Risky Regencies

Prom Night!

I don’t watch many reality TV shows. I’ve never gotten sucked into Survivor or American Idol or The Bachelor, but when I do find one I like I tend to get a wee bit obsessed. And the two I love are Dancing With the Stars (sadly not on right now!) and Project Runway. Last week’s episode was wondrously fabulous! It involved making prom dresses for picky 17 year olds! Woo hoo!

I didn’t agree with the winner or the loser of that challenge, but that was beside the point (though I have to say, honestly Christian, what were you thinking??). The point was designing a beautiful dress that was also age-appropriate, and also pleasing and flattering to the client (even if the client was a bit of a looney). It made me think of my own prom dress, and the terrible angst involved in shopping for it, and finding the right shoes and jewelry and hairdo. And the great joy of talking it over with all my friends every day for a month before the Big Night! (The talking and shopping were actually more fun than the actual prom itself, but that’s another story…)

It made me wonder what was out there for today’s Prom Girl, so I did a Google search for ‘prom dresses.’ Here are a few I found, along with various historical figures who might have worn them.

Catherine the Great

Emma Hamilton

Isabella of Spain

Marie Antoinette

Caroline Lamb

Elizabeth I

This one I’m not sure about–who do you think would wear it?

What was your prom like? Did you get your dream dress/date? What would you wear if you were going to prom now???

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Elena Greene
14 years ago

LOL Amanda! Great post and you look so cute in your prom dress. I don’t catch PR as often as I’d like but I did see that episode. I agree, I wonder what Christian was thinking there.

As for my own prom, I went to an all girl high school and didn’t know anyone I could ask (and might not have had the nerve anyway).

If I went to a prom now, I’d probably be there en chaperone. Maybe I would go in the Professor McGonagall costume I wore for Halloween–I bet no one would dare let their hands or anything else stray around her!

Seriously, if I had a real occasion for a formal gown, I’d look for something like this.

Cara King
14 years ago

I’ve never understood the modern trend for these strapless ballgowns…the bodices are totally rigid, so I imagine they’re uncomfortable and allow one few ways to sit…and I think they’re unflattering on a lot of women…

(When I got married a few years ago most of the bridal gowns were like that, so I have a well-developed opinion on this!) 🙂

I went to two proms — junior and senior — and went with friends each time, which was fun. My junior year, my friends and I (we went to an all-girls school too!) had been so hard up for dates that one of us was going with the music teacher’s younger brother (who was in some plays, so we knew him). Well, his job ran over, and he was hugely LATE, so we all arrived at prom about an hour before it ended… But it was great fun anyway…

Senior year my shoes hurt so bad I took them off five minutes after arriving! Really liked my dress that year, though. (It cost all of $35 at a clearance place — and I loved it.) Picked up my date in my mom’s station wagon… 🙂


Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Elena, that is a beautiful dress! You should get it for RWA. LOL on the McGonagall costume at prom. 🙂

I was very glad to see Christian come back strong on PR this week! His and Chris’s avant-garde dress was amazing, I could rave about it all day.

Cara, I sympathize on the strapless thing. I looked at gowns with my future sister-in-law, and that seemed to be all there was out there. They look good on some people, but not many. And she bought one. Sigh. 🙂

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

Take the last picture, the pink dress, give it spaghetti straps, make it tea length, and change the color to a vivid true red without even the faintest hint of orange, and you have my junior prom dress. My mom, an expert seamstress, made it for me, and it’s probably the most beautiful dress I’ve ever worn.

Of course, this was 1988, so I had horrid 80’s hair, and since I was The Smart Girl at a small rural school, I was never popular with the boys and my date was a friend’s brother. Senior year I didn’t bother to go. I had my college acceptance letter in hand, and my body was still in small-town Alabama, but my soul was already halfway to Philadelphia and college life!

But that WAS a beautiful dress…

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I went to both my junior and senior prom; my junior prom I asked a friend and after he spent all that money to rent a tux and buy flowers, I couldn’t say I wouldn’t go, althought the night of the prom I was running a fever of 102. Senior year I also went with a pal of mine. I wore my sister’s dress each time and I have no memory of it!

This was also Alabama, Susan, and like you, by my senior year I was already half-outa-there.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

I didn’t know you were from Alabama, Diane! What part? I’m from Shelby County, about 25 miles SE of Birmingham.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I’m not from Alabama, Susan. I attended high school there when my army colonel dad was stationed at Fort McClellan. I went to Jacksonville HS, where Jacksonville State University is located.

Here’s a blog that tells a little about when I lived there:

I hope that creates a link!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

well, it didn’t. Ou’ll have to cut and paste

14 years ago

I never went to my prom. I was too much of a chicken to ask anyone. More the fool I! Did a 360 upon graduation and decided life was too short to be sitting with the dowagers and chaperones. Gotta get out there and waltz sometime!

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

I didn’t go to my prom–I thought my best friend, a guy, was going to go with me, but some random girl in his science class asked him, and he said yes! I’m still mad, can you tell?

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

I know Fort McLellan, in a “heard it mentioned in the news a lot when I was growing up” sort of way.

I’ve got a lot of Army in my family (and I think it shows in my writing, to some degree), but my dad only served two years after he graduated high school, long, long before I came along, and I never had to move while growing up.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Susan, that sounds like a beautiful dress! I searched for my dress for a long time, and finally found it on sale at almost the last minute.

Megan, that is just so sad. 🙂

14 years ago

Now this proves it is a truly small world. I live in Alabama, Susan, in Wetumpka – Elmore County. However, my mother lives in Shelby County – Pelham and my brothers live in Montevallo and Calera, also in Shelby County!! And I have a dear friend from college who went to high school in Jacksonville, Alabama, Diane. Cue the Twilight Zone music!

I think the Catherine the Great dress you posted would suit me fine, Amanda. I love the color and the style.

I went to both of my proms and frankly the dresses were, for lack of a better word, ugly!! (It WAS 1976-77) Big hair, blue eye shadow and platform high heels. SHUDDER!!

However, the dresses I wore for concert and performances with orchestras were truly gorgeous. I wore strictly black, white or black and white – my signature colors then. I still have the dresses, although I doubt I could still get into many of them!

They were great in Alabama, Mississippi, New Orleans, Savannah, etc. BUT, in many European halls I nearly froze to death in them as they were strapless or had little or no sleeves.

Now the dresses I wore on stage were much better as they were usually made of very heavy drapery like material so they were at least warm, but very heavy to move in!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Twilight Zone music swells….

Who would have thought that we’d have an Alabama connection!
Did you know romance author Kelly St. John is also from Alabama?

Doglady, your dresses sound beautiful. What fun to have a profession that required you to wear beautiful dresses!

14 years ago

Oooh, Elena, that black dress is beautiful. I love BCBG.

I was dateless in high school. I scuttled from hall to hall like a cockroach hoping no one would notice me. It worked, mostly.

My wedding dress made up for everything. It’s stunning.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

First of, Ammanda, dang girl, you looked fabulous in your prom dress.

I have always been tempted to try a strapless dress, but I’m deathly afraid that I’ll be busy chatting along and gesticulating, and on my boobs will pop out, and I won’t notice a thing. O horror of horrors!

So out of the choices you have there, I’d say the Caroline Lamb dress would be the one for me. As far as the pink one goes, you and I and Diane just who would be delighted to wear it.

Maggie Robinson
14 years ago

Fun post! I wound up inadvertantly with a strapless prom dress when my spaghetti strap broke. Oh, the horror. Mine was short,white, with pink lace over the bodice. Pink shoes, too, natch. Very sweet. But I had to completely re-do my hair because the hairdresser made me look like I was wearing a bird’s nest on my head.

I work in a high school library, and last year bought 3 prom magazines, which were worn to shreds after no time. Prom is way too big a deal, but it’s almost time for me to get the 2008 magazines.

14 years ago

Alas, didn’t go to my prom. But geez, the dresses that have been out there the past 15 years since my prom really are horrible for the most part! LOL Yours definitely would be along my style. . well, what I’d try on, haven’t a clue if it would look good or not! LOL 🙂


Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

Wow, doglady, what a small world! I know all those places well. I grew up in the country between Wilsonville and Chelsea (this was before Chelsea exploded and got all suburban) but went to school in Columbiana.

And Amanda, I still look for clothes in the shade of red of my prom dress, because it’s the perfect red for a brunette. But I rarely see it outside of cheongsams and saris, neither of which I’ve quite had the nerve to try on my white-girl self yet!

14 years ago

Susan, I know what you mean about Chelsea. It was a sleepy little small town when I was growing up in Pelham. I graduated from Thompson High School, but my brothers graduated from Pelham High School. There is still some beautiful country in Shelby County and I live in hope that Birmingham and the scourge of urban blight won’t mess it up.

Lois, I have to agree that the prom dresses over the last ten years or so make the girls look like street walkers. So many of them have no elegance to them at all. I have always thought the whole “prom” rite of passage was supposed to usher girls (and guys to a certain) degree into the elegance of adulthood. Not into the raunch of porn stars.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Susan, I’m with you! As a fair-skinned brunette, I have a hard time finding a red I can wear (and I love red!). I also have a hard time finding the Right Red Lipstick. Chanel’s Coco Red is pretty good, but not quite perfect…

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Oh, and I was just looking through my high school album as I put away the prom pic, and I have to say I’m VERY glad I picked a fairly classic ballgown style way back when! Some of the trendier dresses in the photos now look–interesting. 🙂

14 years ago

Finding my prom dress was a nightmare. My mother and I traipsed through every store in New York until finally we stopped in the late lamented B.Altman where my mother grabbed a black dress off the hanger and told me that I either wore it I went to the prom naked. Needless to say I wore it. And I’d probably where either Catherine the Great’s dress or Emma Hamilton’s dress nowadays. Like Barney said on How I met your Mother, “you either go ‘ho or go home.”

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

I am so thankful this was not my culture…Amanda, why did you cut your date out of the picture? Overly zitty? Protecting the innocent?
You look lovely…and frighteningly, not that much different from the way you look now.
I bet you still get carded.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“Amanda, why did you cut your date out of the picture? Overly zitty? Protecting the innocent?”

Well, he wasn’t TOO zitty! Just a nice guy from my Drama class. I thought he wouldn’t want his pic from high school splashed around here, but considering I haven’t seen him in years I doubt he’d know…

I do sometimes get carded, which tells me my sunscreen is working. 🙂 A couple of years ago I actually got ID’d at the bar at the Beau Monde soiree. As I dug around in my teensy reticule looking for my driver’s license, I wondered if any ladies at Almack’s had to do that.

14 years ago

I did go to my prom–I had no girlfriend in those days, so I went with a good friend of mine, and she and I shared a limo with four other friends, at a cost that was definitely on the exorbitant side for an arcane social ritual. And imagine my embarrassment! When I got there, almost every other guy was wearing the same thing I was!


14 years ago

I think the last gown might have been worn by Anna Pavlova — it has the look of a tutu gone formal.

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