SCOTLAND is experiencing a boom in American-style school proms. The social occasions have become big business this side of the pond with primary and secondary pupils booking their must-have stretch limos and buying glamorous outfits months in advance of the event.
The grand affairs are often held in leading hotels. The Hilton chain in Scotland confirmed there had been an increase in demand and a spokeswoman for the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, recently voted the best hotel in Scotland, said secondary schools are flocking to book up high-class, glitzy evenings.
Proms have become so popular that youngsters can find themselves attending up to four in just one year.
Lisa Milne, owner of L Evening & Occasion Wear in Ayr, has already ordered 100 dresses to cope with next year's rush. "Demand is definitely increasing, " she said. "I would say the spend per head is going up and up too. Not only do they have to have the dress, but they have to have the limousine, the hair, the makeup done, you name it. I hate to think what it costs them at the end of the night.
"An average spend would be GBP180 to GBP200 on a dress. At the moment 20% of my business is proms and I've already had girls coming in this year buying gowns for next year. They all want that special dress. I've had whole families in here. It can become quite a big affair."
Jeanette Grant, owner of Frox in Aberdeen, said: "It used to be just a sixth-year leavers' ball but now it starts in fifth year. We're now on the run-up to the Christmas proms and there's a load of them in January, February, March and then more in May and June.
"I think the money being spent on the dresses and preparation for these things is going up. On average, a dress would cost from GBP150 to GBP250 and that's with a discount I offer girls. I've had girls spend GBP350 or GBP400 on a dress that they're buying themselves.
"They seem to be enjoying the formality of the event, and I think it's lovely to see them dressed up."
Grant's daughter, Emma Lockhart, 17, is a sixth-year pupil at Cults Academy in Aberdeen. She said: "I had my first ball in fifth year at Hilton Treetops. When your mum owns a dress shop it's not too expensive, but for people my age it normally is.
"We got a prom DVD made, so I bought that too. But mine was the only one that didn't work, so I've still not seen it.
"I've got a fancy dress ball in November, then a ball at Christmas, and The Touch Of Tartan Ball in January. Then there's my leavers' ball in June or July."
It's not just the outfit that's crucial to proms. Stretch American limousines have become a must-have for Scottish teenagers to make their big entrance.