KAITLYN McMahon was not going to let a serious knee injury get in the way of her year 12 formal, which had been up in the air for most of 2020.
"Our formal was always before the Higher School Certificate, so this is a bit different but it's good," said Kaitlyn, who wore a glittering ruby hued dress from Nova Chic Boutique to gather with her Merewether High peers at Civic Park on Wednesday, before their formal at Newcastle Exhibition and Convention Centre.
"We all finished the HSC on different days so it's nice we could all come back together one more time. I'm so glad we get to do it and can have a good time with our friends."
Kaitlyn was trekking through the rainforest at Dorrigo National Park when she fell, sprained her right ankle and split her left knee open to the bone.
"I had surgery a week ago today and was lying in hospital trying to remember what side of my dress the split was on," she said.
She was told to wear a boot for two weeks but took it off before the event.
"Beauty is pain and I've got smaller heels so I can walk. I told someone I got bitten by a tiger and they believed me."
Erika Martin said the formal provided a "sense of normality" after a year that disrupted student gatherings and milestones.
The pandemic may have scuttled her original plans for 2021 - which comprised either spending a gap year as a flight attendant or studying in France or Auckland - but it also encouraged her to act boldly and choose a one-shoulder fuchsia Solace London gown.
She made a shortlist and her father Jarad helped her make the final choice.
She also wore earrings that spelt 'ME' and Stuart Weitzman heels.
"I wanted to go over the top, I wanted to be bright and out there, to go all out," she said.
"It feels good - I wish we dressed like this all the time."
Joe Langlois also had help choosing his black and silver floral suit.
"I told my Mum I didn't care what I wore, then she bought it from Asos when I was at schoolies and it was hanging up in my room," he said.
"I was not going to wear it until last week. Now I like it, it's a bit brave but it's year 12 - might as well."
Joe said his peers' outfit choices allowed their personalities to shine through.
"[Mine says] I don't mind a bit of attention, which is true sometimes."
He said while it was "disappointing" parents couldn't attend the formal, he was thankful students could have the event "for a bit of closure to the year".
He said he was ready to move on to the next chapter and has been offered a place to study law.
Couple Lewis Nickel and Jillian Brown thought outside the box with their attire.
Lewis borrowed a multi-coloured jacket from a friend who had it made in Vietnam, while Jillian repurposed her Camilla shawl into a dress. She bought her shoes, clutch and jewellery on Wednesday.
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