The Story Behind the Prom Dress

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It's April, and that means the end of the school year is right around the corner. That also means it's almost time for prom. While you're choosing the perfect dress and shoes for the big day (or just remembering when you were doing so... like us!), you may be surprised that it hasn't always been such a huge deal for teens.

Prom is derived from the term "promenade" -- which was the presentation and display of guests at the beginning of a formal event. Though proms weren't mentioned in school yearbooks until the 1930's or 1940's, it is believed that they started in the late 1800's when universities held coed banquets for graduating students.

Prom has come a long way since then, and is now pretty much the defining moment in a young teen's life. Originally inspired by debutante balls, an invitation to an early prom would call for your "Sunday best," and girls rarely went out to buy something new. It was known as a "tea dance" and wasn't the elaborate event that it is today.

In the 1920's and 30's, the Great Depression caused a drop in attendance to proms and other events like it, and the apparel the high schoolers chose was more casual party clothes. An economic boom in the 1950's, however, caused a boom in the prom dress industry as well! This was when girls began going out on special shopping trips for the perfect dress and shoes, and wore elaborate ball gowns with full skirts. Schools could also afford to take prom to ballrooms and hotels, rather than simply the school gym.

Fun fact: In 1975, President Ford's daughter Susan held her senior prom at the greatest venue ever -- the White House!

The 1980's was the decade in which Prom truly exploded into the larger-than-life event it is today, and as Prom got more elaborate, so did the dresses. Girls searched for the most glamorous designer gowns they could get their hands on, as it was going to be one of the biggest night of their lives to date.

Today, Prom seems to be more about the individual. It is still a huge night for teens across the country, but more so than wearing a typical dress or even similar styles, girls wear all sorts of lengths, styles, and colors. In the past few years, this event has become such a glam occasion that families will spend between $1000-$2000 on the dress, shoes, limousine, dinner and more.

Click through the gallery above to see how the Prom Dress has evolved through the years!
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