Like all fashun, prom styles come and go, and every year a new trend sweeps the dress department at your local mall. From overwhelming rhinestone bodices to extra-large sleeves, here are the styles that defined prom the year you were born.
1970: Belted Dresses
The full skirt of the '60s and hourglass silhouette led to girls everywhere belting their prom dresses in the late '60s and early '70s. Can we talk about those chic glasses though?!
1971: Babydoll Dresses
We give credit to Twiggy's iconic 1970 Vogue cover for this cutesy trend taking over prom nights everywhere.
1972: Empire Waists
You're looking at the go-to dress style in the early '70s. Bonus points if your dress had a different fabric on the top and bottom.
1973: Thin Straps
Jersey material + barely-there straps = prom queen status. Spoiler alert: This one comes back around in a few decades.
1974: Peasant Details
We see you, folksy trim on a ruffled sleeve. Girls found clever ways to work in peasant details during this very special time.
1975: High Necklines
The high-neck, long-sleeve look of the mid-'70s was the only way to embrace your inner flower child on prom night.
1976: Satin Dresses
Things might not have ended well on prom night for Carrie, but the dress Sissy Spacek wore was right on par with trends of the time.
Whether you wore head-to-toe buttercup yellow or peachy pink was up to you.
1978: Eyelet Lace
The peasant trend of the '70s meant that eyelet lace was a go-to fabric for prom dresses. Rustic glam, I guess?
1979: Halter Necks
If you wanted to be the epitome of style and sophistication in the late '70s, you channeled Studio 54. As in, you wore a sleek halter style on prom night, and your date wore bell bottoms.
1980: Big Sleeves
Entering the '80s, we started to see that bigger was better—and this meant sleeves started growing a few inches upward.
1981: Tulle Skirts
Tulle, tulle...and more tulle. The more layers, the better. And a high side pony was appropriate formal hair, apparently.
A big bow was essentially a requirement for all prom looks in the early '80s, whether it was on your bustle or in your hair.
1983: Drop Waist Dresses
The most common prom style throughout the '80s was a drop waist dress that gave way to a billowing skirt. Don't ask us why tho, because agreed, it wasn't always the most flattering.
Ruffles became big—no pun intended—during the mid-'80s, because, say it with us, bigger is better!
1985: transparent Gloves
'80s fashion was all about accessories, and by far, the most popular addition to any prom dress were transparent lace gloves.
1986: Matching Dates
Outfit coordination reached a new level in the '80s. We dig it.
1987: Bubble Dresses
In the late '80s, girls started opting for shorter styles—and the oh-so-popular bubble dress was born.
1988: Iridescent Fabrics
Shiny, shimmery fabrics were *very* '80s. These dresses definitely made it harder for your date to lose you on the dance floor.
1989: Layered Dresses
All. the. rage. Bonus points if they happened to be worn with white tights and flats.
1990: Off-the-Shoulder Dresses
The strapless bra industry rejoiced as these shoulder-baring dresses became a prom staple. The two-tone look that this girl is wearing was also a statement.
1991: Square Necklines
This year was all about a good, old-fashioned, simple square neckline. Who needs rhinestones and fancy details, anyway?
1992: Big-Ass Sleeves
Huge sleeves = probably the most iconic throwback prom trend (only matched by equally huge hair). Also, let's take a moment for the 110 pocket camera.
1993: Pinks and Purples
Slightly brighter versions of pastel shades on full-length gowns were all the rage in the '90s, along with a very chunky heel.
1994: The High Slit
A thigh-high slit that showed off a daring amount of leg gained popularity in the '90s, and it's a trend that's stuck around for decades.
1995: The Slip Dress
Oh, the mid-'90s—when everyone decided that wearing lingerie as outwear was the hottest trend. (And guess what—it's certainly been making a comeback.)
1996: Goth Vibes
Black dresses + black tights + black combat boots were a must-wear combo...paired with a choker, black or dark red lipstick, and fingerless lace gloves to really complete the look.
1997: Beaded Bodices
Rhinestones and beads hit prom season hard in '97. You'd be hard-pressed to find a gown without an OTT beaded bodice. Hey, the more, the better!
1998: Spaghetti Straps
You can't talk about the '90s without bringing spaghetti straps into the conversation. In '98, the super-thin straps became the undisputed, year-defining trend.
1999: Pink Dresses
Pink was the hottest hue to hit prom season this year, 'cause hey, it definitely made you stand out in all your pics!
Whether or not chiffon shawls actually keep you warm is irrelevant, right? They were a thing in 2000.
2001: Cowl-Neck Dresses
This draped neckline was a major hit in the early aughts, and bonus points for added embellishments on the draping.
2002: Aqua Gowns
We guarantee that you wore (or saw) this shade of aqua at some point during your high school years, as it completely dominated proms in 2002.
2003: Beaded Ballgowns
The dresses of '03 were great because they all had the same beaded pattern that connected at your waistline. Plus, the embellishments added a lil' something extra to a classic silhouette.
2004: One-Shoulder Dresses
An asymmetrical dress was the ~It~ look in 2004.
2005: Chartreuse Hues
Prom-goers in 2005 loved this gorgeous yellow-green color...and they couldn't resist adding a bunch of bling while they were at it.
2006: Strapless Dresses
No matter if the dresses were long or short, they all had one thing in common: They were strapless.
2007: Rhinestone Brooches
Often found on halter or strapless dresses, these rhinestone brooches were always in the same place: right on the bodice.
2008: Strapless Minis
Floor-length gowns are certainly not a requirement at prom, and in 2008, mini dresses had a moment. Extra props if they featured a tulle overlay. Jessica McClintock ring a bell?
2009: Animal-Print Dresses
This year's prom was all about taking a walk on the wild side, because anything animal print—whether it was zebra, cheetah, or leopard—could be found on a prom dress.
2010: Tiered Dresses
This trend was for all the girls who wanted that classic princess moment. After all, nothing says, "I'm fancy!" like a tiered gown.
2011: Neutral Colors
An unexpected departure from the traditional rhinestones, bold colors, and prints, neutral colors were a way to look chic at prom—especially when the guys coordinated.
2012: Floral Shoulders
If you loved florals, but didn't want to wear a flower print, odds are you opted for this style instead.
2013: Side Cutouts
The ever-popular bold high slit walked so side-baring cutouts could run—and they certainly had a moment this year.
2014: High-Low Hemlines
These dresses provided the perfect silhouette for showing off some leg (and your shoes!), while also having full-length gown moment.
2015: Rhinestone Trim
If a sh*t ton of rhinestones weren't your thing, then 2015 was your year—when the prom dress trend was more about using rhinestones as accents. They were found primarily along the bodice as sparkly details.
2016: Two-Piece Matching Sets
Forget a dress! This was the year of wearing a two-piece prom look, like this gorge embellished matching top and skirt set.
2018: Open Back
In 2018, girls started to become more daring with their dresses, playing around with cutouts and low, open backs.
2019: Off-the-Shoulder Gowns
Behold the stars of prom in 2019, with lots of girls also opting for full, tulle skirts.
2020: Anything Goes
Since prom season was in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, most teens dressed up and stayed home for a virtual prom—ie. they got creative with whatever they had access to.
2021: Long Ball Gowns
Proms were allowed to return, and everyone opted for long ball gowns with open or low backs.
2022: Corset Tops
The waist-cinching corset tops were part of everyday fashion in 2022, but they were especially popular on the prom scene.
2023: All the Sequins
Dresses for 2023 prom—covered completely in sequins—looked like they could do double-duty at Taylor Swift's Eras Tour.
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