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    

1950s Vintage Blue Nylon Sequined Full Skirt Dress Prom Cocktail Uk10/12/14Vintage 50's Floral Lace Bride Wedding Dress Prom GownVintage Prom Dress Blue Green Chiffon Glam Retro 50s Party Wedding Fancy ShortNew Rosa Rosa 1950s Black Red Floral"english Rose"rockabilly Prom Party Dress"12Vtg 50's Dreamy Aqua Chiffon 4 Layers Cupcake Overlay Tulle Party Prom Dress SVintage Dancing Party Prom Swing Jive Rockabilly Skirt 50s Red Cotton Dresses LBreathtaking Old Vintage 1950's Pink Prom Dress Or Formal Dress Display Or WearVintage 80s Purple Green Ruched Bow Front Princess Prom Party Dress 16 GlamVtg Botanical Floral Garden Party Madmen Sun Prom Pinup Full Bias Dress 50s XxsVtg Sweetheart Fitted Cream Lace Cocktail Party Prom Wedding Sheer Dress 50s XsNew Rosa Rosa 1950s Black Red Floral"english Rose"rockabilly Prom Party Dress"16Vtg Bow Tie Ascot Party Sheer Cocktail Prom Rockabilly Pinup Full Dress 50s XsGorgeous Vintage 1950s Pink Dress Prom Jive Evening Party Cocktail Uk 8Belle By Oasis Black Strapless Corset Dress Prom Evening Retro 50`s Pin Up VampStrapless Vintage 50s White Lace Tulle Wedding Prom Dress S Rockabilly Nadine Vintage 1960's Blue Halter Top Tulle Prom Dress Gown Broken ZipperVtg Powder Pink Bias Party Cocktail Prom Rockabilly Pinup Prairie Dress 50s XsGorgeous Vintage 1950s Blue Dress Prom Evening Party Cocktail Uk 12/14/16Vintage Dress Light Baby Blue Sheer Chiffon Glam 40s 50s Prom Party Dress Vintage 1950s 60s Prom Dress Gown Chiffon TooleVtg 50's Pink Petals Silk Chiffon Lace Bust Shelf Back Bow Party Prom Dress XxsVtg White Lace Bias Party Garden Cocktail Prom Madmen Spring Sun Dress 50s XsVtg 80s Green Satin Poof Sleeve Lace Panel Mermaid Train Formal Prom Dress L XlVintage Iconic 80s Hot Pink Dance Allure Alfred Angelo Prom Formal Dress Ec Vtg 70s Angel Goddess Sorbet Bridal Gown Prom Maxi Wedding Festival Dress L True Vintage 1950s Purple Tea Dress Prom Garden Mad MenVintage 80's, 90's Satin Prom/formal Dress/drag Queen/cross Dresser (plus Size)Vtg 50s Satin Tulle Gold Rhinestone Full Circle Dress Flower Prom Princess PartyBnwt Vintage 1950s Rockabilly Style Swing Party Jive Prom Dress Sz 12Vtg 80s Avant Ruched Dega Ballerina Crystal Pleat Tulle Party Prom Dress W TagVintage Dress Flapper Gown Party Satin Maroon Antique Party Prom Long Gown Ball Vtg 50s 60s Rare Hot Pink Lace Bridal Gown Prom Maxi Wedding Festival Dress SVintage 50s Full Skirt Black Party Prom Evening Dress - SVtg Sweetheart Fitted Purple Cocktail Chiffon Party Prom Madmen Dress Gown 50s Women's Vintage 80's Floral Lace Embroiderd Prom Cocktail Party DressHopfner 1980s Vintage Black Velvet Pink Rosette Net Prom Cocktail Swing Dress 8Vintage 50's Pastel Blue Brocade Short Sleeve Prom Dress With Back Metal Zipper Vtg Seafoam Green Mint Sheer Cocktail Prom Party Gown Maxi Spring Dress 50s Xs/sVintage 80s Prom Dress Silver Metallic Plunging Neck Draped At Waist Sz 6Vtg 70s 80s Sky Blue Satin Strapless Origami Bridal Wedding Prom Dress 3/4 SVtg 80's Lee Jordan Sheer Embroidred Polka Dot Prom Cocktail Party Prom DressWomen's Vintage 70's Evening Cocktail Party Prom DressVintage Nadine Deep Purple Sequin Choker Neck Prom Formal Dress W/ High SlitVintage 1950s ~petal Pink Cupcake Strapless Tulle Ballgown Skirt Prom Gown NorsvVintage 80s Black Silver Princess Prom Party Dress 14 Evening80s Does The 50s Black Lace Strapless Prom Party Dress 10 Rockabilly Grace KellyVintage 1950s Prom Dress Smocked Top & Hips Teal Color Full Skirt Fine Net Vintage 1960s Pink Lace Bodice Full Skirt Gown Prom Dress W Bustle & Bow M/lWomen's Vintage 60's Velvet Cocktail Evening Party Maxi Prom DressVintage Scott Mcclintock Sleeveless Backless Long Blue Prom Formal DressVtg 80s Do 20s 30s Style Prom White Satin Pink Gatsby Flapper Wedding Dress LVintage 1990s Does 20s Prom Beaded Gatsby Open Back Silk Gown Sz XsVintage 60s Silk Organza & Lace Party Prom Dress Xs/s Mad Men 1960sVintage Size 6 Mike Benet Sweetheart Prom Dress Or Evening GownVintage 80s Jessica Mcclintock Prom Gown Dress Floral Medium WeddingVtg 50's Sage Roses Brocade Loden Satin Huge Bow Elegant Ball Gown Prom Dress SVintage 1980s Floral Bubble Party Prom Strapless Dress Puff Sleeve S MVtg.90s Womens Formal Maxi Dress Wedding Prom By Blonde & Me Silver & Sequins Sz1950s Vintage Black White Velvet Bow Maxi Prom Dress Size Extra Small Xs 2xs Xxs1950s Lavender Pink Net Prom Dress Size 4-6