Sunday, November 26, 2006

Should prom be casual?

I received a comment from Regina in NY and thought her question merited a response as a post because others may have the same thoughts...

I wanted to thank you and I have a question. I bought your book for our prom committee hoping that it would make our job easier. In fact, you gave me so many ideas, I think our collective heads will be swimming when I introduce the group to your book during our next meeting. What a great resource this will be as we move along this uncharted path, you've made our job so much easier, it doesn't look like you've missed anything. Thank you very much.

My question is this. Our school is a small inner-city high school where the majority of the parents are not well off. One of the concerns that the committee has is that a lot of the seniors may not go to the prom because they can't afford the dresses and all that goes with a modern prom. Do you think it would be acceptable to make the prom casual? We're afraid that the cost to attend may keep a lot of kids home.

What an insightful question. Thank YOU for buying my book, and taking the time to ask such an important question. I'm sure this is something that has been considered by many schools. These days, prom expenses are something that folks from all but the highest income levels must wrestle with - how much do you spend on your teenager's prom? A family does not need to be "financially disadvantaged" to feel the bite of prom expenses.

Over the past few decades, the prom in many areas has evolved from an annual semi-formal dance to a Hollywood-style red carpet ceremony. What was once just a reason to dress-up and socialize has become a major expensive affair. As I mention on the website and in my book, some affluent schools now spend six-figures on prom party planners alone. The words we associate with the prom create an expectation in most people's minds. Words like princess, prom queen, limos, Cinderella, corsage, prom gowns and tuxedos - the mind pictures these words create intensify the significance of the word 'prom'.

Should your committee consider making the prom a casual affair to save money? Certainly that is an option, but in my opinion, that could open the door to other issues. The least of which is that if the magnitude of the prom is diminished, attendance may suffer more than it might from the financial reasons. In addition, peer pressures could intensify if some teens dress casually and others choose to 'dress to the nines'.

There may be another solution. You may not be aware of this, but there are hundreds of organizations all over the country that obtain 'gently worn' prom dresses, tuxedos and accessories and offer them to students whose financial situation could prevent them from attending their school's prom. Typically, students need only produce a high school ID to qualify. These clothes and accessories are either free or extremely affordable. Some of these organizations have outfitted thousands of students over the years.

In keeping with my mission of offering alternative solutions to prom related issues, our webmaster has compiled what may be the most definitive list of free or low-cost prom apparel organizations. We link this from the "Resource" area of our website. Hopefully, one of these "Fairy Godmother" organizations is near enough to your area to be the solution to this problem. I wish you well with your prom and the party your committee is planning.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice. Loved learning about those companies who offer the dressses. That is so wonderful. Thank you.