It was only 30 years ago that young men swiveled the bow tie on their powder-blue tuxedo, adjusted the ruffles on a formal shirt and actually thought white patent leather shoes were the perfect accent.
You laugh now.
Prom in the 1970s was held in a high-school gymnasium decorated in linen-topped card tables holding tiny pastel-colored napkins with the theme "Precious and Few" written in gold script in the corner. To get there, promsters borrowed the family car.
Times change. Traditions are tweaked.
One thing remains. Even for the class of 2002, the prom is no trivial evening out. In fact, we've uncovered some trivia about prom proving just that point.
"Prom" is a shortened version of "promenade," which, in its second dictionary definition, can mean dance or ball. Most but not all proms take place in the spring.
Prom started in the 1920s, said Tara McBratney, senior fashion editor for CosmoGIRL magazine. But it wasn't until the 1950s and 1960s that girls went out to purchase a "prom" dress. Nobody wore black.
"Everyone had to have gloves and a little jeweled or little pearl bag. Shoes were always dyed to match the bag. And guys always wore tuxedos with a white jacket and black pants," McBratney said.
And don't forget the up 'do. By the 1970s, hair was straight but dresses were poufy. In the 1990s, well, "things went a little wild," McBratney said. Guys wore tuxes with flashy cummerbunds. Patent leather shoes were replaced by tennis shoes.
The look was fun, McBratney said. Well, maybe for boys. Girls favored big shoulders with hair to match. They went back to wearing gloves, but they were fingerless.
Nowadays, you're likely to see a coed at the prom in a black slip dress. And ditch dyed-to-match shoes. Pair that black slip dress with bright pink shoes, McBratney suggested. This year, any shoe that wraps around the ankle or exposes toes and heels is favored for the dance -- even if you can't dance in them.
Shoes may have straps, but teen magazines are displaying pages of gowns without them. Also popular, thanks to the Britney Spears line of pop tarts, are two-piece formals that show off a bit -- or a lot - - of midriff.
"The sexier the dress, the better. That's the reaction we're getting from our readers," McBratney said. The skin that does peek out is expected to shimmer.
"It's a lot about personal style," she said. Since the 1990s, the only related fashion thread is that it's still called the prom.
They know what boys want
Twenty to 25% of all tuxedo rental is done for proms, according to the International Formalwear Association in Chicago. Guys probably didn't start wearing tuxes until the mid-1930s, when rental agencies were introduced.
But that '70s powder-blue tux is all wrong for today. Today's prom date is sophisticated, baby.
"You really don't rent a tuxedo anymore. You rent a style or a label. Oscar de la Renta or Pierre Cardin," said IFA president Jack Springer.
"The tuxedo for the prom usually is the more avant-garde and has a little more pizzazz or style to it."
Flowers -- a wrist or pin-on corsage for her; boutonniere for him - - should always match her dress. Tradition holds that the female wears a garter and gives it to her date during the night. If he wants, he can wrap it '50s style around the rear-view mirror of his car.
Reel prom moments.