With our graduation coming up, the girls in my year are showing a solicitous interest in what everybody else is going to wear so that they can buy something prettier. Grad, or senior prom, is a perfect excuse to indulge your fantasies of looking like a princess or trying out salon treatments such as fish pedicures without seeming like a preening narcissist. Everybody else is doing the same thing.
The prom dress is no longer just a nice gown you happened to buy. It is an institution that clothing giants have mercilessly cashed in upon. We will resort to all sorts of methods - tantrums, coercion, eight-hour shopping trips - to obtain the perfect prom dress (and clutch and shoes) for our special day.
My long-suffering dad was on a business trip to London recently and inspiration struck. London for me has one meaning: Oxford Street. A little Googling later, I had compiled a list of possible dresses from Coast, Miss Selfridge and Jane Norman.
The web links were emailed to him so that he could buy the dresses in London. He then had to painstakingly read out stuff like "peach chiffon with ruched bodice and crystal detailing" to salesperson after salesperson who all shook their heads and regretted "to tell you, sir, that this item is out of stock".
Next stop, Mall of the Emirates - a bit closer to home. We couldn't find anything appropriate in Debenhams so we contemplated the Fashion Dome. Its array of high-end stores makes you instantaneously aware that you have wandered into forbidden territory, with your split ends, no red soles under your stilettos and, well, no stilettos. A chill dread settles; can you be prosecuted for trespassing? Out of sheer curiosity, though, we took a tentative step into Gucci.
Five assistants chorused "Good evening", bowing and showing us in into the private recesses of the store. They were all exceedingly polite, taller and better dressed than we were, with whiter teeth and sweet smiles. I'd expected them to be slightly intimidating - they outdid Godzilla. We escaped as quickly as we could.
In Dior, when we asked for evening dresses, we were shown a shapely black number with hideous metal protrusions covering it like chickenpox. "Hmm," I nodded sagely, "Very ... avant-garde."
"You'll stand out," the assistant agreed.
"May I ask the price?"
"Ah. Oh, ah. Well, that's reasonable. Just what I'd expect for this masterpiece of couture. But, er, it's not quite what I'm looking for." The assistant was looking more and more suspicious every second, so my friend yelled: "We'll come again!" and we practically sprinted out, falling over each other.
We spent a pleasant moment admiring Harvey Nichols's display, where the dummies' heads were replaced with those of giant chameleons. Who comes up with this stuff, anyway?
By the end of the expedition, our heads hurt and none of us had a prom dress - or any dress - for that matter. It was finally Splash that saved the day by providing calming retail therapy with discounts of up to 60 per cent, although still no dress.
Ah, well. No one's mistaking us anytime soon for the target readers of The National's Luxury supplement.
Lavanya Malhotra is a 17-year-old student in Dubai