Prom night has changed dramatically over the past two years. For a while, virtual dances and socially-distanced parties became the norm for Gen Z. But the promise of a great prom comeback is just around the corner, as the 2022 season starts this spring.
Our editors remember vividly those nights: waiting for a date to ask them out, getting ready to attend the dance, and, most importantly (in our eyes, at least), picking what to wear. Some, like associate deals writer Mercedes Viera chose to go for a traditional gown, while others, like fashion director Irina Grechko and senior beauty writer Amanda Mitchell, broke rules with shorter dresses. Beauty director Sara Tan’s dress was not only custom-made but also Britney Spears-inspired(!).
Ahead of prom season, our editors looked back to their prom night looks.
The Trailblazing Dress
“I went home to Michigan to visit my mom and bought this gorgeous, Grecian-inspired orange BCBG Max Azria dress that hit just above my ankles. Little did I know, I would be a trailblazer at my new school as the first girl in the school’s history to wear a dress that wasn’t floor-length. But five years later, according to my friend’s sister, everyone was wearing short dresses to their prom. ” — Amanda Mitchell, Senior Beauty Writer / Stories Creator
The Personality-Defining Outfit
“Prom was the moment I realized yellow will forever be my color. I also broke my school’s ‘no cleavage or lower back cut’ policy. My decision behind my prom look was a ‘moment at a crossroads’ for me. I had to make a choice of going with what was trending at the moment or doing what spoke to my spirit. It was very clear that my adult self was going to be a determined rule-breaker.” — Breanna Davis, Associate Social Media Editor
The Meant-To-Be Dress
“Knowing that everyone at my prom would wear floor-length dresses, I initially set out to wear a gown, too. While shopping though, I hated every single gown that I tried on to the point that my mom got me a backup dress, convinced I was never going to find what I wanted.
A few months before prom, while on vacation in Latvia, I walked past a local store that had a strapless, voluminous, striped dress in the window. I instantly knew it was the one despite knowing nothing about the designer and the style being knee-length. I love that the young adult in me rejected a traditional gown in favor of a short dress from an obscure designer. I should have known then that I would work in fashion and champion independent designers for a living.” — Irina Grechko, Fashion Director
The Core Memory Dress
“I’m pretty sure I got this dress at a random Dress Barn in Jersey for my senior prom in 2010. The thing I cherish the most isn’t the outfit though, but the fact that I went to prom with my now husband! We look like little kids here but have dated since we were 15 years old — half our lives. I also remember getting ready for prom at my best friend’s house where we did our own hair and makeup. Eleven years later, that same best friend was a maid of honor at my wedding.” — Yuki Mizuma, Associate Photo Research Editor
The Not-My-Prom Prom Dress
“My class of 22 students in our very small Episcopal school in Puerto Rico opted not to have a prom. So, I got to live that dream through my cousin’s prom night. Much like I am now, back then, I preferred looser, baggy silhouettes. So it came as a surprise to everyone when I chose a navy, strapless mermaid dress to wear that night. I think it was the most glamorous gown I have ever worn to date. ” — Frances Solá-Santiago, Fashion Writer
The Matchy-Matchy Look
“My dad drove my mom and me into the big city so we could go shopping. My look was a lavender, floor-length halter-neck gown from a local independent Toronto boutique called Fashion Crimes. My makeup matched my dress (of course!), and my loose curls were inspired by Jessica Alba. I remember I ripped the red carpet photo out of InStyle to bring to the salon. — Carli Whitwell, Director of Editorial Operations
The Unapologetic Look
“The year is 2015, before I knew how to do my makeup or possess any style at all. While my makeup was actually atrocious, my dress wasn’t bad — it perfectly accentuated my cleavage. I think showing off my boobs after 12 years of private Catholic schooling really cemented — in my brain, at least — that I was a different person starting right then. I remember thinking that night, This is my last night with a lot of these people, I don’t have to hide anymore; I can be free.” — Mercedes Viera, Associate Deals Writer
The Confidence-Booster Dress
“I went with two of my best friends to one of their proms, and we made it the ultimate girls’ night. The mid-to-late 2000s were horrible for body positivity, and I struggled a lot with the fact that, at 5′8″ and while developing womanly curves, I was inherently going to always be bigger than most of my shorter, tinier friends. Luckily, mermaid silhouettes were basically made to accentuate and embrace a more voluptuous shape, and I think this dress really helped me see that my body, though not the stick-thin version I craved, was actually beautiful.” — Annie Black, Social Editor
The Custom-Made Dress
“For my senior prom, I had a very specific point of inspiration — Britney Spears’ green Tinkerbell-esque dress from her performance with Michael Jackson in 2001. Needless to say, my mom wasn’t a fan of how short the dress was, nor was she a fan of the custom price tag, but I love how it turned out. And the fact that my prom dress was made from scratch made it feel extra special. I also love that it was inspired by Britney Spears — it just proves how much of an impact she had on my generation during that time in our lives!” — Sara Tan, Beauty Director
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