Prom season is still a few months off, but as Sunday’s Gazette story on a project that provides Johnstown girls with free dresses for the occasion made clear, prime time for prom planning is nigh.
Organizations like Elizabeth & Eileen’s Closet in Johnstown and The Cinderella Project of the Capital Region are a godsend for families that can’t afford prom dresses, which can run as high as $500. That may not be as dear as a wedding dress, but it’s pretty darned expensive for a single-occasion garment — even in a middle-class family. And there are other major expenses as well, like fancy coiffures and manicures, flowers, limousines, tanning and the dinner itself. Some are borne by the boys, others by the girls, but it all adds up to too much money being spent on a single night. And for families that simply don’t have it, it strikes us as unfair.
Occasionally, parents — some, anyway — will pay lip service to the issue in an effort to get the kids to dial back, but it’s not easy for a parent to deny their child something other children are getting. The prom is an emotional event, a milestone in early adulthood, and many parents — perhaps recalling their own teen years — get swept up along with their kids and simply can’t say no, lest their child’s experience be less than “perfect.”
Schools should be the ones to take the lead here, establishing guidelines — if not hard-and-fast boundaries — on how much kids can spend. It’s a real-life teaching opportunity about financial matters and values that kids don’t get often enough, at home or at school.