Prom Through the Decades

Prom Through the Decades

Addison Miscovich, Contributor

As prom approaches Esperanza, many people know that it is one of the high school’s most sacred traditions. While many people don’t remember things from their high school experience, almost everyone will remember their junior or senior prom. Prom in the United States is heavily influenced by the trends from the time period, and through photographs, we can see the evolution of prom through the decades. Through the dresses, suits, and hair it is very easy to identify what year the prom took place. 

Disclaimer: This is not an opinion but rather my view of prom through the decades based on photos


The 1970s prom was defined by the hippie era that continued from the 60s, and could be most identified by the pastel colors or hippy prints. Women usually went with long maxi dresses that were flowy and had a lace touch. For women’s hair, the bigger the better. The 70’s hairstyle was inspired by Farrah Fawcett and her voluminous blonde hair. Men in the 70s were often pictured in a regular black suit and tie or at this time the pastel blue suit was especially popular amongst teenagers. The blue suit was often accompanied by a floral textured belt and a matching blue tie. In order to match, blue pastel dresses were also very popular. Since the hippie era was associated with the 1970 prom, many men had shoulder-length hair with mustaches, something that you wouldn’t see too often today. 


For the last two decades, prom was dominated by the hippie aesthetic, but the 80s saw an end to that. While some trends stayed around, pastel colors and ruffles in men’s suits were the last of the 70s influence. In the 80s girls started to mix maxi and midi dresses, which was almost unheard of at the time. At the times when women would wear a midi dress, they were very colorful and very textured. One style that was dominant was the flower ruffle at the top of the dress and polka dots were prominent. The girl’s hairstyles varied from person to person, as some people choose to go with a tame straightened style but some girls would wear big updos. As the hippie era died out so did the men’s hair, and the prom trend for men was short hair and black and gray colored tuxes. 

The 1990s:

In the 90s the main prom theme was elegance and looking put together. Previously in the 80s, there was a lot of crazy hair and overwhelming dresses, but the trends in the 90s were a direct reaction against that. Women’s dresses were mostly red and black with thin straps, and they were midi dresses that flowed perfectly. One of the biggest trendsetters for these dresses was Jenifer Aniston through her character Rachel Green. If dresses had a floral print they were very tame and weren’t as anxious as seen in previous decades. Many dresses were made from velvet or silk because these dresses dominated the celebrity red carpet. The men’s trend didn’t see too much of a change from the 80s, so their hair was still short and the black tux was the standard, but there was an introduction of the navy tux. 

The 2000s:

In the 2000s there was a dramatic shift in the prom trends that hadn’t been seen in any other decade. The new century definitely had an effect on how high school prom was perceived. As pictured many more people went with a group of friends because it was more socially acceptable. Girls would go to prom in very bright-colored ball gowns instead of muted ting slip dresses. The bottoms of dresses slowly got bigger and the colors got brighter. Many women gravitated towards big barrel curls replacing the pin-straight hair and buns seen in the 90s. Prom dresses were completely decked out with jewels and ruffles to add to the grandeur. Men’s trends took a while to develop, and some new things have emerged. Men started to gravitate towards a white tux with a back belt and opted for comb-over hair.

The 2010s:

prom in the early 2010s was heavily influenced by the Tumblr trend, so a lot of the prom fashion was dark and muted. Women’s dresses became less colorful and patterns like polka dots were back in style. The dresses started the become slimmer with less texture, but still very maximalist. By the 2010s it became normal to only be going with friends, whereas earlier in the decades a date was required for attendance. The colors gold and green became very popular in this decade and are still seen today as leading prom dress colors. Many girls went with half-up half-down curled hairstyles, and straight hair was almost never seen. Many of the dresses became more detailed and personalized, so the odds of running into someone with the same dress lowered. This new era of dresses gave rise to companies like Windsor which are still dominant today. For the buys, they ditched the white tux and went back to black tux and stayed with short hair.