The Evolution of the Prom Dress
by Emily Levine
According to Time Magazine, the prom (or “promenade”) originated in the nineteenth century as a banquet held for the graduating seniors of America’s universities. As teen culture grew, prom was pushed in a younger, more formal direction and by the 1940s and 50s, prom as we know it today- corsages, limos, tuxes, and the local hotel’s ballroom- was born.
But, the most important, most stressful, most time-consuming element of the night is none other than the dress.
Prom dresses of the 1940s and 50s were swell combinations of elegance and fun, with full skirts, lace, and pastel colors. They were age appropriate and pretty things that could be looked back on now and thought of as pretty. Their beauty was in their simplicity, making them timeless.
The 60s and 70s came around and with the revolution in music and lifestyle came a revolution in prom as well. Skirts were slimmer and floral details were a must. Formal was now more casual, with more of an emphasis on natural beauty, as opposed to lots of make-up and over-curled hair.
Styles of the 80s and 90s introduced the concept of “more is more”: the more dress, the more hair, the more beautiful. This is a result of the materialness of the age, with the introduction of the credit card and the American consumer buying more than ever.
The new millennium brought its own definition of beauty than can be defined in one word: sparkle. Every prom dress in the stores nowadays has some form of sequin, bead, or crystal that girls go gaga over. Things are not as age appropriate anymore, making teenagers look like they are five or ten years older than they are. Long gone are the days of refined, polished sophistication on prom night. Now it is all about having a crazy-fun, not-so-timeless, sparkly statement dress.
Prom made it’s way all the way from simplicity to shine, so what is the next step? Are girls going to start spending thousands out of their parents pockets instead of hundreds? Are dresses only going to get bigger, pricier, and more sparkly from here? Will American girls eventually go vintage and take inspiration from what their grandmothers wore to the big dance? Regardless, prom is the quintessential high school moment and girls from every decade did and will continue to