Prom Comes Of Age: How A Night To Remember Has Evolved
- April 23rd, 2012
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With April well underway, prom is on many high schoolers’ minds, and presumably that of their parents too. The night has increasingly become an extravagant affair as spending soars, students ask one another in more extreme — yet creative! — ways, and most of all, girls’ styles get more “grown up” (read, “sexy”). Sure, prom is supposed to be special — a teen’s right of passage — but in keeping up with this purpose, many of the traditional aspects of prom have changed, as have teens’ attitudes.
As so much pressure is placed on prom, it’s no surprise that most teens want the night to be perfect. And what better way to ensure this than by having the right dress? Yet many of the styles that girls have chosen in recent years have gone from innocent (long gowns a la Taylor Swift) to inappropriate. The Wall Street Journal published a piece last month about schools enforcing strict dress codes since styles for teens have become too risqué. Some schools have even created detailed PowerPoints highlighting acceptable and unacceptable dresses — mostly forbidding styles with cut-outs, low-slung backs, and ones that show too much skin.
Several of our Youth Advisory Board (YAB) members have noticed this skimpy dress trend among their peers at prom, which they attribute to pop culture and the outfits worn by celebrities on the red carpet — think Jennifer Lopez’s plunging neckline and Angelina Jolie’s thigh-high slit dress at the Oscars. They captured everyone’s attention andAngelina’s leg pose even went viral. And as stores feature “sexy” sections for teen dresses, it’s no surprise that the problem of dressing scandalously on prom night is perpetuated.
While not all teen girls are drawn to the revealing dresses that are being shunned at schools, media inevitably plays a large part in influencing what they’ll wear, especially on such an important occasion. According to recent Ypulse research, 68% of female Millennials use magazines for advice or inspiration when shopping, 62% look to TV shows, and 49% turn to models or celebrities — and that’s just for regular clothes! For that same reason, other girls are wearing pajamas to prom or menswear inspired looks, but fancy ones as seen on the runway.
Prom is clearly being marketed to Millennials via pop culture; there’s even a Twilight-inspired prom collection created by Alfred Angelo, the designer of Bella’s wedding dress in “Breaking Dawn: Part 1.” So naturally, teens seek the red carpet treatment for a night, which explains why they and their families are shelling out $1,078 on average for prom according to Visa’s latest survey. Moreover, families in the Northeast spend nearly $2,000 per child!
But along with the enormous expenses and desire to dress like celebrities, students seek to act like stars, and ask or be asked to prom in big ways. Students across the country are putting prom invites in food, organizing performances or flash mobs, and even getting classmates, friends, and the administration involved (see videos for proof!). They’ve seen these grand gestures on TV or in movies — “Glee,” Disney’s “Prom,” and “Laguna Beach” for starters — and are mirroring them in their own lives.
One of our YAB members explained that prom presentations are common at her sister’s high school in NYC and her sister was asked by a boy who surprised her in the cafeteria with a dance routine and a rose. “My sister was flattered, as most girls would be,” explained our YAB member, “but felt semi-awkward. “I suppose unless the girl appreciates the grand gesture, it could potentially be too much attention and too big of a deal just for prom.”
Yet clever prom invites are in no short supply. Other students are using technology and social media to invite dates; Draw Something prom requests are quite popular and YouTube invites have been done for years. In today’s media-savvy society, kids share their thoughts and experiences online, so it’s only natural that they’re doing the same with their prom proposals.
But in taking these extreme invites one step further, there’s even a trend of teens asking celebrities to be their date! From Justin Bieber to the members of One Direction, no star is out of reach as a potential prom date. Celebrities have been asked to military dances for years, so this too seems logical given that social media makes stars and fans even closer.
Yet despite all of these changes from the days of pastels and puffy sleeve gowns, prom is still about getting dressed up, feeling grown up, and having fun with your friends — a coming of age moment that we doubt will ever disappear.
Not everyone has the money to spend on a new dress that they’ll only wear once, so our friends at DoSomething.com are launching Prom For All, their latest clothing drive for girls to donate their past prom dresses and contribute to making someone else’s dance a night to remember!