Americans have been attending proms for well over a century now. Short for promenade, these formal dances first appeared at American colleges and universities in the late 19th century. Attendees would get dressed to the nines in sharp tuxedos and white gowns. Since they were based on debutante balls, the women would also wear white gloves and dance with many different partners.
How and why did the prom come to high school? Like many traditions that
were once practiced only by the rich, formal dances eventually caught
on with the middle class. Because most Americans admire the rich and
aspire to be like them some day, they want kids to learn the manners and
traditions of the well-to-do. Formal dances became a popular and
effective way of instilling etiquette and social skills in American
The first high school proms were highly formal affairs. Students would
show up in their suits and dresses, drink tea and dance to a couple of
slow numbers. In time, children were given a bit more freedom than
earlier generations. This may have had something to do with the war
(WWII). Boys were able to pick up their dates and drive them to the prom
on their own. Parents had little influence over these annual dances.
Shortly thereafter, the tradition caught on with most American high
Why is prom important? Because it is one of last remaining rites of
passage for American teenagers. In a country where parents constantly
complain that children grow up way too fast, prom is a subtle reminder
that they are, in fact, becoming adults. Not to mention the fact that
they love it. Some of them save up for months to pay for prom tickets,
transportation and attire. The total bill often approaches one thousand
dollars, but few parents or students complain about the price.
As the girls are sure to learn as they get ready for their proms, the
guys have it easy. Just as with any other formal event, a guy need
simply rent a tuxedo from a local store, comb his hair and brush his
teeth (hopefully!). But the girls typically go all out. They get their
hair and nails done, do their makeup and go shopping for a prom dress
and shoes. Unlike the guys, they cannot rent their dresses and return
them the next day.
It sounds like a lot of work, but most girls enjoy it. After all, prom
is often the first time she will be expected to pick out a formal gown
on her own. At a bat mitzvah, quinceanera or a communion, her mother
will typically select her dress. But prom is different. Because it is
seen by many as a rite of passage, a transition from the teenage years
to young adulthood, girls are given more responsibility. A lot more than
the guys, we might add.
Modern Dress Styles
Shopping for prom isn't easy. Most girls only have a few hundred
dollars to spend on a dress, shoes and accessories. They all want a
completely original dress that will blow their friends and their dates
away. But what they get is often much less. Prom dress nightmares are so
common they have become cliché. Every other girl seems to go for a
puffy fuchsia dress and then wonders all evening why she chose it.
The good news is that the prom in America is big business. Most of the
top designers offer their own interpretations of the modern prom dress,
and because they know that most girls have limited budgets, they are
often affordable. Prom styles and fashions change from year to year. Let
us take a moment to review a few au courant dresses.
Though prom is still considered a formal event, dress codes have been
relaxed in recent years. More and more girls are wearing flirty cocktail
dresses. Based on the legendary little black dress, these striking
numbers have strapless necklines, short skirts and zippered backs. They
are definitely not for the wallflower. Most young women love them
because they are not only sexy and stylish, but they can be worn again,
unlike most prom dresses.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with going the traditional route. A
formal, floor-length gown can make any girl feel like the belle of the
ball. They are elegant, classic, and often unforgettable. The right gown
can make a girl look mature beyond her years and give her a graceful
and dignified look.
Because they are young, most girls who are heading to prom choose a
strapless formal gown with a sweetheart neckline. More daring fashion
lovers sometimes go with a backless number. Our only advice to young
shoppers is to make sure they find a gown that uses lightweight
materials. Formal gowns can make you overheat after only a few hours on
your feet. And remember, most proms are held in May!