BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s prom season, and for those who have already celebrated their 10th class reunion, they may be scratching their heads at some of the fashion choices.
From big ruffles and bows to short dresses with cut-outs, the dresses of today look very different than those of yesteryears.
Though prom fashion is more recent, prom actually dates back to the 1800s. It came from the word “promenade,” and was originally an event for college students that had its roots in debutante balls.
“This was for graduating college students, this was their practicing of social etiquettes and manners before they embarked into the new phase in their lives, and it wasn’t until the 1930s when it became a high school ritual,” said Dr. Taci Turel, a professor in fashion and interior merchandising at Youngstown State University.
Turel discussed some of the history behind formalwear dating back to that time.
In the 1930s, prom dresses were more sophisticated and glamorous. Chiffon and tulle were the popular fabrics, and most of the gowns were long.
“When you go into 1940s, it changed a little bit because this is the World War II era and there was not a lot of availability of fabrics and materials, so people were making their own dresses, and it was simpler, sometimes shorter, and more modest during that time,” she said.
The 1950s brought more elaborate styles, with rhinestones and sequins, and the dresses were less modest.
“Now we are not restricted by all the rationing of the World War II era. We have more of an abundance of everything, so it was a little bit of a celebration of that, and when you look at the history of fashion, generally, the trends are not things that are dictated by fashion designers, but it’s usually necessitated by the events of the era, or you know, by the social and political environments,” she said.
The 1960s featured empire waistlines. By the 1970s, styles were a little more diverse, including mini and maxi dresses.
“When you come into the 1980s, those were the times where the ruffles and the big bows were popular, and couples in the prom will wear more matching colors,” Turel said.
In the 1990s, it was all about the “Madonna style.” The singer was a major influence on the fashion of the time. The dresses and the hair were big.
In the 2000s, dresses were more minimalist, and spaghetti straps were popular. Satin fabric was used in a lot of the dresses going into the 2010s.
If you want to predict the trends of the time, it’s important to look at all factors. Turel said fashion is often influenced by necessity.
“If you think about all these ancient really big ball dresses, obviously during those times, women weren’t that active, or they weren’t riding bicycles, for example. But when bikes were invented, the trousers came on,” she said.
The sewing machine had a major impact on fashion. Because people were able to more quickly mass-produce clothing, this ushered in standardized sizing. Before, clothing was custom-made.
The invention of nylon and synthetic fabrics was also a game-changer. People used to wear wool socks and dresses were longer, but with nylon, they started wearing mini dresses.
Current events have also made a noticeable impact on the fashion market.
“COVID-19 impacted fashion because a lot of people started working from home and it made casual, comfortable clothing more on-demand,” Turel said.
Sara Cummings, Turel’s former student and the owner of Treasured Moments Bridal and Formal in Boardman, said as for current styles, strapless is coming back. Fluffy dresses, full bottoms and colors like black, red and jewel tones appear to be popular. She also added that “Barbie pink” is all the rage amid the upcoming release of the new Barbie movie.
She has noticed one more thing.
“Since I’ve took over the store five years ago, I’ve noticed a difference. When girls come in and they say, ‘Hey I saw this dress on TikTok,” she said.
“Instead of saying, ‘Hey Beyonce wore this style, I want this,’ it’s, ‘Hey this girl on TikTok wore this style, I want this,'” she added.