The Evolution Of Prom

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Lewiston High School students walk the runway for the school's pre-prom fashion show at the Franco American Heritage Center in Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, March 16, 2017. (David Goldman/AP)
Lewiston High School students walk the runway for the school's pre-prom fashion show at the Franco American Heritage Center in Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, March 16, 2017. (David Goldman/AP)

With Ray Suarez

We’re going to the prom. The corsages endure, but a lot has changed. Shall we dance?


Amy Best, professor of sociology at George Mason University. Author of: “Prom Night: Youth, Schools and Popular Culture”

Samhita Mukhopadhyay, executive editor at Teen Vogue. (@TheSamhita)

Amy Silverman, took her daughter, Sophie, who has Down syndrome, to a prom for students with disabilities. Author of: “My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love and Down Syndrome" (@amysilvermanaz)

Rhonda Mieth, assistant principal at Rockport-Fulton High School. Since Hurricane Harvey damaged the school’s cafeteria and gym, the school held their prom this year at a local mall.

From The Reading List:

Teen Vogue: "These Native Teens Are Representing Indigenous Designers Through Their Prom Looks" — "Writer Ruth H. Hopkins shared images on Twitter of three high school girls wearing Della’s brand, Designs by Della, to prom. Each of the students was outfitted in a dress featuring traditional Native prints that beautifully illuminated the diverse heritage of Native culture. One of the girls, Bella Aiukli Cornell, wore a red strapless gown with a printed bodice and dramatic, full pleated skirt. The look was accessorized with red, white, and turquoise earrings and a choker. Her date, Jalen Black, also wore a red tie with a Native design to complement Bella's dress.

In an email to Teen Vogue, Bella, of the Choctaw tribe, explained the significance of the color red in Native communities. 'Red dresses are important to the Native community because it helps bring awareness to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Indian Country #MMIW,' said Bella. She also spoke about the importance of recognizing Native designers and the great talent that has been overlooked. 'I am a Chahta girl and representation matters, especially when we're expressing ourselves through couture,' said Bella. 'We have so many talented Native designers. It's important that they receive recognition for their efforts to preserve our culture.'"

Girl in a Party Hat: "The Spaces in Between" — "It was a pretty Arizona winter night. The church grounds felt like they went on for acres, probably because they did, and as I waited I tried to distract myself by wondering how much this North Scottsdale real estate is worth. A lot.

Modestly dressed middle-aged congregants gathered outside in a courtyard, lining either side of a red carpet, as an announcer I couldn’t see introduced the guests over a PA. He called each one by name, welcoming them to the church, telling them, “Jesus loves you! This is your night to shine!”

Finally, after what felt like weeks but was probably 20 minutes, he announced Sophie’s name. My little agnostic Jew bounded down the carpet, grinning, a fancy corsage hanging from her wrist, and struck several poses for the photographer.

It was awful.

And awesome.

Sophie had a blast. She ate garlic bread and sang karaoke. Every party guest got a crown.

That is where I live these days, in the spaces in between. In between awful and awesome. It was Sophie’s idea to go to the prom. I didn’t even know who Tim Tebow was, until she found a flyer at a play rehearsal and insisted I sign her up, buy her a dress and new eye makeup.

How could I explain to my almost 15-year-old that I hate it when people commit good acts simply in the name of religion, that the term 'special needs ministry' makes my skin crawl? That it’s horrible to segregate people with disabilities like this? That after no one wanted to go with her to the Homecoming dance at school she finally had a chance to attend a fancy event but I wouldn’t let her?"

Music From The Show:

It’s the season… for jumbo long-line limos making tricky turns through the streets of downtown, for the teens you see in jeans and workout clothes getting their pictures taken in tuxes and formal dresses. The Prom has taken its place among American rites of passage… and the cost to families and parental anxieties about security have risen steadily as well. The history, the trends, the way social issues visit themselves on prom...

This hour, On Point:  Get the doorbell… it’s your date.

- Ray Suarez

To remember just how much prom has changed, our team took a trip down memory lane and revisited our old prom photos...

This program aired on May 25, 2018.


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