Prom Fashions Throughout the Years

Emma Pierson ’20, Staff Writer

The arrival of Prom Season affords us the opportunity to take a walk down memory lane to re-visit some of the Prom fashions sported by Marymount Girls over several decades. From the frilly tiered organza of the 30s to the flared skirts of the 50s to the boat necks of the 80s, it seems that Marymount girls have given their alma mater the privilege of having the best-dressed prom-going students.

Which decade boasted the most glorious gown is, of course, left to the discretion of the beholder. While perhaps most modern girls would shrink from some of the old-fashioned slinky silk gowns, or the ruffled crepe-de-chines, it can certainly be said that the evolution of the formal gown deserves objective admiration. And the evolution cannot be denied – demure taffeta overlays reign supreme in the 1940s, whereas chic black slip dresses grace the ballroom of the 1990s.

This first picture is from The “Blue and White Ball” of 1939, which was Marymount’s equivalent of Prom for several years, especially given the consistent appearance of its name on the “Dates to Remember” page of the 1930s yearbooks. The dance was held in Cantwell hall – as recorded by the yearbook’s editors, Cantwell hosted a flurry of “gay taffetas, multi-colored prints, shimmering pastel satins” – the occasion was the first school dance of the “social season.” Here is Chrissy Maier, Queen, not of the Prom, but of the Campus, which is just as impressive a title on all counts.

1946’s Junior Prom had a Valentine’s Day theme. The heart-shaped floral arrangement was a popular backdrop for photos. The girls wore flared skirts, some with a peplum, sweetheart necklines, translucent puffed sleeves or frilly peasant sleeves, strapless gowns, satin sashes, and flowers tucked into intricately styled hairdos.

  As a testament to the durability of this year’s prom theme, “A Star Under the Stars,” we observe its 1940s antecedent. Under Cantwell’s benevolent ceiling, embellished with golden paper stars hung with string, gentlemen wore suits and tuxedos. One conspicuous attendee sports a white dinner jacket. The girls wear flowers, fascinators, and lace scarves in their hair.

Here in the early 1950s, smiling couples wear off-the-shoulder frilly gowns, sleeveless sweetheart necklines, and dresses with art-deco-patterned silk skirts.


 Elegant young ladies show off tiered layers of tulle, trims of velvet ribbon, wispy sleeves of gauze, rûched bodices, and kitten gloves. Any one of them could easily be mistaken for a storybook princess or sophisticated southern belle of the antebellum, or perhaps a hoop-skirt-beset maid-in-waiting of Marie Antionette.

The gentlemen of Table 33 are almost exclusively decked out in white sport coats and bow ties, some with the carnation to boot.

The girls wear simple jewelry, sleeveless floral gowns, silk wraps. The prom queen looks fittingly regal in a crown of flowers, a wrap of endless gauze, a sleeveless white gown with a magnificent skirt, accented with a prominent sash and an impressive corsage.

Another 50s era prom court wears flower wreaths, ethereal, ornate gowns of ivory, red lipstick, and permanent waves.

There’s no mistake about who is Prom Queen in this early 1960s Prom photo!


In the late sixties, hairdos grew longer and pin-straight – as did the dress silhouette, which became streamlined. The Prom Queen of ’69, perched upon her throne, wears a high waisted black skirt and a lace blouse with long sleeves and frilly cuffs and a frilly, Elizabethian-esque collar. Her date wears a dinner suit with a satin collar.

In the seventies, the old-is-new influence is obvious. The empire waists, round, satin-covered buttons, opera length gloves, and ribbon-adorned updos hearken back to Regency days.

Marymount’s archives offered limited evidence of a nineteen-eighties Prom. Most 1980’s yearbooks acknowledge the Prom Committee but leave out evidence that the Prom itself ever happened – an interesting gap in the documentation of Marymount’s prom fashions.  

The above images show girls having fun in the nineties.

Today, there is no less abundance of style on display at Marymount Prom. To steal a French phrase, les filles de Marymount sont toujours à la mode.


*All images are courtesy of Marymount yearbooks.