Fashion show reveals prom dress styles through history

Magnificent dresses are hanging on a rack, each clamoring for attention.

Fear not. Each one will get its time in the spotlight during an upcoming fashion show of prom gowns of the late 20th century.

On their hangers, the dresses look very different from one another. Some are full-skirted and flouncy, others sleek and sexy. But, surprisingly, it's not always easy to tell which decade each is from.

You'd think the sensual pour of jade silk, aching to hug female curves, would be a recent fashion. But, no, it's from the 1950s, which we think of as so prim and modest.

There are two shapeless disasters that button up to the neck and sprout sleeves, to cover the wearer down to the elbow. Are they from Puritan times? No, they're granny dresses from the 1960s and early 1970s - the era of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.


While the collection includes two polyester dresses that scream "disco '70s" and one Jackie Kennedy dress that whispers "1962," others seem so timeless you'd be hard-pressed to match them to their decades.

Unless you're a fashion history expert, that is, like Tracy Jennings, who teaches fashion design, pattern making and clothing construction at Dominican University in River Forest. She shares insights on how these dresses fit into the fashions of their times.

You can see these, and many more, first-hand at a fashion show of prom gowns from the 1950s through the 2000s. The Mount Prospect Historical Society is sponsoring the April 14 fashion show as a fundraiser.

And for teens needing a dress for their own big night, models will also take the latest styles in prom gowns down the runway.

Jennings sees three trends emerging for prom 2007. The first is the body-conscious, revealing and sexy dress.

"But there's also an anti-trend. A lot of niche companies are making dresses that address religious traditions where they don't want shoulders bared," she says.

Vintage styles, like those profiled here, make up the third look. "Some prom goers today wouldn't mind wearing some of these," she says. "Vintage is really popular."

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