In the United States, the prom (short for promenade) has been a high-school ritual since the beginning of the 20th century, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that proms became more than just an end-of-the-year dance. A combination of postwar prosperity and the increased mobility of teens driving their own cars made the prom a rite of passage, as well as a last chance to leave a favorable impression on one’s classmates before everyone went their separate ways to enter the workforce, sign up for the armed services, or attend college.

For 1950s girls attending high-school proms, white cocktail or party dresses were widely embraced, but so were billowy gowns in a range of colors, from pastel pinks to lipstick reds. Regardless of the color, a woven mesh called tulle, usually made from silk, rayon, or nylon and almost always starched, was the prom-dress fabric of choice.

Many prom dresses from this period through the present day have been strapless, held aloft by fitted bodices, some of which were lined and boned. Sometimes a pastel tulle dress would be trimmed with white lace, other times taffeta in a contrasting or complimentary color would be wrapped around tulle at the waist and below the bust to create a form-fitting bustle.

For those not daring enough to go strapless but who wanted the look, prom dresses with thin spaghetti straps were a good alternative. Underneath the skirts of these dresses, young women would often wear petticoats or crinoline. In some cases, cruffled crinoline would be built into the skirt itself to give the garment dimension and body. When worn with ruffled chiffon, the look was a prom classic.

Just about every department store sold prom dresses; you could even pick one up at Sears. Some of the 1950s and 1960s labels that were best known for excelling at the form included Emma Domb, Christian Dior, Mainbocher, and Will Steinman.

Prom dress styles have not changed radically since their heyday in the ’50s, but the colors of the dresses have gotten brassier and brighter since the 1980s, as the social stakes associated with proms have increased.

One reason, no doubt, for the increased attention on this single evening in the social calendar has been the attention Hollywood has paid to the event. Prom setting or proms as plot points have found their way into everything from horror films (“Carrie,” 1976; “Prom Night,” 1980) to sex comedies (“American Pie,” 1999). Still, despite all the manufactured pressure, a lot of kids still manage to have a terrific time.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

MyVintageVogue

MyVintageVogue

The history of 20th-century women’s fashion largely played out in the pages of magazines such as “Harper’s Ba… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

1960s Fashion and Textiles

1960s Fashion and Textiles

Put on your go-go boots and check out this wavy, groovy tribute to 1960s fashion and textiles, courtesy of the Vict… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Fashion Guild

Vintage Fashion Guild

While primarily designed to steer buyers to online vintage clothing shops, this blog is chock full of interesting, … [read review or visit site]

Fashion-Era

Fashion-Era

Bursting at the seams with content, this site contains hundreds of pages of fashion and costume history, including … [read review or visit site]

The Antique Corset Gallery

The Antique Corset Gallery

Take a deep breath, and check out this sparse, simple, and beautifully designed site showcasing 250 years of corset… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Suzyrocks Remade Vintage Lace Faux Satin Black Halterneck Prom Party Dress Uk 14Vtg 50s Full Skirt Chiffon Brown Floral Dot Print Party New Look Prom Dress Vlv80s Vintage Purple Sequin Formal Prom Gown Party Mermaid Maxi DressVintage Off White Lace 80s Prom Formal Bridal Gown Dress Size 9/10 GucVintage 1950s Prom Party Dress Black Chiffon Embroidered Pink Turquoise Vtg 80's Loralie Reddish Black Full Prom Dress Southern Belle Gown Gothic S 11Vtg 80s Tadashi Polka Dot Taffeta Ruche Ruffle Prom Dress 8 M Strapless PartyVtg 50s Full Skirt Chiffon Blue Lolita Baby Doll Party New Look Prom Dress VlvVintage Equestrian Gothic 80s Strapless Black Prom Party Dress Size SmallDesigner Sequin Abstract Op Art Print Vintage 80s De Laru Cocktail Prom Dress XsVintage Laura Ashley Dress Steel Blue Shimmery Prom/party Dress Exquisite Beaded Vintage 1950's Net Tulle Lace Party Prom Cocktail Wedding DressVtg 80s Prom Mini Dress Sequins Poufy Origami SleevesVintage 1950s 60s Blush Organza Vintage Flowers Party Prom Wedding DressVintage Blue Sequin 80s Trophy Prom Drag Glam Halter Sleeveless Tier Dress SJessica Mcclintock Bridal 80's Prom Dress True Vintage With Orig Tags SissyVintage 50s Cocoa Lace Strapless Party Prom Dress W Shrug Flare S A Beaut Vlv A1Vtg 80s Victorian Southern Belle Civil War Prom Formal Costume Gown Dress M60s White Nylon Prom Party Dress W/tulle Lining S 32-26-38 As IsVtg 80s Velvet Prom Party Dress Pouff SteampunkVtg 80s Nadine Black Sequin Origami Asymmetrical Mermaid Prom Party Dress Xxs-xsVtg 80s Pink Prom Dress Poofy Lace Mini Strapless Halloween Vintage Victorian 1980s Gunne Sax Nwt Formal Prom Halloween Dress Costume SmallVintage Pencil Wiggle Bustle Bow Metallic Tinsel Party Prom Formal Gown Dress MVintage Pink 3-layer Frou-frou Prom Costume Dress For Short Skinny Teen Or LadyVintage 70's Prom Dress Gown Dance Homecoming Red Hot Lace Costume 7/8Metallic LamVintage 80s Bronze Sequin Party, Prom, Mini Dress New Condition!Vintage Red Lace 80s Prom Formal Long Sleeve Gown Dress Size 6/8Vintage 1980s Cranberry Satiny Bow Poufy Slv. Party Prom Dress SVintage Alyce Drop Waist Ruffle Avant Garde Prom Party Wild Child Glam Dress M LVintage Prom Evening Debutante Gown Dress Mid Century Vgpc Size 7 Purple/pink VgVintage Prom Dress PinkVintage Emerald Green Lace Overlay Womens Dress Metal Zipper Bridesmaid PromVtg 90s Mike Benet Magenta Black Sequin Lace Cocktail Party Prom Dress S-m