Throwback Thursday: Prom Edition

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When I was a sophomore in high school, a senior asked me to go to Prom with him. I went to a relatively small high school for the area (fewer than 1,000 students) and there wasn’t a Junior Prom, so going to Prom as an underclassman was a pretty exciting thing. It was also exciting to go with this guy, I had been crushing on him all year long.

first prom 2

I went all the way to Potomac Mills to look for a prom dress, and found THE ONE at Nordstrom Rack. It was ruched white satin, off the shoulder, and I felt like Marilyn Monroe in it. Shoes were easy – I bought a pair of white satin dyeable pumps from Payless Shoe Source, high enough heel so I could comfortably dance with my tall date. At the time, my head was shaved from ears down and I was growing out a blue-black dye job, so I wore it wavy like a bob, using a rhinestone clip to hold back one side. I remember buying some really sparkly dangly rhinestone earrings and a rhinestone bracelet from Afterthoughts.

When my senior year came around, I felt a bit too cool for school, and for proms. Not only that, but I had some high school drama earlier in the year where I didn’t have that many girl friends left and had no desire to spend a lot of money for an evening with frenemies. My boyfriend also felt he was too cool for school; he went to a different high school and had already decided he would NOT go to his prom. However, I read far too many teen romances and heard too many adults tell me I would regret it if I didn’t go, so I asked my boyfriend if he would be willing. He was a great guy and agreed to it.

I bought my first prom dress at Merry Go Round in Laurel Mall. It was a black velvet column dress with a pearl beaded halter collar from Zum Zum. Tres chic, and I can recall it being $125 which was an insane price. I vaguely remember either putting it on layaway or having them hold it until I got my next paycheck from my job at the florist. Then a month later, my friend who worked at Merry Go Round told me that our classmate bought the SAME DRESS for prom. This classmate and I did not get along, so I of course could NOT wear the dress, and the dress was not returnable. I went to TJ Maxx and found a short black sheath with a lace overlay. High neck, but the armholes cut out in a cool modern way. I decided I would channel Audrey Hepburn, with a French twist, black stockings, black pumps, maybe even opera-length gloves and a tiara. The dress was on clearance, I think less than $20.

A week before prom, I chickened out on wearing the super short, super tight lace dress. I went into a total panic, and my mom the superhero MADE MY PROM DRESS. We picked a cornflower blue moiré and I was imagining Madonna in the Material Girl video (had yet to see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). With very little time, there wasn’t some crazy bow off the back, no time to search for a giant sparkly necklace, and my mom’s white opera gloves did not fit over my arms (always had big arms), so we took the rhinestone detail off the dress I wore to Prom in sophomore year and put it on the front of this dress for some shine. I loved the shade, it was not a trendy color and I believed I’d be the only person at Prom in blue.  Luckily Payless could dye a pair of 4″ heels (very tall boyfriend) and clutch purse on short notice in the same cornflower shade.

I had an appointment to get my hair done, still wanted a French twist. Still had a lot of my head shaved (by this time the sides had grown out but the back was still shorn). The woman at the salon had no idea how to make my hair look like anything, so she put it in a ponytail on the top of my head and hard curled it and pinned the curls like some sort of updo. It was dreadful, and so sprayed and gelled I didn’t dare go home and change it. I tried very hard not to cry and mess up my face. My mom helped, trying to make it look a bit better.

second prom

Prom was as terrible as I thought it would be. While I did have a whole table of friends to hang out with, there were people there who didn’t like me. And there was one other girl in blue, and of course it was a girl who despised me, the one I got in all that drama with (funny enough, she is one of the few people from high school I am friends with today). I remember dancing with my boyfriend, looking up at the mirrored ceiling and seeing another girl mouth, “bitch” to me and give me the finger. We got our pictures taken, and when my friend said she was ready to go less than two hours after we arrived, we were thrilled.

We went back to my boyfriend’s house where he spent an hour taking bobby pins out of my hair. We watched Beavis and Butthead and made out all night. I got back the pro photos, and saw my hair had fallen and the slit of the dress got messed up and the dress folded inside itself making me look like even more of a hot mess. I never gave out any of the photos, though my parents had one of the 5x7s on top of the family piano.

It all worked out though… that boyfriend ended up being my husband 11 years later!

And those two unworn prom dresses? I ended up wearing both of them (the lace one more than once) to sorority and fraternity formals in college!

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  1. Oh not only did i enjoy reading your post but also looking at your prom pics.
    It all seems too close to home: the mean girls, going or not to them prom…
    In my case they guy i asked, an ex boyfriend said he did not want to go to prom, so i went with a friend. It was not the best night, sure i had nice and probably my most expensive dress ever – 300 dollars back in the day was a lot of money- but i had to spend the night watching the guy i was madly in love with make out with another gal.
    However I am glad to hear that your night ended well and certainly that you married that boyfriend…

  2. Oh my God, I’m dying. MERRY GO ROUND. I might never have thought of it again, and now the fond memories are flooding back. I love that you married your prom date.

  3. Nothing wrong with senior prom date (and current husband) but damn that date of yours from when you were a sophomore was very good looking! And tall – he’s towering over you and your friends, haha.

  4. Thanks for sharing these great pics! I’m 37 and married to my high school boyfriend too who is 10 inches taller than me, but we thought we were wayyy too cool for prom so don’t have any fun pictures like these!

  5. What is it about Senior year proms and best friends becoming frenemies? I had the same problem. I let it go since I was moving away, and I’d already bought Prom tickets, so I went with myself and a date.
    Junior year was a low back, ice blue satin, v-neck column dress with a small chiffon train that was on major clearance at Penny’s. Senior year everyone had bustles. I have enough junk in the trunk on a good dya, but I found a black shath with a crochet overlay that worked well.

  6. Thank you for this sweet and wonderful memory! Your mom rising to the emergency sounds like my mom. I made most of my clothes in high school. On the morning of the party, I would lay out the pattern and fabric, cut out my dress, and then start sewing. When it was almost time for me to leave, the dress would be finished except for the zipper. My mother would sew me into the dress by hand and then wait up until I got home so she could snip out the stitches.

  7. I am mot usually one for prom stories, but I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you so much for sharing. And I knew that was your husband. He was as cute then as he is now.

  8. Haha, ohhhh prom. I didn’t go my junior year – none of my friends wanted to go and half of my friends were sophomores that year and couldn’t go…so we all hung out at my mom and dad’s house and played games and had a bonfire and it was perfect. My senior year, I decided I wanted to go. My friends from the previous year were all juniors and allowed to go to prom (our school’s prom was for juniors and seniors) and we all went together. My date was my gay best friend, which my parents were thrilled about (they didn’t have to worry about any poor choices being made, haha). My grandma had found me a mauve prom dress for super cheap at Nordstrom Rack a year prior (in case I wanted to go to junior prom) and brought it home…luckily, it fit, and I wasn’t picky. The dress had beading on the chest and it rubbed SO bad on my armpits…annoying. At the dance, we waited in line for two hours to get our picture taken, danced for like 40 minutes, and decided it was kind of boring and went back to my friend’s house to hang out instead.

  9. Great post! Takes me back (waaayyyy back) to my Senior Prom in 1974. My mom made my dress. It was was a long simple column dress and a beautiful shade of light pink. She also made a bolero type shrug in burgundy, complete with rhinestone trim! The night before prom, I got the flu (or maybe I was hung over from a party…”flu” was what I would have told my parents) I felt horrible, but I was determined to go. Boyfriend and I posed for home pictures with his gorgeous sister and her date. When we got those pictures back I was horrified at how bad I looked, being “sick” and all, standing next to the gorgeous sister. Wow, those were the good old days. Thanks for taking us down memory lane Allie.

  10. I love this post! I graduated back in 96 and I am in some ways glad those days are over. I liked my prom, but I wasn’t that interested in it. A bunch of us went, but I was the only one without a date which didn’t bother me. I went to this expensive salon and the lady totally screwed up my hair. I remember paying over $70 for a curl job that I could have done myself. I loved my dress though! I bought it from this independent store in the mall that sold imported fashions. I still own it today, because the entire dress is beaded and made so well that I refuse to get rid of it. It also fits, so when I try it on it brings back memories! 🙂

  11. Lovely memories! (and funny as hell too). I *just* found my prom pictures the other day – we’re talking 1973. My date was a tall hunky basketball player and we both looked adorable (the fashion was atrocious but we were cute).

  12. Thank you SO MUCH for the trip down memory lane! I was just reminiscing about Merry Go Round – when they went out of business, it broke my heart. And Afterthoughts!

    For my senior prom, 7 of my closest girl friends and I all went stag. I think we had a better night than 90% of the the people there, who of course all had dates. Instead of renting limos, we carpooled, but we splurged on our dresses and hair! Unfortunately I chose to wear a pre-cursor to Spanx (AKA the Panty Girdle – cue the Imperial March) and was pretty uncomfortable because of it. Midway through prom I ditched it in the lady’s room so it wasn’t cramping my style.

  13. Love this post! Than you for sharing! I love that you married your prom date. Makes me want to search for my pictures… Or maybe not…

  14. I was the Queen of Proms–I think I went to 6 by the time it was all over. Most of my dresses were ok, but for some reason, the one that was the most heinous was my all time favorite. It was actually two pieces–a full ball skirt made out of some kind of burgundy opalescent material and a spaghetti strapped corset top with this weird Indian looking embroidery on the bottom. I–no kidding–thought it looked like something Gwen Stefani would wear, and that was the selling point. The best part was that I won a writing contest the year that I wore that dress and as a prize, I got a limo ride to the prom and a meal out before it. This was all sponsored by the local funeral home. My boyfriend at the time (ex-husband now) and I went to the area’s fanciest restaurant and racked up a $200 bill which is saying something since it was a) Southwest VA and b) we couldn’t drink booze. I think he had two duck entrees. It was magic.

  15. Allie,

    I know how you feel about it, but I think you look cute in both dresses. You looked much better than you think you did. Your style sense and feeling for what suits you was showing up already. Your friends in their enormous sleeved teal dresses and their HAIR – not so much.

    Both of your dates were handsome. And that first one looks like a movie star.

    At least you finished high school. At the end of the 10th grade I was thoroughly disgusted. I quit and went to work. I never did get a GED but then later I got a science degree, so it worked out OK. Don’t tell your teen aged friends, but I don’t think I missed much the last 2 years of high school. I did very well in community college and then the university. It’s not that I think I’m so smart. What I do think is that 11th and 12th grade for me would have been a waste of time!

    The last time I went to a school dance was when I graduated from 9th grade. In Los Angeles at that time, “Jr. High” was 7th – 9th grade.

    This was the style of my dress.


    The fabric was a cotton poplin with a white background and small purple flowers all over it. My contemporaries all wore pastel tulle with lots of ruffles. I hated those dresses. They always looked like birthday cakes to me.



  16. Loved this post….and it was perfect for me to read today! I am heading to the mall to look for some rhinestone jewelry for my daughter’s 8th grade dance tomorrow night! Unfortunately my 11th grader didn’t get an invite to the junior prom!

  17. Oh wow. FLASHBACK!!! I went to prom all three years I was in High School (10th – 12th). I had the most hideous dresses – one was a wedding dress (no lie – my cousins homemade dress that I absolutely LOVED), second was red ruffled taffeta off the shoulder and way too much rouching, third was black sequin strapless mermaid….all with 4 inch heels……I looked like something that crawled out a White Snake or Def Leppard video. My mother to THIS day still hangs them in my old bedroom closet (I weep for my tiny high school body! lol). My hair itself had its own zip code……good times, good times.

  18. Oh, prom. Thank God none of mine were that dramatic. I went with the same guy for jr and sr prom — my best friend who I also had the hots for, but he turned out to be gay once we graduated. Whoops. Probably kept me out of lot of trouble, though. Both times I was the only girl at prom in a cocktail dress, both times they were covered in glitter. (Wth? Glitter? Really?) The first one was black and while it was very chic, the falling black glitter made me look like I had crazy stubble on my legs. It also taught me to never wear a black cocktail dress; in a dark ballroom, you become more or less invisible. Not for me. The second one was champagne/pale gold and I adored that dress — that color was not at all popular back then and finding accessories was next to impossible. I left a trail of gold glitter on the tuxes of every guy I danced with, which ended up looking kinda skanky. Fortunately, everyone in my TINY highschool was pretty cool and just wanted to have a good time and dance, not stir up foolishness. We went with a big group of our friends and always ended up at Waffle House at 1:00 in the morning. It was fun. I love your Throwback Thursday feature! Wish there was a way to share photos.

    1. I really wanted a pale gold lace overlay sheath for senior prom, I thought it would be so elegant, with matching gold lace shoes! Black was the best I could get, and probably a wiser choice since it was less memorable and was worn to three Greek formals by me and half a dozen by sorority sisters!

  19. Great post Alison! I sometimes think it’s a miracle that teenagers survive the HS experience. I hope you share this story with Emerson when she’s older. It’s precious!

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