The History of the School Prom

With the loads of great cheap prom dresses that have become popular on the British high-street, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Prom was an event very well known to the UK. In fact, it’s a doo that’s only recently been adopted by us Brits but it has a long and interesting history overseas.

The prom, which is short for promenade, originated in the United States as a formal ball or high-school gathering for students at the end of the year. Proms figure hugely in Popular Culture in the US and are thought of as the most important event for high school pupils. If you’re a high-school junior when you attend, it’s usually called a ‘Junior Prom’; if you’re a senior in high school when you attend prom, it’s called a ‘Senior Prom’. At a Prom, a King and Queen of the event are crowned during the evening. These honorary titles are voted for by the students who make their decision before the prom itself.

Countries from Egypt to Afghanistan are all known to have similar prom events. In South Africa, the equivalent is named a Matric Dance but it usually includes a formal dinner too. In Lebanon schools hold prom events following their graduation ceremony and in Singapore, proms are held after the final examinations of the senior students – before graduation. In some parts of the Netherlands, and Belgium, students have a prom ball to celebrate their 100th days of high school.

Following on from the US prom traditions, prom goers will usually take a somewhat ritualistic approach to getting ready; from the months spent picking a dress, to the hours spent in the hairdressers beforehand. It’s custom to hire limousines or posh taxis to take students to the prom in style and often a male will pick up their date from their home. In the United States, a prom costs an average of $1,078 per family when clothes, beauty care and transport are taken into consideration!

Traditional prom dress for girls includes a full dress or evening gown with elegant jewellery and a full face of make-up. Thy will often wear a corsage which is gifted to them by their date – how romantic. The girls can also give boys boutonnieres to be worn in their suit lapel. Boys are expected to wear a formal suit, possibly with a bright tie and matching vest. Most boys rent their prom suits. Whilst girls tend to keep their dresses.

In the UK, Australia and Canada the term ‘prom’ has recently caught on due to the frequent use of the term in American movies and TV shows. In Ireland the event is referred to as a ‘debs’ – short for Debutante Ball.

Themed prom parties have become a popular choice for today’s adults who didn’t get to enjoy this tradition when at school.

Ellie Clarke is a fashion and beauty blogger from the UK. When she’s not blogging she enjoys browsing the net for cheap prom dresses – she owns a few!