The significance of prom has risen exponentially over the past few decades. For many students, it is the most important night of their entire high school career. Since the dance is exclusive to seniors, underclassmen are only allowed to attend if they receive an invite. Thus, girls begin envisioning their perfect prom dress long before they are seniors.
The definition of a perfect prom dress has changed dramatically in the past two decades. The days of a big princess dress with a demure sweetheart neckline are long gone. The taffeta gowns with puff sleeves of the 80s are a source of much ridicule today. Fortunately, dresses became less elaborate in the following decade when girls began imitating debutantes. Modest A-Line gowns with long gloves became popular in the early 90s. The trend toward wearing revealing dresses began in the late 90s with front slits.
As a new century began, the slits became higher. Fashion trends shifted from formal and modest to simple and revealing. And with access to the World Wide Web, came more exposure to celebrities and fashion. Girls could now find out exactly what their favorite celebrities were wearing and mimic them. They want to look like Angelina Jolie, not Cinderella. That means wearing dresses that are glamorous enough for the red carpet. A quick online search for prom dresses will show results featuring dresses with thigh-high slits, plunging necklines and sexy cutouts. Since the styles are less formal, short prom dresses are also rising in popularity. The fabric of the dresses have also changed. Fabrics such as jersey, charmeuse and chiffon are now preferable to taffeta and satin. Girls are also more willing to try new trends such as animal prints, florals and brocade.
These dramatic changes have forced school administrators to create guidelines for prom attire. Many schools do not allow revealing dresses and there have been controversies with students who have been banned from their proms. But fashion is cyclical and demure dresses could become trendy once again. Twenty years from now, high school girls may be clamoring to wear taffeta princess gowns.