Right now across the country, high school seniors (and a few select juniors) are preparing for the seemingly unchanging ritual that is prom dresses. While the basic contours of the celebratory evening have stayed the same over the years — there is a dance, and the kids dress up for it — the rise of social media has changed how that evening plays out. The Wire talked to three seniors at a Catholic high school in Pittsburgh about what they’re doing to get ready for the big event, starting with the promposal and ending with the after party. Their prom is in two weeks.
The dress is still a major part of the prom experience, but girls no longer have to worry they’ll show up wearing the same one as a classmate. The girls in Brittany and Jamie’s class made a private Facebook group to post photos of their dresses so nobody purchases the same gown.
And while prom dresses haven’t gotten any less expensive, online services let girls rent them for the night instead of buying. You can rent the $995 Nicole Miller “Living a Dream” gown for $80 on RentTheRunway.com. Shoes and jewelry can be rented, too.
Guys rent their tuxes, and some plan to match their dates. Vinny explains, “I got a little sample of my girlfriend’s dress that she got when she got it hemmed, so I’m just going to take that to the mall with me and try to match a tie.”
This part hasn’t changed much. Vinny recalls, “Last year we had it at a pretty upscale place, and we sat there and had dinner.” The dancing part goes on for a couple hours, thanks to a hired DJ. “I thought [the music] was pretty good,” Vinny says. “I took selfies with friends at the dinner part of prom,” Brittany offers.
“I know this year, I think they’re trying to do some black light theme,” Vinny says. “I’m not sure how that’s going to work, but apparently the girls think it’s going to be great.” They’ll vote for a Prom King and Queen on scraps of paper at the dance.
The kids aren’t doing much twerking, however. Vinny explains, “I think a lot of people try, but especially at the Catholic school, the teachers watch very closely.”