Springtime Prom Musings
I was writing in a coffee shop last week, unexpectedly distracted by the cross room banter of four high school girls seated at three different tables. Amidst the bits of homework related discussion, prom topics took center stage.
Are you doing your own makeup?
Who are you going with? Do you LIKE him? Are you DATING?
Are these circuits in parallel?
Where are you getting your dress? You got it for $50?! NO WAY!
I could do your makeup for you if you’d like.
Which word is right… further or farther?
My Mom just texted me… she’s been home from work for over 30 minutes, and NOW she wonders where I am? Seriously. Why doesn’t she wonder where I am?
Could you do a trial run of my hair and makeup? Would that be possible? I don’t wear makeup at all.
What are you writing about?
<<pause by all at the three tables>>
Did you see Eric? He got his braces off today in 3rd period.
He had braces?
Yes, on the top.
I didn’t notice.
How couldn’t you?
It was intoxicating chatter, and I couldn’t stop listening to the seamless integration of prom topics, day to day gossip and deeper subjects. Marxism and braces? Circuitry and makeup tips? The once-16 year old girl inside of me SO wanted to jump into the conversation, but I restrained myself, inwardly giggling maybe once… okay, maybe a few more times than that.
Back in the day (think 1920’s) prom was a social outing, maybe a tea. That was it. No poofy dresses, no dance or large party. As time went on, it turned into a rite of passage; a time for teens to have their first dance or first date. These days, prom is HUGE and stereotypically an expensive and showy production. Who can find the most novel way to ask someone out? Who can afford arriving in a limo? Who has the best looking dress/shoes/hair? It can be stressful for everyone, parents included.
My senior prom was pretty low key compared to the ones I read about now. My high school crush called on the telephone one evening and asked me to the dance. I went to a store and was able to find an affordable dress of my liking. He rented a tux. We had dinner at a nice restaurant, went to the party, and ended the evening with a kiss.
It was lovely.
A cousin of mine recently shared an unexpected discovery while shopping at Kohl’s: brightly colored suits for men packaged in boxes as prom kits.
This, I had to see.
We parted company and I drove directly to my local Kohl’s store. I didn’t have to look very hard to find the display of boxed clothing stacked next to a brightly suited mannequin.
Looking closer, I could see that each suit box sported a posed picture and style name.
Stars and Stripes…
I wondered aloud about whether a teenage boy would choose a suit based on color, the associated image, or both.
Do you want peers to think you’re a rebel?
Choose The Red Devil red suit.
Are you environmentally conscious?
How about the Evergreen green option?
What about the Purple Prince?
I think that one was Minnesota specific.
Prince will forever be cool.
Here was clever marketing toward an angle I had never thought of before: prom as a costumed, make believe event. Sure, you could choose to dress up and get fancy as yourself, but why? Wouldn’t it be more fun to don a whole new persona and choose a specific prom character kit?
Looking back at the shelves, I had a mega déjà vu moment. Those stacked suit boxes mimicked the Ben Franklin Halloween costume displays from my childhood. Everyone knew that the cool costumes were the ones sold as boxed sets. Each costume was essentially the same; a preprinted fabric vest +/- pants, and a plastic mask with holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. These prom kits didn’t have masks, but they did contain a color matched coat, pants and tie. Same idea; everything you’d need for the big night was in that box.
Unfortunately for me, the cool-costume supply never matched demand. I unsuccessfully tried for three consecutive years to buy a blue fairy costume. NOT getting the desired boxed costume was devastating as a kid, and the root cause of many elaborate “next-year-will-be-better-Halloween-costume-shopping” plans.
I doubt that these prom kits could spark the same degree of wanting that the Halloween costume boxes did years ago, but, maybe there is a teen boy on his way right now to Kohl’s, who has planned for months to buy a Purple Prince prom package. What will he do if he arrives too late, and they are all gone? Will he go away empty handed, determined to find one next prom season? Nah. He’ll likely take a different box and quickly forget about not finding his first choice kit. **
But, what if he doesn’t forget, and secretly pines for the purple suit years later? After all, prom only happens once or twice in a person’s life. I think it would be hard to forget missing your only chance to be the prom’s Purple Prince.
If you consider formal wear as being the same as a fancy-schmancy kind of costume, then prom is a lot like Halloween, minus the candy and spooky bits.
If you see a vintage Blue Fairy costume in a box … let me know.