The Prom Dress Everyone Was Obsessed With the Year You Were Born

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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?!

Portrait of couple at prom
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1971: Babydoll Dresses

We give credit to Twiggy's iconic 1970 Vogue cover for this cutesy trend taking over prom nights everywhere.

Vogue 1970
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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.

Woman in prom dress sitting in chair
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1973: Thin Straps

Jersey material + barely-there straps = prom queen status. Spoiler alert: This one comes back around in a few decades.

Young woman leaning on cushion with gramophone in background, smiling, portrait
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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.

Cotton Candy
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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.

Teenage couple (16-18) wearing formal attire on lawn, portrait
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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.

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1977: Pastels

Whether you wore head-to-toe buttercup yellow or peachy pink was up to you.

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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?

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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.

Susan Ford and her escort, William Pifer, dance during the 1975 Holton Arms School Senior Prom, held in the East Room of
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1980: Big Sleeves

Entering the '80s, we started to see that bigger was better—and this meant sleeves started growing a few inches upward.

Dance 'Til Dawn
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1981: Tulle Skirts

Tulle, tulle...and more tulle. The more layers, the better. And a high side pony was appropriate formal hair, apparently.

Fashions for High School formals.
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1982: Bows

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.

Identical twins Colleen Stanczuk and Maureen Waterworth chose to wear prom dresses from Courage My L...
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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.

Josephine Alvarez pins a boutonniere on her prom date
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1984: Ruffles

Ruffles became big—no pun intended—during the mid-'80s, because, say it with us, bigger is better!

Grandview, U.S.A.
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1985: transparent Gloves

'80s fashion was all about accessories, and by far, the most popular addition to any prom dress were transparent lace gloves.

Shout Replaces New York City's Xenon
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1986: Matching Dates

Outfit coordination reached a new level in the '80s. We dig it.

Young Couple Going to the Prom
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1987: Bubble Dresses

In the late '80s, girls started opting for shorter styles—and the oh-so-popular bubble dress was born.

Fashions for High School formals.
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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.

a man and woman posing for a picture
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1989: Layered Dresses

All. the. rage. Bonus points if they happened to be worn with white tights and flats.

a man and woman posing for a picture
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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.

a man and woman posing for a picture
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1991: Square Necklines

This year was all about a good, old-fashioned, simple square neckline. Who needs rhinestones and fancy details, anyway?

a person in a red dress
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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.

a couple of women taking a picture
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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.

two women in dresses
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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.

a woman in a blue dress
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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.)

a person in a blue dress
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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.

a person in a black dress
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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!

a man and woman posing for a picture
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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.

a woman in a pink dress holding a bouquet of flowers
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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!

a person in a pink dress
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2000: Shawls

Whether or not chiffon shawls actually keep you warm is irrelevant, right? They were a thing in 2000.

a woman in a pink dress
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2001: Cowl-Neck Dresses

This draped neckline was a major hit in the early aughts, and bonus points for added embellishments on the draping.

a man and woman posing for a picture
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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.

a person in a blue dress
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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.

a woman in a blue dress
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2004: One-Shoulder Dresses

An asymmetrical dress was the ~It~ look in 2004.

a woman with a black dress
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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.

a man and woman posing for a picture
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2006: Strapless Dresses

No matter if the dresses were long or short, they all had one thing in common: They were strapless.

a woman in a blue dress
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2007: Rhinestone Brooches

Often found on halter or strapless dresses, these rhinestone brooches were always in the same place: right on the bodice.

a woman in a blue dress
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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?

a woman in a blue dress
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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.

a woman sitting on a stool
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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.

a woman in a blue dress
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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.

a man and woman posing for a picture
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2012: Floral Shoulders

If you loved florals, but didn't want to wear a flower print, odds are you opted for this style instead.

a woman in a blue dress
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2013: Side Cutouts

The ever-popular bold high slit walked so side-baring cutouts could run—and they certainly had a moment this year.

a man and woman posing for a picture
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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.

a woman in a pink dress
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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.

a group of women posing for a picture
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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.

a man and woman posing for a picture
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2018: Open Back

In 2018, girls started to become more daring with their dresses, playing around with cutouts and low, open backs.

a woman wearing a white dress
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2019: Off-the-Shoulder Gowns

Behold the stars of prom in 2019, with lots of girls also opting for full, tulle skirts.

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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.

a person in a pink dress
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2021: Long Ball Gowns

Proms were allowed to return, and everyone opted for long ball gowns with open or low backs.

a group of women in dresses
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2022: Corset Tops

The waist-cinching corset tops were part of everyday fashion in 2022, but they were especially popular on the prom scene.

a woman in a black dress
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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.

a woman in a dress
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