Since the early days of the high school prom, the term "prom dress" been associated with the kind of long, finely-detailed gowns evocative of traditional formal wear. However, a recent trend toward short prom dresses opens up new possibilities -- not just for proms, but for everything from homecoming dances, to winter formals, and more.
The high school prom first emerged in the 1930s and '40s, as we can see from yearbooks of the period. It may be rooted in traditions even earlier than that, with some historians suggesting that proms may have started as a college tradition as early as the late 19th century.
Early prom fashions were rooted in the idea of wearing one's "Sunday best," which is to say the kind of clothes you'd wear to church. This explains the beautiful long dresses that persist as a prom staple even to this day.
Formal wear is more rooted in tradition, and thus slower to change, than everyday or casual fashion, but we've still seen a number of changes in prom dresses over the decades.
In the 1940s, the norm was full, long gowns with covered shoulders and long sleeves. This evolved over time, from the more form-fitting dresses of the 1950s and '60s, back to fuller and more flowing gowns in the disco '70s, to a thankfully short-lived fascination with metallic colors in the '80s, to the off-the-shoulder looks of the '90s and trend toward higher necklines of the early 2000s.
The Era of Short?
More recent years have seen formal wear trends move toward beautiful simplicity and a less-is-more aesthetic, which may explain why shorter dresses are starting to come into vogue.
There are also shifting ideas of what constitutes "formal" in the first place. Years of fashion-forward celebrity fashion at awards shows and movie premiers has expanded the range of acceptable styles for formal occasions. A short dress can have as much fine detail, be made of luxurious fabric, and exude as much glamor as any of its longer, more traditional cousins, and designers and prom-goers alike are starting to recognize this.
The trend toward short prom dresses also reflects a growing trend toward practicality and usability in women's fashion. It's much harder to dance all night at prom or other celebratory occasions in a long, flowing gown. There's also the fact shorter dresses are more at home in a larger variety of settings than long, elaborate dresses that you may pick up for prom and then never wear again.
Short prom dresses might just be the wave of the future, and there are reasons you might want to wear them over long dresses, but that doesn't mean you have to. You might prefer the style of traditional long strapless prom dresses, and that's perfectly okay! Modern prom-goers have a wider array of dress options than ever before, and you should absolutely go with whatever you're most comfortable with or interested in.
What the evolution of formal dresses really shows is that we've moved from an era where fashion choices were limited by a fairly strict set of rules to one where individual expression and comfort play a larger role. The idea of the short prom dress, for so long something that would be completely unthinkable, perfectly encapsulates this.
What are Cocktail Dresses?
Cocktail dresses have been a staple in most women's closet for years. Whether it's for a special occasion, prom, or just a date night, the right cocktail dresses can make a woman feel vibrant, sexy, and confident.
A typical cocktail dress is described as finishing at or above the knees, and appropriate for semi-formal occasions and spring formal dresses. However, we would argue this isn't quite true anymore. With midi-dresses being incredibly popular, we say that midi dresses arguably fit into the cocktail dresses category.
In the 1963 movie "The Ex-Mrs.bradford" describes a cocktail dress as something "to spill cocktails on."
What is the History of the Cocktail Dresses?
The history of the cocktail dresses starts with the popularity of cocktails, which boomed in American and European culture throughout the 1800s. In the early 1910s it became acceptable for women to drink in public, and with that came the rise of the cocktail dress.
During the Flapper Era, women loved cocktail dresses that were practical to wear during the day and dressed up in the evening with some extra jewelry. The Prohibition Era made the idea of a cocktail dress almost seem naughty, as drinking was banned.
Vogue forever eternalized the term 'cocktail dress' in their May 15, 1927 issue.
The 1950s are considered to be the height of the cocktail dress by many people with starlets such as Marilyn Monroe introducing a more waist-cinched and curve-hugging.
Ever since then, the cocktail dress has maintained its popularity and found a place at every modern party!
Cocktail Dress Styles
The main character feature of the cocktail dress is its length. For short prom dresses, the length ranges from above the knee to hitting the mid-calf. Gowns that hit the floor, maxi dresses, and minidresses, are all not considered cocktail dresses.
After the length, the cocktail dress can fit a multitude of descriptions. At the right length, the popular little black dress can be considered a cocktail dress. Cocktail dresses can be modest with high necklines and sleeves, or they can be form-hugging and sexy.
Cocktail dresses often look amazing in a single color but can also astound with patterns and embellishments. Simple cocktail dresses, such as all white dresses or all-black dresses, can be paired with extravagant clutches or jewelry. On the other hand, detailed cocktail dresses can be paired with simple heels and soft jewelry accent pieces.
It's highly recommended when wearing a cocktail dress to pair it with heels. Your heels don't have to be incredibly high, but a feature of the cocktail dress is that it brings attention to your legs and your form, so heels help to give you an elongated outline.
Who Should Wear Cocktail Dresses
Absolutely everyone can, and should, wear a cocktail dress. Companies make plus size cocktail dresses because this dress style looks amazing on all shapes and sizes. There are no rules for who can and should wear a cocktail dress. As long as you feel comfortable and sexy in your dress, you wear it as you please!
When to Wear a Cocktail Dress
As their name suggests, cocktail dresses are ideal for semi-formal and evening outings. However, they are not limited to these occasions. The short gown has become a popular homecoming dress recently, and they are showing up at weddings as well. Just make sure you keep in mind the setting of the event matches the style of your cocktail dress. All of our prom dress boutiques carry a selection of short gowns!