes. Outfit won’t be worn again? You can get it dry cleaned and sell it onto the next lucky person to recoup some of the money spent or donate it to a charity like With Love Formal Wear.

The Glam

A big bit of the budget is often spent on the hair and makeup so if you’re trying to keep costs down perhaps see if you can get a talented friend or family member to do it. Or try booking a slot with a department store makeup counter or cosmetic powerhouse like Mecca, they will often do a free makeup application with the purchase of some products

Set a budget

Most importantly make sure to work out your budget in advance so you can begin saving and avoid any last-minute costs. If your teen has a part time job you could talk to them about how much they can contribute.

Most of all, enjoy this exciting time with your kids and pat yourself on the back, you’ve (almost) survived the school years with your not-so-little one!

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This article is intended as general information only and has been prepared without taking into account the personal financial situation, objectives or needs of the reader. Before acting on this information, you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should always seek professional advice or assistance before making any financial decisions.