1930s prom dressThe high school prom is a seminal moment in every American girl’s teenage years.  It’s that time of year when corsages, taffeta and hairspray step out of the vintage world into mainstream consciousness and the only thing more important than getting a date is getting a dress. Actually, getting the dress.  With the end of term for the class of 2009 now upon us, Rosie Dow takes a look at how the prom dress has evolved over the decades.

Proms were starting to gain popularity with the middle classes, who adopted them as their version of the wealthy colleges’ debutante balls. Sleek, floor-length, demure dresses in light colours echoed the debutante style.
1940s prom dressForties
As the prom started featuring more in the High School yearbook, the debutante-influenced full skirt was still popular but more feminine. Structured lines were evolving around the upper body to emphasise the hourglass figure that so epitomised the decade’s style.

1950s prom dress2Fifties
Bring on the taffeta: this is the decade that gave us the quintessential prom dress.  Tiny waists and skirts so full they could stand-up on their own. The post-war consumer boom of the Fifties was the turning point in the prom’s history as it made the prom a luxury that all high-school families could afford, and subsequently created a tradition that no teenage girl could live without.
1960s prom dress 2Sixties
With the prom now a fixture in popular culture, the ‘peace and love’ message that was dominating the political and cultural arenas was reflected in more simple lines for prom dresses and bigger floral prints to stand out from the crowd.
1970s prom dress 3Seventies
It’s a case of Saturday Night Prom Fever as the disco queens were stealing the show with sleek, sexy numbers in luxurious fabrics.  Light pastel colours and high waistlines dominated and they still look fantastic today.
In a decade not generally known for its fashion subtlety, the Eighties prom dress combined all the trends of the decade in spectacular fashion – shoulders were big, taffeta was back and with those shocking pinks and blues, those proms could probably be seen from space.