School leavers wanting to impress are treating the year 12 formal as a dress rehearsal for their wedding day, spending six months planning their outfits and parting with large amounts of money to get the perfect look for the night.
They are even arriving by helicopter at the venue, a practice begun in other states.
Canberra designers and bridal boutique owners have noticed an increase in young women using payment plans to secure couture dresses for their formal, often using money from after-school jobs to make co-payments with their parents.
Red carpet looks have become the new standard for many Canberra school girls, while interstate students are increasingly eschewing limousine hire in favour of helicopter charters to take them to the formal venue in style.
The practice has become big business in Queensland and parts of NSW and one helicopter operating service in the Hunter Valley said there was no reason it wouldn't fly to Canberra to do school formal trips if demand was strong enough and the money was right.
A National Capital Authority spokesman said it would be willing to approve landings near popular formal venues - such as the National Museum of Australia and Old Parliament House, as long as permit requests were lodged in advance so permission could be properly granted.
Emma Harrison, 17, pictured trying on dresses at Enchante Bridal and Formal Wear, said she had been planning her look since July.
"I am really excited and so are my friends," she said.
"I want a full length dress maybe in white of nude. I've been watching the Brownlow red carpet, looking at magazines, celebrities and social media. My hair, make-up and manicure appointments are all booked."
Enchante spokeswoman Louisa Crestani said popular looks this year were sheer materials with lace, soft colours and long dresses.
Owner of Annabel's Bridal Studio at Kingston, Misty Annabel, said year 12 girls were buying very beautiful dresses and learning a lot from the experience.
"The formal has become a dress rehearsal for the wedding day," she said.
"They have the whole experience of learning what jewellery to wear with the dress, what to wear under the gown, their hair and makeup is professionally done. And when they come back as brides they want more sophistication and glamour.
"They will often say to us 'I had the full skirt dress for my formal now I want something more form fitting'. The formal teaches them how it all works. It's become more costly and the students do contribute to it because the gowns are more costly and it's part of their independence and growing up.''