Prom in the Past


Hannah Gebert

From old fashion parties to formal dances, through history, every regular student would try their hand at polite adult society.  The word prom originated in the word promenade.  Formerly, “Promenade” was practiced by college students in eighteen hundred, when graduating seniors would dress up in formal clothes and promenade before the school population. Slowly this idea gained in popularity, and the idea would soon hit high schools, allowing for teens to show their best for one night. With the changes in how the rich spend their time we conceptualize Prom differently, but the core remains.

The forties and thirties recorded simpler but still more exciting Proms. The price of a ticket stood at one dollar and twenty five cents. Not only did inflation increase the cost of a ticket, finding a dress for prom has never been emphasized for than now. While a modern girl could forfeit around a thousand dollars to get a great prom dress, in the thirties and forties attendance wore whatever they already dug up. From the Depression to the war a slice of extravagance only required students to gather in the gym with little decoration or otherwise. Prom kings and queens existed by this time to add anticipation for the event. Having fun didn’t ask for a pretty penny until the war was finished.

After World War two Prom took a turn. When formal dancing became less common, the budget to make a perfect night grew. As a result Prom didn’t look as much like a ball and more like a pageant. It was around the fifties that spending on a Prom dress was normal. Venues outside the high school campus were selected and food was catered. Some girls seemed to understand and over prepare for the last big event of their high school career; these girls were referred to as “Promzillas”. 

When I spoke to older  people about their prom experience, not everyone made a huge deal out of it. People I talked to often focused on spending time with their friends at Prom. A highlight of some Prom-goers’ experience was after Prom. After Prom was an event created to try and keep high schoolers from drinking and drunk driving due to the prominence of students behaving dangerously once leaving the dance. Promposals and riding limousines are the newest edits to the prom tradition and more things can still be added.

Prom has changed since it’s not so humble beginnings at Ivy league schools. The center of Prom is about having fun being extravagant or pretending to be extravagant. For many Seniors Prom is the final hurrah leading to the adult world but it isn’t for everyone. Regardless of what Prom means to you, it’s set up for you to make memories. What we can learn from Proms’ past is that it’s worth it to take advantage of the effort put into the set up but it’s really about the people you spend Prom with and what you decide to do.