Prom then and now

PROM FROM THE PAST: San Clemente prom in 1991. (Photo by Joy Larsen)

Chloe Gerhard | Writer

May 21, 2024

Prom is a night to remember filled with dancing, music, and lasting memories. Its initial concept may be timeless. However, this American rite of passage has had many changes throughout the decades.

“I feel like people now try to recreate prom in the background than with digital cameras,” said senior Lauren Burror.

Traveling back to 30 years ago, prom looked very different than what we see today. An example of this is fashion. Unlike today, the norm was not maxi-gowns, instead knee-length dresses were the style. Online shopping was nonexistent, leaving the teens to turn to magazines for their fashion endeavors, one of the most popular being Seventeen Magazine. Teens also took inspiration from the movie 90210. Some of the most sought after brands included Gunnesax and Jessica McClintock. Men’s fashion was less casual with almost all boys sporting tuxes. Photos were a huge part of prom back then but not in the same way as they are now. There were no iPhones to take photos, meaning no selfies. The photos were centered around one person and their date. These awkward couple photos with staged poses were customary to be taken at the beginning of the dance. On the subject of dates, unlike today they were mandatory. If one could not find a date they could not go to the dance.

PROM IN 1991: The fashion at San Clemente High School in 1991. (Photo by Joy Larsen)

Additionally, the person who asked someone to be their date would also buy the tickets ,which were cheaper then. This action would be a very expensive purchase today. Although there was the added pressure of finding a date back then, the pressure of making a proposal was not apparent.

“I wish prom today was less casual. It’s one of the few events where you are supposed to dress extravagantly,” commented senior Libby Torres.

Today prom has changed and much of this has to do with the internet and social media. Today, teens get their prom fashion inspiration from TikTok and Pinterest, and not as much from magazines. Additionally, online shopping has taken a large portion of prom shopping. Trying on prom dresses at a dress shop is not a universal experience. In addition, maxi dresses are in style with popular brands including House of CB and For Love and Lemons. Promposals are a huge part of prom nowadays, and for most high schools there are Instagram accounts dedicated to posting them. Though the action of asking someone to be your prom date is more flashy, dates are not mandatory. It is very common for people to go as a group and with friends.

No matter if it was 30 years ago or the present prom is a night patiently anticipated by teens across the U.S. Its cultural impact can be seen in its presence in movies and TV shows for decades. It is hard to tell what prom will look like in the decades to come but it is evident that its influence and prominence is timeless.

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