Finessing formal with a pro (sort of)

November 20, 2019 — by Megan Chen

As someone who has never been in a relationship that’s lasted longer than three days, my experience with formal season has always been rough. The dilemma of whether or not to even go, how to find a date or what to wear is enough to make anyone’s head hurt. Fortunately, these past few years has made me an expert in formal.

First is the question of deciding whether or not to go. As a senior, I’ve only missed my freshman year formal, and I regret not going. Formal has the highest attendance of all school dances, and the food and activities make it worth it. Most people decide to go based on whether or not they’ll have a date, because they don’t want to go “stag,” or alone. 

However, if all of their friends are, they might as well go and it’ll likely be just as memorable. Plus, the process will be good preparation for prom. Unless they truly don’t enjoy dances, or none of their friends are going, I would encourage every student to attend. 

For those who would like to go with a date, the next step is arguably the most difficult. When formal season approaches, the school becomes a battleground, where every single (haha, get it) student competes for a date. The halls are filled with whispers of who wants to go with who, and students rush to claim a date before everyone is taken. 

Of course, the easiest way to snatch a date is just to ask the person directly. But for those of us who don’t have the courage to do that, an easier, more common way exists. Student A recruits Student B to do a background check on their target, Student C. Are they going to formal? Do they have a date? And finally, would they go with Student A? 

Another viable method is to ask a friend from another school. Not only would it be less embarrassing if you were rejected, but you would help the school earn more money if they do agree to come.

The outfit is often just as difficult to figure out. Unlike prom, the color choices should stay relatively holiday-themed, like black, red, green, white, etc. 

For girls, it often entails weeks of dress shopping, from online stores like Lulu’s, Lucy in the Sky and Windsor, to department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom. It can often drive them insane; last year I was so frustrated I contemplated wearing a trash bag as a dress. It’s also essential to bring a change of shoes if you choose to wear heels, or you will undoubtedly follow in my footsteps and be forced to go barefoot on the dance floor.

For all students, it’s best to order an outfit at least two weeks before formal, so that they have time to find a new one if it doesn’t fit, and to try it on with different styles of hair, shoes and accessories.

Although my advice is foolproof, what’s most important is that you enjoy your time. If finding a date or your outfit truly makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to do it. And if you just don’t want to spend that money on formal, my final tip is to get a VR headset and FaceTime a friend at the dance; you’ll get all the fun with absolutely none of the dreadful work.

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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.


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