The very first prom was held in the late 1800s when some adults decided that college students needed formal lessons in “social etiquette” (manners). They decided the best way to do this was to have a fancy-dress dinner and dance. The event kicked off with the students and their guests promenading (or marching) as a group into the hall where the event was being held, and the prom was born!
By the early 1900s, proms had migrated from colleges to high schools, where it remains an institution today. While proms were always about dressing to impress, they really were not like the proms of today. Early proms were more dinners than dances. There were plenty of adults around too, to make sure that the diners practiced proper table manners, as these proms were heavily chaperoned. While there was certainly dancing at these early proms, prom goers would not have come with a special date.
Proms really didn’t begin to look like the proms we know today until after World War II. By the early 1950s, high school students were given a great deal more say in the planning of the event. The prom dinner (and table manners) became less important, and the dance became the event’s focus. Promenading in as a group was long gone, but dressing nicely for this event remained very important. As you might imagine, there have been some changes in prom fashions over the years, especially in prom dresses.
Early prom dresses were long, and much less “blingy” than modern day ones, especially during the Great Depression. Dresses started becoming shorter and more frilly in the 1940s and especially the 1950s. Dress