Prom ’16 falls victim to low Canadian dollar


Tina Marchese’s twin daughters, Laura and Sarah, were among this year’s Canadian prom-goers.

With the school year coming to an end, prom is weighing heavy on the minds – and wallets – of teens across the country.

According to a national Visa survey, in 2015, Canadians planned to spend an average of C$508 on the high school affair. This year, however, they can expect to pay even more.

With the Canadian dollar sliding under 70 cents U.S. back in January – its lowest value since May 2003 – the cost of prom dresses have spiked as yet another victim of the fallen loonie.


Dresses at Marla's Fashions range between $100 and $1000.

Dresses at Marla’s Fashions range between C$100 and C$1000.

“The drop in the Canadian dollar has had an effect on our prices,” says Tanya Marwah, president of marketing and operations at Marla’s Fashions – a special occasion wear boutique in Mississauga.

Many Canadian prom retailers, like Marla’s, import stock internationally; especially from U.S. suppliers who charge in American dollars and duties. Those who receive dresses natively have reportedly been given raised price lists from their Canadian distributors. The new fees tally up to between a 20 to 30 per cent increase.

But why is prom an event parents and their teenagers are willing to drop three (or even four) figures on in the first place? And what effect will the low loonie have on 2016 Canadian prom budgets?

Ann Anderson, author of High School Prom: Marketing, Morals and the American Teen, reasons that prom is a consumer celebration, much like Christmas. The dress, limo, shoes, makeup and hair exist as crucial components of the experience, because they are the event.

“Some parents want to recreate their own prom or vicariously enjoy one they never had, and that’s enough to justify any cost,” she says. “Others like a conspicuous show of wealth or keeping up with Joneses.”

Has it always been this way? Explore the evolution of prom below.

Specifically among Ontario teens, argues Patricia Tucci of Toronto’s Jadore Evening Boutique, there is a skewed belief that one must cross the border and incur the accompanied expenses to find that ‘perfect’ outfit.

Before stepping into a store, countless hours are spent researching online, she explains. When a prom-goer is ready to shop, they already have an idea of what they want – an idea likely formed through browsing American websites, consuming American magazines, observing American celebrities and so on.

“Truthfully, most girls that go over the border pay the additional fees of gas and hotels only to find a style available in both countries,” continues Tucci. “But price is only a minor hurdle. [Family] will chip in if a girl cannot afford the gown she truly wants.”

Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

For Tina Marchese, mother of twin girls – both of whom attended prom this year at an Ontario high school (with dresses purchased in Buffalo, New York) – these sentiments ring true.

“As someone who did not attend my own prom, I am happy that my girls are going to experience this rite of passage,” she says. “If my wallet takes a bit of a hit to help them enjoy a magical evening, I have no problem with that.”

“Money can always be made, but my daughters will only have one high school prom.”

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