I know that some of you had your proms last week (send us pictures, please!), but for those of you still looking for a dress, some thoughts.
When thinking about what kind of dress I wanted to wear for my senior prom, I was certain about a couple of things: I wanted to look like a princess, and I also wanted to wear Doc Martens like Buffy in the movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I ended up getting a pink 1950s-style dress made by a dressmaker, which I wore with white 14-inch Docs, rhinestone cat-eye glasses, and a furry spiked collar that I think was supposed to be for a pet cat. Much of the Rookie staff and our friends opted for vintage or vintage-inspired dresses as well:
If you want to put together a retro look for prom, there are many eras to choose from, whether it’s 1970s flower child or a Charleston-dancing flapper. As for finding the perfect dress, Etsy has endless options for authentic vintage, and many online stores specialize in vintage-inspired looks. We are now going to take a trip through fashion memory lane, to peruse the best dress styles of past decades so as to discover which one is the perfect for you and where you might find it! COME WITH ME….
The Roaring ’20s brought us flappers and their well-defined style, exemplified by silent-film start Clara Bow (above, bottom left). It was also a good time for dresses with intricate beading and opulent details, like the ones worn by the glittering socialites in The Great Gatsby and Kirsten Dunst in The Cat’s Meow (bottom row, center). You can search Etsy for “Gatsby dress” or check out Unique Vintage’s many options for flapper-style dresses in a good range of sizes. If you’re like me and not a fan of the drop-waist silhouette, you can look for dresses that aren’t as obviously ’20s, like this one from Modcloth, and just add flapper-esque accessories like feathered fascinators, beaded capelets, and long strands of knotted pearls. Remember, you can also find feathers at your local craft store and make your own headpiece. Girls, you know I ALWAYS gots to encourage the use of a glue gun! And do your hair in finger waves like Drew Barrymore in that picture on the right! Here’s a tutorial for that, from Jane at the Hairpin.
The 1950s brought us elegant dresses with fitted waists and full skirts, which, as I mentioned, was the kind of dress I went for myself. Visualize the glamour of Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth and you get what I’m talking about. The decade also introduced wiggle dresses like the ones Marilyn Monroe wore. Trashy Diva has an amazing assortment of the full-skirt dresses, while Pinup Girl Clothing has plenty of wiggle-style dresses to choose from. WARNING: if you are a lover of tulle, Etsy will be a feast for your eyes. Just search “1950s prom dress” and prepare to cry over how beautiful some of the things you will see like this BEAUTACIA.
Fashion went through a big transformation in the ’60s. The modest hemlines of the ’50s still prevailed during the early part of the decade; then Ronettes-style beehives and heavy eyeliner moved in, eventually making way for mod fashions that models Twiggy (top left) and Peggy Moffitt popularized. Let’s focus on that later part of the era, when swing-style, trapeze aka tent dresses were popular and worn by style icons like Mia Farrow (both pictures on the right). These can be found in many Etsy vintage shops, but you can also see modern replicas like this chartreuse one on Modcloth and this lace-sleeved number on Romwe.
When I envision a 1970s prom, I think of long, strappy gowns like the pale pink one Sissy Spacek (top left) wore in Carrie and the slinky numbers Michelle Pfeiffer (bottom right) wore in Scarface. This satin-and-lace dress from Modcloth is a more romantic version of that look. Just forgo any mobster dudes as dates and buckets of pig blood as accessories. You can also invoke the ’70s with long, maxi-length gowns that have peasant-style tops, like the Lisbon girls in The Virgin Suicides, or flowy, peek-a-boo shoulders like the ones on this pretty peach dress I found on Etsy. If you have long hair, loose waves are best, and DARE I SAY IT, a flower crown would look great with that look as well.
I know you might shudder in horror shen you hear “80s prom dress,” but if we strip away the outlandish ruffles and unnecessary shoulder pads there is something so many of us find oh-so-beautiful: SEQUINS. All the glamour girls wore them, from that babe-alicious bitch Alexis on Dynasty (bottom left) to Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls (top right, in black). Strapless satin numbers worn with long opera gloves will get you a little bit of Vanity 6 flavor. Eighties looks are really easy to thrift, but ASOS also makes it easy with this off-the-shoulder dress that comes in different colors. Wear this look with your highest stilettos, and be sure to enter the gym or ballroom just as the fog machine starts up so you can make as mesmerizing an entrance as Lisa did in Weird Science.