Prom Time (circa 1989)

by Erin on April 20, 2007

Prom 1989

It's prom time, isn't it? I am starting to see prom stories in the news, and folks on the various sewing lists I'm on are starting to post their war stories of sewing dresses for their daughters … so I thought I'd dig up the photo of the great dress my mom made for me.

My mom has actually made me two prom dresses; the first was for the freshman prom. Not my freshman prom—a guy named David Goldman's freshman prom. I was just a very flattered eighth grader. (So thanks again, David, wherever you are!) Luckily no pictures of that dress survive; the dress was fine—but let's just say eighth grade wasn't an especially high point for me (aside from being asked to that prom).

The other dress my mom made was for my Senior Prom. See that picture up above? That's me, on the right. On the left (and isn't he dapper!) is Dave Hampton, who is now an architect right here in Chicago (and he's single, so area ladies, if you want an intro, drop me an email). We went As Friends, as my boyfriend at the time was a College Man and couldn't be bothered about a rinky-dink high-school prom. (That is, until the last minute, when he crashed our pre-prom dinner. Which was Chinese takeout in my folks' dining room, but still.)

I don't know how my mom did it, but she took my vague instructions about a square-necked full-skirted dress and made it real. (Well, she wouldn't cut the neckline any lower, or take the waist in any tighter, but moms have to hold the line where they can … and anyway, constructing something like this was way way beyond my capabilities at the time. )

Dave and I had a great time. After the prom our whole group had a sedate and lovely moonlight picnic in Reynolda Gardens, which I think was (and is) against their posted rules, but the local police were much more interested our harder-partying classmates, so we got away with it.

The dress was dark green polished cotton, and I still have it — it's in a box somewhere upstairs with a few other things I can't imagine ever wearing again but couldn't possibly get rid of. I wish I still had those shoes; they were even cuter in person. (Of course, with Dave, I probably could have worn four-inch heels; he's a bit on the tall side … )

I *really* want to hear about y'all's prom dresses — that's what the comments are for …

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Shauna April 20, 2007 at 6:43 am

THIS is my junior year prom dress.My mom made it. I had wanted a renaissance themed dress, and this is what she came up with. :) I loved it!Unfortunately my date was a bit of a meanie, and I didn’t have a good time. I didn’t go to my senior prom. ;)

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sdn April 20, 2007 at 7:03 am

i have never been to a prom. i am told that they are overrated.

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zannestar April 20, 2007 at 7:15 am

I can’t seem to find my pictures from either prom, I’m sure they will turn up. But I still have both dresses. To my junior prom, I wore a dress I made, a safety pin dress. I knew it was the dress I wanted, I was grocery shopping with my mom, and as we were standing in line at the grocery store, I saw it, calling my name from the cover of a 1988 or 87 Cosmpopolitan magazine. It was a dress designed by Stephen Sprouse. I HAD TO HAVE IT!!!! I made a base dress out of black jersey (what did I know then? I was only 16 or 17 and hadn’t spent 4 years studying fashion design…How could that jersey hold all the weight from the pins? Well – it did!) I drove an hour to South Street in Philadelphia to buy bulk sewing pins. It must have taken me a month or so to put all the pins on. I placed them in rows. It wasn’t a short dress, and it got longer with the weight of the pins. I found a vintage bolero at a thrift store.Prom night it rained. And it was cold. I WAS FREEZING. But hey – suffer for the fashion right? I still have the dress. Saving it for my 2 year old. Maybe the punk will surface in her too and she’ll wear it/modify it for her prom.oh – and senior prom dress – from the 40′s. I didn’t make it, but it was to die for. Black with a black lace bust. The bust was lined with nude satin and a ribbon runs across the bust hiding anything that might be seen. Total illusion – I was fully covered. I’ll never forget the expression on the faces when we sat at our table, they thought I was so risk. ha! oh the fun.I think the most fun for me was finding and making and buying the dresses. Both proms, we stayed only long enough to have our pictures taken – then spent the rest of the night in the arcade. guys. jeez.

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Jenny April 20, 2007 at 7:39 am

I didn’t go to my prom either, sdn, so don’t feel bad.However, I am delighted to see that Erin wore flats to her prom, just like I did to other dances in high school. Anyone else wear formal flats to dances and such?

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Allison April 20, 2007 at 7:40 am

I wore a dress my mom had made for herself for some formal occasion in the 70′s to my prom (in 1995). It’s cream, orange and brown paisley satin. It’s sleeveless, with a slit up TO THERE and a brown satin cummerbund. My date was my best friend – he had red hair and had to have a cummerbund and bow tie made – the tux rental place didn’t have any orange ones in stock. Everyone at prom was horrified but we thought we looked awesome!

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Anonymous April 20, 2007 at 7:41 am

Hi! Long time reader, 1st time poster. I work in a wholesale photo lab and have been up to my ears in prom/dance photos for the last week or so. I have just been floored by the cheapness of the fabric in prom dresses these days! Sad. Also sad that in hundreds and hundreds of photos and I have yet to see a vintage dress. My prom dress (1988) I had to have made because even then I couldn’t find clothes to suit my odd taste. It was pink satin with long sleeves and a drop waist. What was I thinking? Toodles

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Julie K. Rose April 20, 2007 at 7:57 am

Oh dear lord. My prom was also in 1989, and my mom also made my dress. Black satiny material, full skirt (but mine was just-above-the-knee), sleeves and neckline just like yours. A strand of fake pearls and one very bored college-age boyfriend, and my prom was destined for…about an hour. Then we went out for fries and chocolate malts, which was actually much more fun.

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Anonymous April 20, 2007 at 8:20 am

Alas, I wasn’t sewing yet, and my mom stopped sewing for me in 8th grade. So here is me in a store-bought dress at my 1988 senior prom. To answer Jenny, yes. My BF was exactly my height. Not only did I wear flats, I slouched a little for the photo. Ah, young love.You can’t tell, but the dress had a hot pink crinoline to match the bow and piping. Tres 80s. –Lydia

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La BellaDonna April 20, 2007 at 8:22 am

You went to the prom in 1989? I. Am. So. Old.And also? You need to follow up on “…he crashed our pre-prom dinner.” And then what???My sister went to four proms. I didn’t go to any.

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jessicajlee April 20, 2007 at 8:26 am

My parents, inept at all thing domestic, thought they’d tide me over with a really expensive store-bought dress. I will say, it looked nice, except my date put his hands on my stomach in all the pictures, making me look pregnant! The Dress.The prom was a bust, also, what with their forgetting to order all of the vegetarian meals for the dinner portion. I left after twenty minutes.

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Beth April 20, 2007 at 8:38 am

I made my prom dress out of dorky looking light blue chiffon with big flowers on it. I hope no pictures survive. Granted, it was 1977, but poor taste is timeless. I did an excellent job constructing that dress, but the unflattering, weird, matronly style(square neck, princess seams, puffy short sleeves) combined with the poor fabric choice sort of canceled the bragging rights. Did much better in 2003 on my wedding dress/jacket ensemble (vogue 4202, pinkish cream wool twill), which I’m very proud of. Sometimes, I’m tempted to wear it to work. Thank goodness high school ends before real life begins!!

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becky f. April 20, 2007 at 9:25 am

I didn’t make my dress, but my mom did — it was a simple two-piece number with a corset-like top and silver skirt that made me feel like I was walking through water. (When we shopped for fabric, my number one requirement was that the skirt be “flowy” — luckily my mom figured out what I meant.) I loved the dress (and wore it with flat sandals, since my skirt went to the floor anyway).This was only 2001, but my little sister (whose dress my mom also made — she’s working on the youngest’s right now) lent the dress to a friend, and it seems to have disappeared into the ether. Ah well, it was lovely when I wore it, and I have both pictures and fabric remnants to remember it by. :-)

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Jen April 20, 2007 at 9:45 am

I was such a dork in HS I never got to go to the prom, but I went to tons of dances in college :)

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Chiara April 20, 2007 at 9:48 am

I made my prom dress (my prom was only last year) using the Vogue pattern V2239. I had actually bought a pattern and fabric for my dress when I saw this pattern and I had to go out to get new fabric and a new pattern, but it was definitely worth it. This was one of my first full sewing projects (the first was a poodle skirt) and I had minimal help from my mother so I’m pretty proud of how it turned out. http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b123/careme777/DSCN1362.jpgFurthermore along the lines of flats, I didn’t wear flats, but I wore comfortable shoes. http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b123/careme777/DSCN1321.jpgYou have to ignore the mess of my room in the second picture, and my bra showing in the first one (oops, I know, tacky tacky).

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Beth April 20, 2007 at 9:49 am

For my senior prom I had my dress made and it was a full length empire with a square neck and cap sleeves. It was a pale apple green satin with an overlay of tulle in the same colour from the empire waist but split down the front to show the satin. So pretty. I loved that dress and was sad I only got to wear it for a few hours. My mother sewed me a marvelous clutch of the same green fabric, lined with a taupe silk.I just had a fitting last night for my wedding dress, with the same seamstress who made that prom dress, and it is destined to be very much like the picture of your dress! Square neck but without sleeves, full skirt, tea-length, and a little silk bolero over top. I love that silhouette. Simple and beautiful.

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sara jane April 20, 2007 at 10:03 am

For my senior prom in 1982, I wore a storebought faux Jessica McClintock Gunne Sax dress – pale lavendar, floor length, leg of mutton sleeves, lots of ivory lace, with ivory metallic flats. Went with my now husband – had a pretty good time, until he spun me out on the dance floor and I slipped on my new shoes, landing in a heap at the feet of the star basketball player. For the (now) husband’s senior prom in 1983, I wore an ivory taffetta dress with full, floor length skirt, big puff sleeves. Looked a lot like Lady Di’s wedding dress. Probably same shoes, though no dancing accidents this time. Dress did double duty for sorority initiations. I wonder if its stil in my Mom’s attic?

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bonnie-ann black April 20, 2007 at 10:03 am

i never went to a high school prom, but went to several junior high school dances. i never liked shopping for dresses and my mom was not the domestic type at all (i’m very proud of her though, she has a real intellect). my dad had great taste in clothes, often bought dresses for me. my favorite was a russian style white shirtwaist, where the skirt was a deap blue and had a red sash. i *loved* that dress. another was a deep kelly green with navy blue and white collar and cuffs. i always loved deep greens. for my jr. high graduation, my dad picked out a forest green dress with cream lace edging. the school made me bring it back — turns out the rule was girls had to wear pastels. i look dreadful in pastels. i wound up with a pale blue dress that i hated. i never went to a high school dance, but that was okay by me. and i don’t wear dresses anymore either. but i loved all your clothes — especially chiara’s!

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layzbugs April 20, 2007 at 10:04 am

Oh dear. Mine was a floor length, red sequined halter dress with a “mermaid” bottom that flared out. I was at the height of fashion in 1993.I took pictures with my date at the prom and once the pictures arrived in my mother’s hands she had my date photoshopped out of the pictures.

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Anonymous April 20, 2007 at 10:07 am

two formal high school dances and two designed by me-sewn by mom dresses. ;) I don’t know what I was thinking with either one. the one I had most hope for had a dropped waist on an angle (but fitted through the torso) a full skirt and horror of all horrors: puffed elbow sleeves. Anne Shirley would have been proud to wear them. She may however have been embarrased by the sheer fabric I wraped over the whole thing, winding it around so it started at the shoulder, went across the front, around the back and then came back to the front. it was so strange. I don’t know what I was thinking.

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Shannon April 20, 2007 at 11:04 am

I’m afraid to hunt up pictures of the prom because I remember my dress as being very classic and elegant — floor-length, full skirted black velvet with bare shoulders — and I’m not sure I want to see what a dork I really was!The prom itself was, yeah, very underwhelming. My boyfriend and I did the white folk’s shuffle for a few dances and then drove around aimlessly with our friends. We ended up at somebody’s house where other people cooler than us were drinking and making out. We just kind of sat there awkwardly until we could get a ride home… I remember I was disappointed because I was hoping to lose my virginity that night! The boyfriend clearly had a much stricter sense of propriety — which, in retrospect, good on him.

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Shannon April 20, 2007 at 11:06 am

Chiara, your dress totally rocks! *Love* the shoes.

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India April 20, 2007 at 11:29 am

Great dress!To my junior high school prom, I wore my mom’s black cotton Suzy Perette dress from her high school prom: full skirt, wide v-neck front and back, matching bolero jacket with a velvet collar. I don’t remember whether I wore white gloves or black, but I do remember that I played Ping-Pong in this rig. I wore that dress for years, and it’s still in my closet though I can no longer get even my pinky into it.I didn’t go to my high school prom but instead had a counterprom at a friend’s apartment. For that, I made a cutaway jacket with detachable tails, from a Burda pattern, and matching miniskirt. Out of heavy, slate-gray denim, hand-painted with black fabric paint in a totally random, scrawly sort of way–not unlike the doodles that were all over my notebooks at the time. The jacket was the first thing I ever made that was fully lined, and it was as tailored as I could manage. I don’t remember how the skirt was made, but I do recall that it was Too Short–probably eked out of whatever was left over. I think I wore the jacket again once or twice. It’s probably in a closet at my mom’s apartment.

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Kristen April 20, 2007 at 11:30 am

My school was so small that juniors and seniors got to go to prom together. Junior year I had my mom make a red brocade asian style knee-length dress. Not sure if it was cut on the bias or what, though, because when I sat down that sucker went ALL the way up my legs! My prom date was a happy boy. Senior year I had a two-piece; corset style tank top (but not tight really) in a fabulous brocade that had leaves on it and was burgundy with teal and orange…. sigh. And then the floor-length full skirt was teal satin covered in burgundy (organza? sheer, slightly stiff…) (I am ashamed to be a sewer who knows very little about fabric!) Anyway, that dress rocked. There is a YA author’s book signing in AZ in May, and they are turning the whole thing into a prom. 7 of us are actually going, making vintage dresses, and hoping there are other fans over the age of 25 there, who aren’t with their teenagers! It’s a sewing frenzy! And it’ll be a fun roadtrip from LA.

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LoriIKC April 20, 2007 at 11:32 am

My first reaction on seeing this dress was “Lucky! She got a black dress.” I really wanted a black prom dress but my mother refused on the grounds that, “black is not a good color for a young girl.” I think this may explain the amount of black in my wardrobe now.Since black was not allowed, my first prom dress was a yellow green crepe with silver sequin trim. A terrible color on me. My skin takes on that shade so I’m sure I looked ill all night. The dress itself was simple: empire waist, slightly gathered long skirt, V-neckline & short sleeves. All good choices, except for the color. It still amazes me that my mother let me choose that color. But, this was also the mother who always told us that green goes with everything. “Every flower has green leaves.” Notice, there’s no distinction about what shade of green… just green.I made both of my prom dresses. By that time, I was making most of my clothing since I had more time than my mom. She’s gone now, but she did give me her love of sewing & all things fabric.

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Kate in England April 20, 2007 at 11:38 am

We don’t have proms here in England, or at least we didn’t in the 80s. So instead I am going to point to two new 50s Vogue patterns that both have midriff bands and would make lovely prom dresses. There’s this one and then there’s this one. Apologies if they’ve been mentioned already, but I hadn’t spotted them and I’m a fairly obsessive Dress-A-Day-er!

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Anonymous April 20, 2007 at 12:09 pm

My grandma made my prom dresses. My favorite was for senior prom, year 1970. It was a Vogue pattern, don’t know what number. An empire waist, sleeveless, midnight blue velvet. The bodice of the dress dress was trimmed in a silver beading. It was to die for.I believe it was also a size 7.

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C.I.F. April 20, 2007 at 12:11 pm

No prom for me. My sisters went to several, though. The dress I remember most was a bright red one with a fitted bodice, very full skirt (it had crinoline!), and princess-puffed sleeves that came down in a point at the wrists. It had a sweetheart neckline, too.I did eventually inherit the dress, only to discover that that style looks horrendous on my distinctly pear-shaped body. Sigh.

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vespabelle April 20, 2007 at 12:18 pm

I wore vintage dresses to both my proms and I still have them both! My junior year dress was a 1950s pink lace dress with a very full skirt and 3/4 length sleevs. My senior year, my mom bought me this dress which was an outrageous $100 (thus it was a birthday present). I remember trying it on at the vintage store. There was another woman there who tried it on. She told me it looked terrible on me. I put it on hold and bought it anyway. (because I looked better in it than she did because I was at least 3 inches taller than her!)

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Becky Holmes April 20, 2007 at 12:19 pm

I made my senior prom dress from a Vogue pattern, and a slinky synthetic fabric known as “Qiana,” in of all colors, orange! Do they still make Qiana? Of course, this was in the polyester-loving seventies….I cringe now when I think of it, but at the time I thought (and my date also thought) that I looked great.

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Anonymous April 20, 2007 at 12:26 pm

I figured as someone who went to prom very recently (the previous two years) I should post some pictures. here:http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v53/d16flo/mikeandilikeinthe30s.jpgis my jounior prom, don’t we look dapper? the dress was maroon in real life, I got it at goodwill amazingly enough.here:http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v53/d16flo/IMG_1841.jpgis my senior prom one. that dress (also vintagy) was a dress owned by my aunt in the ’70s. it has a little shrug that goes with it although the shrug was a bit too ’70s for my taste. I added on the blue ribbon. (and yes, he has on a blue seersucker suit)some of us still enjoy our lovely vintage clothing.

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vespabelle April 20, 2007 at 12:36 pm

There’s a flickr pool of prom photos. There are some AWESOME ones in there!”I Love the Prom!”

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holli April 20, 2007 at 12:52 pm

I think you’ve heard my prom story– it involved being stood up by my date at the last minute and taking my gay next-door neighbor instead. Fortunately, I had a fabulous dress: red and backless, with a HUGE tulle-filled skirt, and an asymmetrical hem to let some of the tulle show.I also wore a floor-length black velvet dress inherited from my mother to Homecoming one year, and a really nice wine-colored two-piece dress another.

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sdn April 20, 2007 at 1:07 pm

i am proud not to have gone to my prom (or, for that matter, any prom). i love hearing about people’s dresses, though.

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Andrea April 20, 2007 at 1:54 pm

By the time of my junior prom in 1988 I had been sewing for 5+ years.I made a Nicole Miller dress from Butterick 5944. http://cgi.ebay.com/Butterick-pattern-5944-DRESS-Misses-MP-sizes-6-8-10_W0QQitemZ8277681523QQihZ020QQcategoryZ11801QQcmdZViewItemI made view A, the knee length version that is white in the picture.Mine was black (and my hair wasn’t near as big) with white tulle edged in black grosgrain ribbon.What I remember most about making that dress was the time I spent on the crinoline. Gathering and edging the tulle was a long job.Boning the bodice wasn’t near as big of a deal.Senior year a made a dress I Frankenstiened out of three patterns to mimic one I had tried on in the dress shop. It was irridescent lavender, form-fitting with runched seams at the mid-front and both sides. The skirt cut away at the sides to reveal a layered lace panel that kind of poofed out at the back (think of a knee length version of a victorian bustle era overskirt with a ruffled underskirt–but without the bustle) and a big bow that attached at my lower back.I liked the first one better, but they were both kickass.

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Kate April 20, 2007 at 2:20 pm

My prom was in 1966 and I was at a girl’s school so had to ask my date – the boy across the street I’d had a crush on forever. Made my own dress, peacock blue satin princess line sheath all the way to the floor. Beautiful except that I was too impatient to make a muslin and the dress was too tight! I had to let it out and the let out seams showed. So embarrassing. There was no time or money to make another. Still I had the cutest date who never mentioned it, took me out to dinner before prom and we made a grand entrance. Have no idea where those pix are but I did wear long white gloves with it.Kate Q:-)

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Leah April 20, 2007 at 2:34 pm

Mine was in 1988 and the friend I’d had a crush on for about a year asked me to go (well, left the receipt for two prom tickets in the locker that we shared as a way of asking). A friend and I shopped for dresses and I finally found the one I wanted at Lilly Rubin (I think that’s the name) and it was just below the knee, off the shoulder and I loved it. I definitely wanted something black. Imagine my surprise when the photos came back and I could tell that it was actually a really dark navy and didn’t match all my black accessories! Oh well. My date (later to become my first boyfriend) wore a white dinner jacket tux and looked gorgeous. It was actually a great night and one of my best high school memories. Thanks for this trip down memory lane.

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Dave Hampton April 20, 2007 at 3:11 pm

I held on to a scrap of the dress in my wallet for a while that I used to match my bowtie and cummerbund.I had forgotten this dress was made by Mom.I, too, thought the dress was awesome.Almost as awesome as my date!Thanks, Erin.

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Rayna April 20, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Prom dress stories!! Good times, good times. It was 1998, and it was junior prom. I decided it was time for me to come out (in terms of fashion). So with some friends I went to Nordstroms and found the most gorgeous deep purple satin dress. It was sleeveless and went into a criss-crossing “v” shape at the bust. It skimmed the floor and was clingy, but not obscenely so (my mother’s protests aside). When my date (who I had known since freshman year) saw me, his first words were “Cleavage! Gulp!” Oy. At any rate, I went to the prom feeling absolutely glamourous. I can’t say there’s much else I remember from the evening, just The Dress.

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Ali April 20, 2007 at 5:02 pm

Vintage was an obsession for me almost before I got to high school, so by the time I got to my senior formal (Australian equivalent of prom, I guess) I had managed to hunt down an AMAZING dress.It was early 1940′s, a floor length gown in red and black silk paisley brocade – quite a subtle pattern, with a stunning sheen to it. The style was so elegant – sleeveless with a boat neckline, tightly fitted bodice and a gathered but not very full skirt.It had been owned by a friend’s mother whose husband was a high ranking army officer stationed in New Guinea during and after WW2.As was required of her social position at the time, she had a local woman working for her full-time as her personal dressmaker!In any case, it was exquisite, and much treasured until the horrific day a few years ago when a box of my most special vintage and sentimental clothing pieces fell off the trailer while I was moving between towns. By the time I realised and got back to the spot, everything had been scavenged and was lost forever…

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The J April 20, 2007 at 5:44 pm

My prom was 1991 or 1992 (yeah, it was that memorable ;) ). I went pattern shopping with my mother, who convinced me to avoid all the strapless numbers because a AA couldn’t ‘keep it up’ (I believed this until a couple of years ago when I finally figured out that it was the boning that kept it up, not the boob shelf!). I picked a princess line, dropped waist, short-in-front, long-in-back with long puffy sleeves. Made in purple satin, with medium body black shear sleeves, and the same shear on the inside of the skirt, and a bow on the side of the dropped waist.The dress was actually ok, if not precisely fitted. In the great family tradition, I hemmed it an hour before my date came to pick me up. Two bad bits: the brand new spiral perm that I refused to comb out (even with a pick) for fear of the frizzies (picture a row of tight curls down to my shoulders around my head – no volume at all); and one of my good friends picked the same pattern (which she made in solid pink satin) and who’s date had the same cumberbund and bow tie as my date…Shoe story: for my grade 8 graduation dance my mother made up the cinderella gown I wanted out of peach lace. Two lines of ruffles from a point at the waist over the shoulders. Huge skirt, ruffle around the bottom, which came up the back to the back waist. Loved it. After my mother hemmed about 25 yards of ruffle, I tried the dress on and pointed out that we all kick off our shoes to dance! She did not have very cordial thoughts. At least she figured out the lace didn’t fray, so she just cut off the 1 1/2″ or so so I didn’t trip :P.

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G.L.H. April 20, 2007 at 5:51 pm

I made the dress for my senior prom (1973) in a Gunne Sax style out of unbleached muslin–leg-o-mutton sleeves with eight (each) red half-ball buttons. Wore red strawflowers in my hair like confetti.For the Spring Cotillion at Notre Dame, I went with now-hubby. I made a sweetheart neckline short-puffy-sleeves out of pink gingham. Hubby made a matching shirt with pearly buttons, and wore a navy-blue velvet blazer.Good times!

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Laurie April 20, 2007 at 7:26 pm

I went to a DANCE-CRAZY high school. We had proms (junior and senior), a senior ring dance, and a winter formal each year. It was an all-girls’ school, so we also had the proms, ring dances, winter formals, and homecoming dances of our boyfriends/friends-who-were-boys. Plus, the Sweet 16s and the debutante balls (I wasn’t one, but some of my friends were) and the Mardi Gras balls. I could not possibly count the number of formal/semi-formal dresses I wore in high school.I do know that I made my senior prom dress by myself in 1994. Prior to this, my only sewing experience had been the pencil skirt and flannel pajama shirt I made in home ec. (a required course!) I “helped” my grandmother make several of my previous dresses, but the senior prom dress was all me. What was I thinking?? It was black silk crepe and the pattern was very similar to this one: http://store.sewingtoday.com/cgi-bin/voguepatterns/shop.cgi?s.item.V2899=x&TI=20003&page=2 only the neck was not gathered and shawl-like – it was like a very high-cut halter top that fastened with a snap at the back of my neck, leaving an almost diamond-shaped cutout on my back; and it was floor-length. The entire front was all one piece cut on the bias, with no darts, princess seams, boning or anything at the waist. My waist is a lot smaller than my hips and chest, so since the front was all one unshaped piece, it puffed out over my stomach. I am very tall and very thin and I certainly did not have the bust for that dress! The darts at the chest were weird and pointy, sticking out an inch or so from where boobs should have been. I tried padded bras, but nothing could tame those points! I took it apart 3 times and eventually, BOTH of my grandmothers stepped in to help, but those points would. not. go. away. It looked kind of creepy. I wanted to look soooo elegant, but it was easily the least-flattering dress I ever wore in high school.At least my hair looked good for once in my life. And my date was REALLY good-looking, even though he was boring. He had his arms around my waist for the pictures, so they covered the weird billowing, and the camera couldn’t pick up the pointy boobs on the black fabric, so the pictures looked GREAT!

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Anonymous April 20, 2007 at 9:56 pm

Wow, yes, I remember Qiana … we had choir dresses made out of it one year. It was *the* fabric in those days!OK, can I just say that this Dave Hampton guy is amazingly sweet – did you read his comment?? Too bad I’m happily married in Texas or I’d have to come visit my sister in Chicago very soon!I don’t have any handy pictures of my formal (didn’t do proms/formals until college) but when I find one I will email Erin. My mom made it, as she did so many things, as a knock-off from a photo or description of some celebrity gown.I know Princess Diana wore a gazillion gowns and had a bazillion famous photos, but there was one early on in the engagement that was black strapless with crystal pleated ruffles along the top. I seem to remember her exiting a limo wearing it and the paparazzi getting a lens-full of cleavage.Anyway, my mom actually recreated it, with the ruffle and the boning and the detached sleeves and the petticoats. That thing had at least 8 yards of taffeta in it and it was absolutely fabulous in every way.I’ve got to find a picture! I hadn’t thought of this in 20 years. Thank you so much, Erin!pamici

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debby April 20, 2007 at 10:33 pm

Dress #1 — lavendar organza. Princess neckline and not-to-full skirt. $18 at Lerner’s off-seasonDress #2 — teal acetate gown. I adored that gown. I never dreamed that a dress could cost a whole $80!Dress #3 — Pink acetate, tea-length, backless with funky sleeves. This one I made and my sister wore it to all her college formals.I still have them but refuse to share. Remember, what happened in the 80s STAYS in the 80s!

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kathi s April 21, 2007 at 12:14 am

I wish I had a picture of the dress that my mom made me for my then boyfriend’s senior prom in 1959 (!). It was white lace, strapless, with a coral pink satin cummerbund/ sash. It had a full gathered skirt and was ballet length. The dress is long gone, sadly, but the memory is very sweet.

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Pamela April 21, 2007 at 12:17 am

I don’t have any prom pictures of my own because I went to boarding school and I just don’t remember anyone taking any pictures at my prom. The parents weren’t around.I did make dresses for my daughters for their proms. In 1999, I made a garnet red satin sheath with twisted shoulder straps and an empire bodice. The twisted straps gave shape to the bust area. It doesn’t show up too well in the photo, but looked nice. I drafted the pattern myself. I underlined the dress with organza. Let’s hope the link works. http://www.quixoticprojects.com/gallery/Other/prom_1999In 2000, I copied a Michael Kors dress for my daughter. The reaction was,”Your mother let you wear that?” The answer,”My mother dreamed this one up.” The dress was of rayon matte jersey and had elastic everywhere. Despite its’ appearance, it was stable. There was elastic in the bra portion and a grosgrain stay at the waist, which closed underneath the gathered empire effect in the front of the dress. That dress has been loaned out frequently over the years and looks good on and fits a variety of shapes, except for the busty. I think the Kors version cost about $1500. It travels well and does not wrinkle.http://www.quixoticprojects.com/gallery/Other/prom_2000In 2004 my younger daughter wore a dress I bought at the Saks clearance outlet and rehabbed. If you can sew, you can buy a damaged $1700 silk satin dress for $50 and make it look like new. It had ripped seams and a broken zipper.http://www.quixoticprojects.com/gallery/Other/CarmenJess_4ahttp://www.quixoticprojects.com/gallery/Other/CarmenJess_6aThis dress was not only exquisite fabric, but was cut on the bias with what I call the “Liz Hurley” diagonal leg seam in the front. My daughter’s prom was at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid on the same night as the Royal wedding. She and her friends were snapped by paparazzi, thinking they might be young royals. What a memory!

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M-A April 21, 2007 at 12:30 am

I’d originally wanted my mother to make my dress (green!) but one day I was shopping with her and spotted the perfect dress. It was a deep navy-violet with inch-wide straps, an empire waist and the skirt was bias-cut, fitted through the hips and a perfect ankle-length for me. And bonus, it laced in the back! I love lacing. It was deeply discounted because of a faint mark near the hem and it was the smallest size the store carried and the last one on the rack, so I guess they really wanted to get rid of it.I wore it with vintage black kid evening gloves my mother found at a garage sale. Since this was 1996 and stores sold nothing but shoes with high, chunky heels, I finally bought a pair of cheap white FLAT sandals and spray-painted them to match my dress.

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poppy April 21, 2007 at 3:14 am

Great stories, everyone! Sigh, I never went to my senior prom. It’s like the scene in the movie “Pretty In Pink” when Molly Ringwald’s friend laments about what’s missing in her life–and she realises that it’s not going to her senior prom! I did, however, go to my junior prom. My grandma, 70+ years old at the time, made my dress. I specified a knee length shift with long sleeves, a bow, and a drop waist. And I got it in a royal blue silky material. I was surrounded by Jessica McClintock taffeta gowns, but I didn’t care–I was going for the Crystal of Dynasty look, complete with shoulder pads and a string of pearls. Prom was fab and I didn’t get home until five thirty in the morning. I crawled into bed for a mere four hours before waking up for my father’s wedding! I freshened up and yup, I donned the same dress for another event. 20+ years later, I still have the dress, my grandma, my dad & stepmom, and fantastic memories from that weekend. :)

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Kate in England April 21, 2007 at 6:10 am

Having said I didn’t have a prom, what with being English ‘n’ all, I suddenly remembered that I did make a dress to go to a ball with a posh boyfriend back in late 1986 (slap bang in the middle of the decade of good taste…). The dress, in lovely 1980s heavy black satin, turned out way too big, but luckily it never made it into the public eye as I split up with the boyfriend. It can be seen, along with my lovely Princess Di haircut, here.

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becky f. April 21, 2007 at 11:11 am

I didn’t think to post pattern links! So here they are:My senior year dress, with the full skirt (in silver satin) and the strapless top (no fringe; with a light blue fabric — the kind that looks like it’s made of sequins?). http://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/patterns/sewingpatterns.pl?patternid=3856I think I made things fairly easy for my mom. (Though after she had spent time on hemming the skirt by hand, I caught it on my beaded sandal as my date and I were taking pre-dance pictures, so the last thing that happened before I left was Mom whipping it through the machine to re-hem it in a hurry.)My little sister had this dress: http://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/patterns/sewingpatterns.pl?patternid=3512She wanted burgundy and cream satin, so Mom refigured to make it work with two colors — it was a gorgeous dress. (As she finished up some small detail, I remember that I did the hemming for this one, as we were waiting for the doorbell to ring and my sister’s date to arrive.)And the littlest, currently in process on the ironing board: http://www.simplicity.com/index.cfm?all=Y&cat=1&type=1&sec=4&startrow=1It's #4272, in cornflower fabric with built-in sparkle.I guess we all like strapless. :-)

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KayY April 21, 2007 at 11:49 am

Like Becky, I made my dress (1974) from Quiana. Marvellous and soft, totally synthetic. It was dusty rose (dreadful colour) but if I found that pattern again I would pick it up. It had a high neck, bodice with cut-in shoulders (sleeveless) and a raised waist. The bodice was self-lined and instead of sewing the right and left sides together at the CF each was sewn to its self-lining so it was just a long opening. It sounds racier than it was… The year before, my dress (which I made of course) was a floor length flowered affair, fully lined. It was a wrap dress and was also sleeveless but had a cape-like collar that covered my shoulders and upper arms. I think I had to safety-pin that one, for modesty’s sake. Wish I had pictures so you could see for yourselves that I was not just a teenaged hussy…

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Suzanne April 21, 2007 at 2:10 pm

I went to three proms, but I only have pictures of two of them on my computer. This was my junior prom dress. Nothing really special; it was actually my last choice because I’d loaned out all my “good” dresses to friends who couldn’t get a nice dress for whatever reason. (I had a Jessica McClintock and another really beautiful rust colored dress with gold and green vines on the bodice that got loaned out to friends.)This was my senior prom dress. I loved this dress so much (and it looked so good on my fat self) that I wore it for my graduation pictures. My other prom dress was a Jessica McClintock flouffy thing with ice blue on the bottom and a fantastic silver/ice blue brocade corset-style bodice. I don’t know where that dress is now, but I miss it so.

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Kelly April 21, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Here is a photo of my senior prom from 1986 http://www.flickr.com/photos/tanasattic/467491574/And yes I really have no excuse for that blue eyeshadow or that loud blue dress that you could see from several blocks away. I loved it anyway. I still have it in storage somewhere but sadly those white shoes disappeared on the move to Anchorage along with several other vintage pairs. Dave sounds really nice and he sure said some wonderful things about you. Too bad I live so far away, I would ask for an intro. :) Thanks Erin for all the great memories.

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Anna April 22, 2007 at 6:59 am

I wore my mother’s prom dress from circa 1960 (this was in 1986). Seafoam green with a full organdy skirt, strapless bodice overlaid with cream cotton lace. Delicious–but over my date’s head, perhaps.I wore her wedding dress too for my wedding. She had very good taste!

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Marlena April 22, 2007 at 7:49 am

My school had three formal dances a year (including senior prom). Through my three years of high school (my high school ran grades 10-12), I went to 6 formal dances, and I’m sure I have pictures of all of my dresses, but I’l just show you my senior prom picture: it’s here. My mom made the dress, and I know she tried, but she always had better intentions than she had time. Also, I was lousy about standing for a fitting, so the dress was too short, and too baggy around my waist. The fringe was meant to be thicker, the straps thinner. Of course, I discovered all of this on the day of prom, and I wish I could say that I pretended not to notice any of the flaws, and my mom and I shared a moment, but my mom and I had a contentious relationship, I was 17, and I seem to recall stomping upstairs to my bedroom. I did come around later though, after I was done primping and adding my “accessories” (a dance was not a dance without elbow length gloves), I thanked my mom for my great dress and left happily for the dance. And truly, when else in my life was I ever going to get away with wearing a dress THAT SHORT?As for the date, I traded mine to a friend who didn’t have one and went with the guy who had asked me second (and please don’t think I was in any way popular with the fellas, total fluke). This gem gave me a quarter with a hole in it for a corsage, wanted to leave the prom the minute we arrived, and sat all night on the front porch of the country club, popping pills and moaning about how miserable he was. Then he got mad at me because I didn’t sleep with him! Never mind that we weren’t dating, and I’d never had a serious boyfriend all through high school (I’m trying to be decorous here). I wouldn’t trade it though. Good times. Oh, and my senior prom was in 1993.

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Lucelu April 22, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Even though I was a cool, hardcore punk rock grrl in my senior year and for a few after that…. I was stil a sucker for a gorgeous princess dress. I ended up with a lovely poufy pinky/lavender dress with off the shoulder poofy sleeves — I think a Jessica McClintock creation my Dad bought for me in Pittsburgh. In a matter of 2 months, I broke up with my steady boyfriend (and date) and got a new older (hotter) badder one. The new one was pulled over and promptly arrested d/t outstanding warrants, used his tux money for bail so I did not go to the prom. Dad insisted I send the dress back to him and he returned it. That was 1983. However, last night I “crashed” a coworker’s daughter’s wedding reception dressed in a pale blue full-skirted with midriff band dress on sale from Target (last Spring), white eyelet wedge shoes and a little eyelet blouse/jacket with puff sleeves (dress was sleeveless). I only knew the mother of the bride, made lots of friends and danced a lot.

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Ruthie April 22, 2007 at 3:28 pm

Senior prom 2001. Spaghetti-strap sort-of-corsety lace-back bodice — marginally visible in this tiny little picture. The under-fabric was this really rowdy red/pink/orange/gold/green paisley stuff, which was toned down by a layer of white mesh with irregular dots over the top. The skirt was rather the opposite of what I always thought I’d want by having the poofiness on the outside, rather than the inside — white satin underskirt with orange and pink tulle over it and a finer layer of white tulle over that. Actually, the whole dress-finding experience was a little topsy-turvy. I started out dead set on finding something slinky and sophisticated, then I chucked it all out the window when I found that one (“you look like a fire-faery”, Mom said) and I’m glad I did. I put fluorescent flower scrunchies around my bun, carried my inexcusably-red lipstick in a folded up white bandana, and felt like a million bucks (datelessness notwithstanding!). I’ve never seen anything like it before or since, and (now that I can sew) my wedding gown is going to be a lot like it (that is, if I don’t go with the t-shirt dress)! Some of these dresses are just stunning, and I must admit that I’m a little jealous of folks who wore their mothers’ dresses — my mum was skinny as a rail, and when I bought the abovementioned prom dress, I was a size 11 and the smallest I’ve ever been (or ever will be). I did wear one of her casual dresses from college once — really neat prairie-style with a black velvet bodice that laced up the front and had bronze flowers embroidered on it, IIRC … just after my eleventh birthday.

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Natalie April 22, 2007 at 9:29 pm

My dress was a vintage 1950s one. Best dress at prom. I don’t have any pictures online at this time but it was black lace, long sleves with a sweetheart strapless bodice and bow at the waist and about knee length or so. It was a steal at $50, especially when everyone else payed top dollar. (what happens when your school is in the middle of mcmansion land) Also I was the only girl in flats. (my prom was last year)If I ever have to go to the oscars or something I’ll wear it.

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Belle April 23, 2007 at 7:34 am

Two proms for me, 1966 and 1967. Both with the same guy who ended up being my first husband. The marriage didn’t last very long(thankfully) but the dresses survived and I still have them. Many years later, my daughter played dress up in them. My mom made both of my prom dresses (and my first marriage dress). My first prom dress was inspired by a dress I had worn that spring in a fashion show. We didn’t come up with exactly the same thing, but close. Ice blue, full skirted with a clear skirt overlay. Ruffles along the bodice.My senior year I was a Homecoming attendant and wore a long red satin empire A-line dress. And long white gloves. And red satin high heels. I thought it was damn elegant! For my senior Prom, Mom refashioned the dress by adding red chiffon as an overlay and added a big flowery thingee in the back with a train of sorts. It was beautiful and it’s always been my favorite fancy dress. I don’t remember too much about the dances themselves. Boyfriend/ex went to a different school and wasn’t too interested in the whole thing so am pretty sure we ditched early. Bah. I did love dressing up, tho. And I still love the smell of satin! And I could never ever wear heels that high again even if I tried!

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trenabdesigns April 23, 2007 at 12:47 pm

I made my prom dress, and it was definitely the hardest thing I had attempted to that point. Drop waist, sweetheart neckline, knee-length full gathered skirt, puffy sleeves. This was in 1992, and my whole life I had dreamed of wearing a full-length gown to prom, but for some reason that one year long dresses were OUT. There was only one girl there in a full-length dress and she looked really out of place so I didn’t regret not going long. It was out of a dark green satiny poly that shimmered black in some lights. I remember I caught some of the fabric while putting in the zipper and had to rip it out and put the zipper back in. There was a distinct line of damage where I had caught the fabric but there was nothing to do about it. It didn’t show too much and I wore my hair down to cover it. That is the first and only time I’ve had my hair professionally styled for an event; it was very luxurious. I went with a bunch of girlfriends (my first date was still many months in the future) and we had a great time.Tell Dave to look me up if he’s ever in DC. `-)

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N2 April 23, 2007 at 3:32 pm

1984. Black taffeta strapless number with a simple pencil skirt and really high, black pointy patent stilettos. The dress was on clearance at Jay Jacobs for a couple of dollars, but was a size 16, while I was a size 4 (sigh). I altered the dress and added …. wait for it … a GIANT white taffeta bow at the waist. And I mean GIANT. Alexis Carrington was my bitch. I had a few pennies left over to buy a black dye and dyed my cheerleading gloves black and cut off the fingers. Gawd, I thought I was cool. I didn’t even have a real date, but was set up to go with an exchange student from another school. I think his name was Jaime, and he was very patient with my ego.

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Anonymous April 23, 2007 at 10:37 pm

My mom made my prom dress because by the time the geeky guy I’d met at the science fair asked me to go, I’d already started sewing my friend Kathy’s prom dress for her and didn’t have time to make my own! It was 1986, the era of puffy sleeves and puffy hair. Kathy’s dress was very Cinderella, with a silver metallic bodice and light blue satin puffy sleeves and poofy skirt. My dress was also appropriately puffy, but in a shiny royal blue fabric that was so crisp it was almost like plastic. Ah, those were the days… Or, you know, not. But still, those were some cool dresses!

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john April 23, 2007 at 11:05 pm

i was up near reynolda gardens just the other day-

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Suzanne April 24, 2007 at 1:40 am

I’ve already posted my dress, but people keep talking about dates/boys/matching/etc. My junior prom date (in 2001) was…for lack of a better word, a card. See here. We left the red eye in that picture because it just suits Walker so well. We were…well, quite a couple. We were the ones who led the Time Warp when it came up.

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Myrte de Zeeuw April 24, 2007 at 3:15 pm

Oh you Americans have a great tradition with yer proms. Even now I like to see those pictures on the web, but when I graduated I was obsessed with it. My friends and I wanted an american-prom-style dance. I was the only one that could sew so I made myself ballgown out of a corset-type fashion top and a wide skirt- the sleeved thing I wore underneath it was hideous, and without it it would have worked- but it gave me a evil stepmother look- too goth for my liking now, but I’d sewn it last minute and I insisted I should wear it! We don’t have the wide choice of promdresses in the shops here in the Netherlands- but it would’ve been better for me to buy one!

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Binkle April 24, 2007 at 5:42 pm

My favorite prom dress was Senior Prom ’98… I only altered it, but it was the best dress ever to me for the following reasons: a) $5 at a thrift store, b) it was vintage and oh how I love vintage!, c) Pink dotted swiss, and d) the skirt was poofy enough that my date couldn’t find the stickshift after I was loaded into the car! My alteration? I removed the sleeves and made it sleeveless. Also, you have to love the 50s bullet bust (that was the dress, not the foundation undergarments). And here’s the full extent of the puffy skirt. If only I realized how tiny I was then…. *sigh*

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Sheila April 24, 2007 at 8:30 pm

I’m not sure if I belong- I can’t sew a button on a shirt- but I greatly admire anyone who can sew well.Sophomore prom- (1989) my sisters lived in NYC and sent me (in Minnesota) an amazing Tadashi royal blue taffeta mini-dress with pleated bodice and huge ruffle sleeves and waistline to match my huge hair. A not-so-close friend borrowed it the following year- she left for college and never returned that dress. I am a “dress girl” and I LOVED that dress. Shannon Buelle- if you read this- look up my parents in Lakeville!! You know what I’m talking about.Sr year (1991) I found a $600 dress for $90– absolutely stellar. I can’t even describe the color- light magenta? All Tulle- layer after layer, stapless with “points” at the bust line, fitted down to the hips and then major mini pouf with ragged hem. Sort of like an “interpretation” of a 50′s tulle princess dress…I don’t recall the brand- it’s at mom and dad’s. Damn that was a great dress. I still have THAT one.

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Retro Attic April 24, 2007 at 11:04 pm

I really like that dress. Not bad for 1989!! I think I had that haircut at one time also! My prom dress was also black, strapless, tea length, pretty simple. It had a cool lace underpiece ( I don’t know what you call it) that peaked out and hung longer at the bottom with a black bolero jacket.

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Amelia Eve April 27, 2007 at 1:27 pm

My friend recently gifted me with this fabulous book: Prom Night: The Best Night of Your Life. It’s got about 100 photos of prom couples from the 1940s to the present, and it is a total trip.My own prom dress in 1977 was a simple beige halter with a white collar and a matching bolero with white piping, the better to show of my super-fashionable puka shell necklace. Also, I was trying not to clash with my boyfriend’s dinner jacket, which was garnet red crushed velvet. When we got to the Hilton where the dance was held, he matched the drapes in the lobby.

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Anonymous April 28, 2007 at 3:12 pm

My prom dress from 1990 was amazing. It was a princess-point waisted strapless number in cream polka dotted lace with sparkles (yes sparkles glued in between the polka dots). The hem involved a kerchief cut cream satin underlay and then the lace over top was tied in four notted bundles at the cardinal points. It was fairy princess late-eighties glory. I still have it somewhere and when I try it on I always marvel that I had such big boobs at 17.

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Natalie May 8, 2007 at 8:18 pm

My prom was last year and my dress was from the 1950s. I got it at Ahab Bowen which for my money is the best vintage store in Dallas. Beautiful condition and fit like it was made for me. And it was only $50! It was a black, tea length lace dress with long sleves and a sweetheart strappless bodice beneath the lace. I wore black balet flats and I may have been the only girl at prom with flats. My boyfriend and I looked like we stepped out of a period movie. I looked too good to dance to the rap music or sir mix alot though. We didn’t stay long, just long enough to show off.

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Natalie May 8, 2007 at 8:21 pm

ack. i already posted. Ok, I go around talking about my prom dress to any computer that will listen, sue me.

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Stefanina May 13, 2007 at 6:26 pm

My prom dress in 1991 was the same Nicole Miller pattern as Andrea’s. I also used the knee length view A.http://cgi.ebay.com/Butterick-pattern-5944-DRESS-Misses-MP-sizes-6-8-10_W0QQitemZ8277681523QQihZ020QQcategoryZ11801QQcmdZViewItemMy mother and I made it together out of fuchsia pink “Debutante Satin” (it was very iridescent stiff satin) with a pink crinoline edged in fuchsia grosgrain ribbon. I remember many people commenting that I was the most sophisticated looking girl there.I don’t know where any pictures are.

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