Lucy, an 18-year-old high school senior, is in the midst of shopping for her prom dress, but she’s only looking at long dresses. No short ones. It’s an unspoken rule at her Connecticut high school, about 60 miles from New York City, that juniors wear short dresses and seniors wear long ones.
What’s the punishment if a junior wears a long gown?
“Nothing really happens,” Lucy says. “They’ll just get some dirty looks from seniors. Especially because the seniors had to wear short dresses the year before so now it’s their time to shine.”
Prom season is in full swing, and while the fashion and rules may look different from the shindigs most parents remember, teens today are still eager to share a fun night with friends. One thing that wasn’t around decades ago is social media, and that’s playing a big factor in everything from what teens wear to prom to how they’ll ask out their prom date. Search TikTok for "prom" and users will unearth scores of "promposal" videos in which teens pull out all the stops to win over their crush.
“Promposals are fun and creative, but because of social media there are definitely some high expectations around them because you know everyone ... will see it and most likely judge it,” says Lucy, who plans to attend her prom with friends.
Over in Chesterton, Ind., 18-year-old Maddie Surane says promposals are fading in popularity and don’t really happen as much anymore. She does agree that social media overhypes the big dance and all that goes along with it.
“The fun part is getting dressed up and dancing and what we do after prom,” says Maddie, who plans to attend the event with her boyfriend of two years. They’ll continue the celebration after the dance at her house with friends and food.
As for rules at Maddie’s actual prom: No freshmen and sophomores are allowed, and no dates over the age of 20 are permitted. All students also will be given a Breathalyzer upon entering the prom.
Gillian, who is a senior at a high school about 30 minutes from Boston, also will have to take a Breathalyzer test before entering her prom. School officials will go a step further and check students’ bags as well. And there won’t be any limos or fancy vehicles pulling up to Gillian’s prom. All students are required to take provided buses to the dance.
“It’s OK because I will have pictures with my friends before we get on the buses,” says 18-year-old Gillian, who will attend the dance with her boyfriend.
Samone Clark, a 17-year-old senior from Kentwood, Mich., knows her expectations for prom are high — maybe too high, she admits.
“I have been looking forward to it since I was a freshman,” Samone says. “I expect for it to be like the Met Gala, or like a ball, or like a scene from a princess movie. I’m excited to see what everyone wears and how the theme plays out.”
There is one thing that Samone is a bit weary about, however: the cost. She says it can be stressful to add up how much is being spent on the dress, shoes, hair and everything else that goes along with prom.
“But it’s not like you don’t know that beforehand so you can save,” she reasons.
Samuel Wooley, a 17-year-old senior from Lake Worth, Fla., says his mom is taking care of the cost for his prom, estimated to be at least $500. He’ll have to rent a tuxedo (about $300), buy his prom ticket ($150), get a corsage for his date (roughly $75) and cover a few other expenses.
According to Samuel, the girls at his school are stressing about the big night more than boys, something he attributes to social media. He says he's seen accounts dedicated to making sure girls don’t wear the same dress to prom.
The high school football and baseball player plans to go to the dance with his girlfriend — once he sorts out his promposal, of course.
“I do think promposals are tired, but I will do one anyway,” he says. He's more enthusiastic about the prom night to come.
“Because of COVID, this is the first ‘normal’ year we’ve had in a while so everyone is really looking forward to enjoying prom,” Samuel says.
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