Young women tend to take prom dress shopping seriously — and the results are often memorable, in life and on TV. Remember Marissa Cooper's floaty Chanel frock on "The O.C," Serena van der Woodsen's $20,000 Christian Dior number on "Gossip Girl" and Andie Walsh's DIY look from "Pretty in Pink"? While the aforementioned style moments have been immortalized on Netflix (and in our fondest of childhood memories), most of us have our prom pictures stashed away in a drawer somewhere, to be revisited only when we feel like embarrassing ourselves.
In homage to prom season, we asked various members of the fashion industry — i.e. today's tastemakers — to show us what they wore to the big dance back in the day, shoulder poufs, glorious perms and all.
Lindsay Ellingson, Model
"I had such a great time at my prom! I wasn't a girl that boys crushed on, so no one asked me to the prom. [Editor's note: you foolish, foolish high school boys.] Instead, I went with one of my closest guy friends and we had a blast! I loved my dress, which my mom bought at JCPenney. A shimmering blue strapless... I look at the picture now and can't stop from chuckling at those Medusa-esque curls, which at my high school was considered very cutting edge 'formal' hair. My date, though, was so handsome and we spent a lot of time on the dance floor especially to Missy Elliott... so seeing her perform at the Super Bowl Half-time Show took me back to really happy place!"
Pamella Roland, Founder and Designer, Pamella Roland
"The year was 1976 and I was so excited to go to the prom with my high school sweetheart and future husband Dan DeVos, who had borrowed his father’s Rolls-Royce for the night. I think the dress was by Albert Nipon as I used to wear a lot of his designs and I remember having very little time to get ready as I was rushing home from work. Some things never change!"
Lyndsey Butler, Founder and Designer, Veda
"I went to a small school with the same people from 1st through 12th grade — dances were never too focused on getting a date, but more on dressing up and going as a group. I think this was our freshmen year, so we were all super excited for our first high school dance."
Rachel Roy, Designer, Rachel Roy
"Always the girls' girl, I was much more excited to pose with my best friend than with my date. I had my dress made by a seamstress, specifically inspired from Julia Roberts' red dress in 'Pretty Woman.' As you can see I was always into shades of the same tone, red dress red stockings, red shoes."
Robert Lee Morris, Founder and Designer, Robert Lee Morris
“I went to the prom in Rio de Janeiro at a night club with filet mignon, champagne, dance cards and lots of samba. My jacket came off pretty quickly because I danced until I was drenched.”
Elisa Dahan and Eran Elfassy, Co-Creative Directors, Mackage
"I remember prom like it was yesterday. Eran and I have always been very fashion forward and thought it would be fun to push boundaries with our outfit choices. We had a great time that night!" says Elisa Dahan. (Fun fact: the two went to prom together, but are now platonic business partners.)
Johnny Talbot, Founder and Designer, Talbot Runhof
"My date and I were not part of the popular clique, so a group of us decided to go as a group — there were eight of us. We had an awful expensive dinner beforehand and then made our way to prom. I remember it all being very uneventful. My date wore a baby blue silk taffeta dress with matching ballerinas and her wrist corsage was made of violets. My tux was, needless to say, rented. In the end, all the boys turned out to be gay."
Phillip Salem, Owner, Owen New York
"I am not a fan of suits, but it was prom so I had to figure something out! I searched Beachwood Mall in Ohio and [altered] every seam to make it much more fitted. I didn't want a baggy suit, not my style!"
Aya Kanai, Executive Fashion Director, Cosmopolitan and Seventeen
"I am a native New Yorker, and grew up in Midtown! In high school I thought I was very cool because my boyfriend was from Brooklyn. Anyhow, my high school prom was at the Water Club on the East River. Prom was more about friends hanging out than 'dates.' So even though I had my über-cool BK boyfriend, he was not friends with my high school pals, so I brought a female friend to prom who was buddies with my high school crew. We got each other matching corsages, wore vintage dresses and fancied ourselves to be very alternative. She's still one of my best friends to this day. Moral of the story: boyfriends come and go but your best girlfriends are for life."
Sarah Flint, Founder and Designer, Sarah Flint
"The dress was Vera Wang. I bought it for almost nothing on Bluefly two sizes too big and had to majorly alter it."
Lori Bergamotto, Style Director, Good Housekeeping
"Junior prom is such a fun and funny memory for me. I was crowned prom queen — I know, I know, save your eye roll — and I wore a tuxedo dress. At the time, it seemed pretty daring, and I thought it looked chic but, in retrospect… not so much. My mom is super into fashion and convinced me to go with something original and buck the trend of frilly, jewel-toned dresses that were so popular in 1995. It only took 10-15 years for this look to come back in fashion again and in a way, way better iteration — see: Alexa Chung, Angelina Jolie, every Kardashian ever, etc."
Leah Chernikoff, Editorial Director, Elle.com
"Here it is, in all its glory. The year is 2000. I had a beautiful beaded one-shoulder gown from BCBG all ready to go (I had purchased it months in advance) and at the last minute saw this postage stamp of a mini dress (back scarf included!) at Loehmann's and had to have it. Please also note the regrettable highlights and weird blingy clips in the back of my hair. I promptly got a fever that night and went home early."
Cheryl Wischhover, Beauty Editor-at-Large, Fashionista
"If I had to sum up this photo in two words, those words would be 'shiny' and 'hair spray.' Okay, fine, that's three words. The angle is such here that you can't appreciate the full magnitude of my bangs, which is probably a good thing. I think I tamed the rest of my gigantic perm by pulling it back in a banana clip. Also not evident in this photo: the matching blue eye shadow. I can't remember where my dress came from, but it's most definitely mall fodder. Did we all go to the same satin pointy-toe shoe store? And why the garters? I have so many questions for my 17-year-old self."
Tyler McCall, Senior Associate Editor, Fashionista
"I wore a short dress to junior and senior prom — I was never into the idea of a princess gown. The black dress was a special buy from the Saks an hour and a half away. And yes, it was really, um, booby. Oops."
Alyssa Vingan, Senior Editor, Fashionista
"I will admit, I actually loved my prom dress — so much so that I wore it to a wedding in New York City right after I graduated from college. While the aqua color is a little too loud for me now (I grew up in Virginia Beach, so this was theme-appropriate) the dress fit so well and I remember being comfortable in it the entire night. I also remember prom being very anti-climactic — and that there was a lot of drama about who was hanging out with whom — but I spent the night sneaking booze and dancing with my best friend and our dates, which is really what prom's all about anyway, right?"
Eliza Brooke, Associate Editor, Fashionista
"My high school didn't do prom; we had a 'formal' that all four grades got invited to, which meant that nobody got excessively dressed up for the occasion. I got this dress from Anthropologie my senior year. It was way too short when I raised my arms, but fit like a silky, oversized t-shirt, which I thought made me look unbelievably unconventional and chic. That bag I probably should have gone without. I've never been a handbag person, so I probably just tossed it on as an afterthought since I needed something to carry my crap in."
Chantal Fernandez, Assistant Editor, Fashionista
"BCBG for the win! Here I am with my date Leon at my senior prom. I actually ended up wearing the exact same dress to the dance as my best friend. We never thought to talk about it beforehand because she was on the softball team and I was in the school play and springtime was crazy busy. The theme of the dance was jungle or something. My dress is kind of like camo, right?"
Fawnia Soo Hoo, Contributing Editor, Fashionista
"So I grew up in the Michigan 'burbs and the shopping options were fairly limited. I thought I was being strategic by buying my junior prom dress at the closest thing to a boutique in the local mall — although that doesn't give an excuse for my regrettably too-monochromatic look, which matched down to the scrunchie and shoulder poufs. So I get to prom and my friend is wearing the same thing! Keep in mind, this was the pre-Facebook era, so there were no community pages to call dibs on dresses or anything. We've since reconnected on Facebook, and she has zero memory of our prom twinning, possibly because the dress did not age well, but our traumatic 'Bitch Stole My Look' moment will be forever seared in my consciousness."