Emma Bowyer, 18, of Jerrabomberra admires her Rachel Gilbert gown.

Emma Bowyer, 18, of Jerrabomberra admires her Rachel Gilbert gown. Photo: Graham Tidy

Dress? Check. Spray tan? Check? Stretch Hummer? Check. Canberra’s school formal season is about to be in full swing.

It’s a rite of passage celebrated by hundreds of students each year and no matter how it’s done, it’s significant and meaningful.

We're creating photo galleries of the best pictures of this year's school Year 10 and Year 12 formals. Send photos of your school formal to formals@canberratimes.com.au

Narrabundah College year 12 student Annalise Fredericks, 17,  is hand-making the bulk of her outfit, going for a romantic look inspired by the Victorian era and a little steampunk (Google it people.)

‘‘I’m probably trying to be a bit individual and not blend in with the crowd. Just be myself,’’ she said.

Annalise said her school won’t be having arrivals this year because it’s at Parliament House. She says the event is important.

‘‘I guess it’s symbolising the end of secondary school and celebrating with the people I’ve come to know as my friends,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s really the end of something that has been a part of my life for a good number of years.’’

St Mary MacKillop College year 12 student Emma Bowyer bought her $800 Rachel Gilbert dress from Momento Dezigns in Manuka.

Her part-time catering job is helping to pay for the dress, along with some help from mum and dad.

‘‘I just kind of fell in love with it,’’ she said. ‘‘It was the first dress I tried on. It was really unique. I sort of knew no one else would have it.’’

And that’s key. Many boutiques run formal registries to ensure girls from the same school don’t double up on their dress.

Emma, 18, says she’ll be getting her hair and makeup done and having a spray tan. And she and her partner have booked a white Chrysler for the arrival ‘‘which matches my dress’’.

‘‘I guess, especially for year 12, it’s a once in a  lifetime opportunity,’’ she said. ‘‘Every girl loves to get to get dressed up and dolled up for a special occasion.’’

She believes formals signify ‘‘a new beginning’’.

And formals are also good for business.

Anthony Toms from John Hanna menswear said guys were going for a dashing James Bond look this year with dark grey or black suits.

‘‘They all like it to be a super-slim fit,’’ he said.

Sasha Stanovic from Blades Menswear said some were going for a tuxedo; others for a vest with no jacket.

He kept track of who was from which school to ensure each was ‘‘styled a little differently’’.

Roslyn Wright from Momento Dezigns said a lot of girls still wanted to come into a boutique for their formal dress because they’d been disappointed with the fit or look of an online purchase.

‘‘They’re still going long and pretty glamorous,’’ she said. ‘‘A lot of them want sequins and they’re loving the backless.’’

David Jones womenswear general manager Sophie Clark said black and white was popular for girls this formal season while blue was the biggest trend for guys.

Cataldo’s  Salon hair stylist Claudia Cataldo said girls were going for a soft, natural look or a ‘‘big, beautiful blowdry off the face’’.

Tantric Tanning Mawson salon owner Lily Michalis said a lot of girls were coming in for ‘‘practice tans’’ to make sure the colour suited their outfit on the night.

‘‘They usually come in groups and have lots of fun,’’ she said.

True Blue Wedding cars owner Tony Bevacqua hires out a fleet of classic cars for school formals, the GT Falcons proving popular. But the type of car is sometimes the least consideration.

‘‘A lot of the times they want the colour to match the girl’s dress,’’ he said.

Hannah Barnes, from Canberra Hummer, said its 16-seater, nearly 11-metre long stretch Hummer was virtually booked out for November and December. It cost $1120 for 16 people for 90 minutes. And people were lining up to pay it.

‘‘People start booking it as soon as they find out the date of their formal,’’ she said.