Looking Forward to Prom Season

If you have a daughter of school age, you know what a Prom is. But while much stress, worry, and anxiety accompanies the event for the youngster, you may not realize where the tradition got its start. Many countries hold Proms for students graduating from high school or its equivalent, but the event has a long and royal history that is forgotten among the prom dresses, the tuxedos, the friends, and pictures.

The tradition started in France, where a Presentation Ball was held for young ladies who were being presented to society for the first time. The young aristocrat was called a Debutante, and the ball was her Debutante Ball. The word Debutante has French roots also, being translated loosely as one who is making her “debut.”

A debutante ball in the United States is used more often in the South, and some other countries. Debutantes are usually recommended by a distinguished committee or sponsored by an established member of elite society. Modern debutante balls are often charity events: the parents of the debutante donate a certain amount of money to the designated cause, and the invited guests pay for their tickets. These balls may be elaborate formal affairs and involve not only “debs” but junior debutantes, escorts and ushers, flower girls and pages as well.

The tradition has moved from the sole purview of the aristocratic society to cross all social classes, and the term Prom (short for “promenade” – the British version of the tradition) is a part of high school life for every high schooler in the U.S. These days the tradition is a day long affair, or sometimes even longer, with the couple planning excursions before and after the actual event with a large group of friends tagging along for the entire affair. The Prom is considered a rite of passage by the students, and is looked forward to the entire year.

Peaking of the event itself, it is typically a formal dance — or, in places or schools where dancing is not allowed, a banquet. The fellows dress in tuxedos and the ladies have spent great care in picking the perfect prom dress for the specific event. Many schools hold a Junior Prom and a Senior Prom, for Junior and senior classmen, respectively. Some schools combine the two, and with that, a student can end up attending two or three high school proms, and at least one junior high school prom. Which produces several prom dresses in the closet for a high school graduating girl these days.

American Princess (http://dressnetwork.com/) sells prom dresses. Art Gib is a freelance writer.