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T'S time for gorgeous gowns, hired limos and glamorous makeovers - it's school prom season!

IThe idea of throwing a big party when you left school started in America but is now fully established in Britain. It's growing every year and is now a PS100 million a year business.

Girls, or rather their generous parents, are regularly spending hundreds and even up to PS1,000 on prom dresses.

Latest figures show the average spend has been PS220 on a prom, with nearly a quarter of parents saying they'd splashed out more than PS300.

Stockists of prom dresses are having to cope with the surge in demand by opening late and expanding with new stores.

Some girls start looking for their dream dress as early as October, although from now until early June is the peak time for prom dress shopping.

Here's our guide to where to find the best dresses in and around Birmingham.

SONIQUE Grand Central, 0121 631 3574 Open for 26 years, Sonique claim to stock the largest range of prom dresses in the West Midlands, stocking every single style from all the major prom brands. They are exclusive suppliers of more than 1,500 styles including Pia Michi and are the UK's biggest stockist of Tiffany's prom range, with every style in every colour. They stock from size zero up to size 30, with prices ranging from PS150 to PS500.

You can just walk in to the store, which has moved from the Bullring into Grand Central, but they advise making an appointment so you can get one-on-one attention and spend an hour or two trying on dresses.

Owner Kiran Dhatt says: "At the moment we are open from 9am to 10pm, six days a week, to cope with the demand.

"We probably have the biggest range of prom dresses in the country and people come to us from miles away. Around 80 per cent of our stock is exclusive and you won't find them anywhere else in the Midlands.

"We always have a dedicated sale rail, and we don't want people to break the bank so we don't go above PS500. I would say the most popular trends at the moment are fishtail, backless and Grecian."

Pandora's Prom 73 Oldbury Road, Rowley Regis, 0121 559 7555 Pandora's also claims to have the largest store and the largest collection in the Midlands, and to keep a school diary so they never sell the same dress in the same colour to the same prom.

They hold the largest Mori Lee collection plus dresses from Tiffany's, Honor Gold and Zoey Gray. They say: "We know just how important your prom is. We have on-site seamstresses to ensure the perfect fit, available seven days a week and three late nights.

"Our luxurious changing area even has a throne for princesses!" Coast Bullring, 0121 632 6189 Don't forget the high street in your search for a prom dress. The changing rooms and service may not be quite as good, but the prices are cheaper. And who says your prom dress has to be a full-length number with crystals and a skirt that makes it hard to get through doors? Coast has a good selection of lovely frocks, and there are some bargains in the sale at the moment.

We like the Malik embroidered dress with a semi-sheer overlay and asymmetric hem, for just PS49. Or the Thurston full-length with a bow at the waist, just PS79 down from PS189.

TED BAKER Bullring and Selfridges Ted Baker has two outlets in the Bullring - it's own store and the concession in Selfridges.

We like the simple pink dress from Ted Baker with a scallop hem and embellishments for PS159.

Or you are sure to stand out with a bright red Verony skater frock with lace panels for PS159.

DREAMY DRESSES Old Walsall Road, Great Barr 0121 357 0706 A family-run business with more than 10 years' experience in wedding and prom dresses, there are more than 70 colours in their range. They will also make dresses for you or hand-sew on Swarovski crystal embellishments. The price range is from PS150 up to PS250.

Elegant Gowns 1666 Bristol Road South, Rednal, 0121 453 0600 This is essentially a bridal shop but it has an increasing stock of prom dresses.

It also promises exclusivity and won't sell the same dress to more than one student from the same school.

It specialises in dresses from designers Prom Frocks and Tiffany's.

LULA PROM 4 Stuart Court, Gravelly Lane, Erdington, 0121 382 4200 Demand is so high at this shop that it extended its bridal shop into a prom shop two doors down to accommodate the range of 600 dresses. Prices range from about PS250 to PS700. "Some girls can spend PS1,000 on a prom, with the dress, the transport and getting ready," says sales assistant Tina Weldon.

"There are some really generous parents out there! Popular colours are always black and navy, while lace embellished dresses are in."

and BERKETEX BRIDE Cannon Street, Birmingham 0121 643 8900 Another bridal shop with around 70 prom dress designs in its Birmingham store.

Prices start at a reasonable PS99, up to around PS300.

They say: "From floor sweeping, show stopping maxi styles to short and chic cocktail length designs, our prom dresses are sure to make you shine."
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Apr 12, 2017
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