As a tween, the question of what to wear to a middle school dance isn’t small. I still remember my first dance. I was a jeans and T-shirt kind of gal growing up, but for the big Saturday evening event, I went to my friend Jenelle’s house. We spent hours straightening our hair, picking out the perfect babydoll tops and getting our makeup perfect – though, looking back, it wasn’t all that good.
Of course, we were like 12 and not much dancing went on, but we were excited for the social event – and the possibility of getting asked to dance by that one guy who was so totally cute.
But I also remember being incredibly nervous for it. What if I didn’t know that one dance everyone is doing? What if I’m not dressed up enough or have gone too all out?
Kids are under a lot of stress trying to navigate and make the most of middle school. And if you’re wondering how you can help them prepare for this rite of passage, take these tips – which include what to wear to a middle school dance and what to expect once you get there – from a metro Detroit teacher and veteran school dance chaperone to heart.
Things to know about timing and fees
Depending on the school, some dances might be held over the weekend while others may throw them at the end of the school day.
Birney K-8 School in Southfield hosts dances and parties for all grades throughout the year. Elementary-aged kids enjoy festivities the last hour of their school day, while middle school dances typically start at the end of the day and last an hour and a half.
“Our middle school dances start in sixth grade,” says Sheronne Moorer, Birney’s communications teacher for grades 6-8. “And generally, there’s a charge for the dances.”
Moorer says that the school charges the kids $1-$3 to get into the dance.
What to wear to a middle school dance
Since this particular school requires a uniform, Birney also offers kids the chance to “dress down,” which brings their grand total to $4-$5.
Kids that do choose to dress down for the dance typically wear jeans and a T-shirt but are welcome to go semiformal. This means a dressy shirt, a skirt with leggings or dress pants for girls and a button-down shirt and dress pants for boys, WikiHow explains. Hair and makeup can be worn how it normally is and shoes can be simple flats or nice tennis shoes.
And if the dance is themed, consider bringing and age-appropriate costume to change into before the event.
Eighth graders, like those that attend Birney, may also get a special semiformal dance at the end of the year, depending on the school. Moorer says that her students pay $25 for that dance, which provides a meal, photo booth and more.
One step above semiformal are the formal dances, like high school homecoming and prom, which require a suit for boys and a dress for girls. Some schools may allow pantsuits or other types of formal attire for those uncomfortable in a dress or a suit. Check with yours for details.
The dance scene, once you arrive
At the dance, kids can expect a DJ to play the kid-friendly versions of popular songs that they might like and can dance to. Boys and girls are welcome to dance together – but most don’t, Moorer says.
“(Usually) girls are in one corner and boys are in the other,” she explains. “Sometimes, those that like to dance will, and then a circle forms around them.”
If boys and girls do choose to couples dance during a slower number (or otherwise), the school staff here expects them to maintain space between them,” Moorer adds.
This means couples should keep it PG and school-friendly. At some schools, kids can be removed from the dance for inappropriate conduct, such as grinding or making out.
Kids should also be aware of policies that bar them from bringing guests or from leaving and re-entering the dance, which some schools enforce.
Can’t dance? No problem
Sure, dancing can be fun (and have some great benefits for kids, too), but if your child isn’t into it, he or she can still have fun at that first dance.
Some schools, including Birney, offer other activities for the kids that aren’t interested in busting a move.
“We have different teachers that man different rooms of crafts or (dance lessons),” says Moorer, who teaches the hustle during the school dances. “If we’re not using our gym for the dance, there might be open gym so kids can throw the basketball around and things like that – (and) teachers who have hobbies they want to teach the kids can also do that.”
In addition, the school sells snacks to complete the experience.
Do you have any advice for kids heading to their first school dance? Drop it in the comments.