What Should I Wear to Prom?

Jessica Ellis

Prom is one of high school’s most elaborate traditions. It can be about fun, going out with friends, dancing the night away, and generally having a great time. However, to many people, it’s mostly about the clothes. Unlike homecoming or other school events, this dance is most often full-out formal, and it is the time to let your inner red-carpet walker out into the room.

Many fashion magazines offer helpful tips on what to wear to prom and how to find the right dress.
Many fashion magazines offer helpful tips on what to wear to prom and how to find the right dress.

If your dance has an obvious theme, consider dressing at least somewhat in the style of the party. An underwater theme could be a great chance for a gown with a fish-tail skirt, while a blast from the past dance could be a great time to look for an outfit with retro details, like a fringe skirt or Old Hollywood cut. Be careful not to go too overboard with themed outfits however, as you want to fit the theme, not be a decoration. Unless it is a specifically costumed dance, try to keep your adherence in the details.

Tuxedos are a more formal choice for prom.
Tuxedos are a more formal choice for prom.

To help choose your gown, pick up a few fashion magazines to look at the latest styles. Around prom season, many will feature articles on finding the right dress silhouette to complement your body shape, and tips on makeup and hairstyles. Learn what colors and styles look best on you regardless of current trends or fads, and aim to stand out from the crowd. So what if everyone you know is wearing black and white fluffy ball gowns? If you look fantastic in a pumpkin orange sheath, then work it!

For many, budget for clothing is increasingly an issue. Prom dresses can be extremely expensive, sometimes priced at more than $1000 US dollars (USD) for designer clothes. Do not panic if you are on a limited budget for formalwear. Some cities and towns operate organizations that donate formal clothing to needy prom-goers. Check secondhand stores for fantastic bargains, or try to get a jump on the competition by getting your dress or tuxedo from an auction site like eBay. Style is so individual these days that it is almost impossible to tell what is new and what is vintage.

For guys, the clothing question is considerably simpler. However, eclectic personalities should not be afraid to show their glory. Although a simple black tux is de rigueur, don’t be afraid to toss on a 1940s suit, a show vest, or even go super-suave in a white coat. If you are going with a date, it is traditional to find out what color she is wearing so you can choose your accessories to match. Consider bringing your date with you to pick out your outfit, their advice may be invaluable.

Particularly if you are concerned about not having the best or most expensive clothes at the prom, it is easy to feel disappointed or uncertain. Experts will agree that the best thing you can wear to the prom is confidence. This is supposed to be a huge party, not a beauty competition. You are there to have fun, and when you’re enjoying yourself, you will look gorgeous.

Prom is a spectacularly stereotypical high school tradition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own, from the moment you step into your clothes. It can be about you and your friends, as much as it is about the quarterback and the prom queen. Dress in clothes that you like, that look great on you, and that are your own style. It’s never too early to start making a fashion statement, and that statement should always be about who you really are.

Semi-formal attire may be worn to a prom.
Semi-formal attire may be worn to a prom.

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Discussion Comments


Sneakers41 - I understand that a prom gown is a big deal but the prom is only one day and you should be able to enjoy yourself. I know that every girl wants the perfect dress, but putting things in perspective is important because if not a girl can get carried away with the details and not enjoy the event.

They can get caught up in the dress and forget that this a dance that they will likely remember for the rest of their lives and what they wore won’t be nearly as important as how much fun they had. Proms should be entertaining and looking for dresses for prom should be fun.

There are usually a lot of sales on special occasion dresses so you could probably find affordable prom dresses later in the season.


I think that looking for dresses for prom is probably one of the most important things about it. I think that sometimes it is hard to find the right dress, but you can get ideas from looking at old movies or going to vintage stores that sell designer dresses.

Designer prom dresses can be expensive but if you buy a used vintage dress you might be able to find an affordable prom dress that looks stunning that will also be unique. Prom fashion is a big deal so you have to give yourself some time to do some research so that you find the perfect prom gown.

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