Student Life

120 Years: History of Prom (And Trends for 2022)

Here’s the history of prom - both in its development and trends - and which trends will be returning for 2022.

Student Contributor, Piper Megellas

March 18, 2022

120 Years: History of Prom (And Trends for 2022)
Get your dresses ready - it’s almost time for prom, and this year is going to be the best one yet.
We’re not too far out from that season - it’s time for prom! When you think of prom, you probably imagine formal dresses and tuxedos, limousines, teenagers who can’t really dance, and cheesy yet adorable decorations. But prom wasn’t always a formal dance featuring too much glitter. You might be wondering, then, what are the origins of prom? Prom actually started in the late 19th century as a way for colleges to promote social etiquette among the graduating class before they entered the workforce. Certainly, the purpose of prom has done a full 180 since then. Prom, short for promenade, literally means “the formal, introductory, parading of guests at a party.” This promenade of sorts was really only seen in New England colleges until the beginning of the 20th century, at which point it began to make its way into high schools around the nation.
It didn’t take long for prom to become a smash hit among American high schoolers. Within the next few decades prom would become a staple event in the high school experience. It was around this point that prom started to morph into what we recognize today. Schools started moving their dances out of the school gymnasium and into more expensive, lavish venues like hotel ballrooms or country clubs. This wasn’t only a great experience for teens, oh no. It was also a booming business - the industry is currently worth $4 billion dollars, and is only expected to grow in size within the next decade. Naturally, prom has ever-changing trends to meet the demand of teen’s changing tastes. Some were fabulous, and others are… fabulously funny to look back upon. Some landmark trends of prom’s history include tea length dresses in the 1940s, sashes and flowers in the 1950s, empire waistlines in the 1960s, lace dresses in the 1970s, ruffles in the 1980s (and hair as tall as the Empire State Building), shoulder pads in the 1990’s, satin spaghetti straps in the 2000’s, and sweetheart necklines in the 2010’s.

Prom Dresses 2022

It’s great to look back on trends, but it’s the 2020’s now! So, what are the trends for this new prom season? If you’re looking to stay on trend this year, consider trying out some of these trends, whether that be for your dress or your prom overall! After all, if your prom photos don’t look totally retro in 25 years, did you even go to prom? 1. Sparkly Dresses All of those sequins and rhinestones are really taking off this season, and for good reason! If you’re looking for a way to spice up your outfit, consider sparkles, whether that be a subtle rhinestone strap or a full-on glitz dress! Sequins and shimmer will always turn heads and make you feel like the total main character.
2. Y2K The “Y2K” aesthetic has been gaining in popularity pretty quickly these past two years, so why not consider incorporating them into your prom theme? For example, you could consider a dress that plays off an iconic 2000s look, like this dress that references Mariah Carey’s iconic butterfly top. 3. Vibrant Colors Colors can make or break a prom dress. If you’re trying to make a statement while also staying on-trend, try a brightly colored dress! Vibrant pinks, greens, or blues are a great option, and don’t rule out a neon colored dress! 4. Flower Appliques Flower appliques are all over the market this season, and for good reason! They’re a more subtle alternative to lace while still providing that classy look. Flower appliques are most popular on A-line and ballgown dresses but can be found on all silhouettes! Speaking of which… 5. Unorthodox Silhouettes Multi-layer dresses, layers of tulle, and cutouts - unorthodox silhouette ideas have been blowing up this prom season! New Silhouettes are an easy way to spice up your prom look and try out a new style that you might not otherwise get the opportunity to try, considering that prom is the most formal event most teenagers get to attend. 6. Roaring 20’s themes It is the 20’s, after all! 1920’s themed proms have been coming back in a major way. Complete with black and gold colors, fringe, and pearls, the 1920’s theme isn’t only popular, but also easy to follow! It’s no wonder so many schools are opting for the classic theme. 7. Photo Booths Photo booths have been a prom trend for a while now, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere! While you’re dancing the night away, why not snap a picture or two with your friends? Most prom photo booths are free and can provide you with a physical memory to hold onto and look back upon down the road. Prom doesn’t last forever!

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