Jennifer Moreno’s bedroom is full of tiny dolls, dressed in equally tiny dresses. The dresses are hand-sewn by her grandmother and made of excess cloth from her own wedding dress, Moreno’s mother’s wedding dress, and now Moreno’s quinceañera dress.
Jennifer wanted her dress to be bright aqua, poofy, and sparkly, and she was going to take as long as she needed to find just the right one. She spent two months looking through catalogs, scouring shops, and ducking into bazaars with too-big parking lots. It was her quinceañera, and she wanted everything to be perfect.
“I told my mom that if it was too much for her, she didn’t have to do it,” the Forney High School sophomore says. “But I guess it meant a lot to her. My grandmother never gave my mom a quince, so she wanted to throw one.”
Gave, Moreno says, as in a gift. A very expensive gift. Dresses can run between $500 and $900, and the whole event can cost more than $15,000. And as North Texas’ Hispanic population has skyrocketed—from 6 percent of the population in 1970 to 28 percent in 2012—so has its quinceañera market. A one-mile stretch of Oak Cliff’s Jefferson Boulevard has more than a dozen quinceañera dress shops, and the suburbs are dotted with bazaars full of dresses, high heels, and tiaras. Quince expos and catering halls specifically for the event are now a familiar part of the event-planning landscape.
Quinceañeras have long been a tradition throughout Latin America, but their popularity—and the associated costs—have exploded in Hispanic-heavy portions of the United States. Two or three generations ago, quinceañeras were seen as old-fashioned or at least sliding out of style. That’s no longer the case.
“There are always some girls that want to have more stuff and make their quinceañera better than their friends’, ” Moreno says. “But at the end of it all, it’s just a celebration, and it’s about you and your family.”