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Planning prom online

'IMG_5281' photo (c) 2011, Mandi Gaga - license: little background.  I never had a prom.  Back in 1971, Student Council of Canarsie High School voted the whole idea of a prom (we used articles back then) politically irrelevant.

We had a war to protest.  As a Student Council officer back then, I was completely behind the decision.

Though I never went to my own prom, as a high school librarian I’ve attended my share.  And I find prom culture fascinating.  Over the years, I’ve watched prom, and prom prep, evolve.

Each year, around this time, a young girl’s thoughts, as well as her slightly sneaky, off-task window-switching, turns to dresses. Prom dresses.

I asked some of our study hall students what happens as students prepare for prom.  Not surprisingly, prom culture has grown far more tech-centered.

Facebook Groups

They told me that for a couple of years, STHS girls have maintained the tradition of Facebook groups called Don’t cop my prom dress.

Though I have heard a few variants of the story, this year the juniors and seniors developed separate groups. Students who are serious about the actual goal of the Facebook group thing feel this move was self-defeating. The juniors made their own group because the seniors didn’t invite us.

Good news: I hear from a reliable source that plans are now in the works to merge the groups.

What goes on in these groups?

Girls post their dress choice, either a photo of them wearing the dress, or a photo from an online ad. Comments are encouraged.  The girls also shared that these groups inspire both on- and offline gossip about each others’ dresses. Sometimes the gossip looks like, Wow, Emily’s dress is beautiful! Sometimes the gossip is not so kind.

The girls also shared that these groups cause pressure to shop for dresses early, allowing them to claim the look they really want.

The consensus is that boys are never invited into the groups.

Why?  We want them to know the color so they can pick flowers and coordinate tuxedo accessories, but they don’t really care about seeing our dresses.  And . . . We want our dresses to be a surprise, like a wedding dress.

Some of the kids told me they were going to also use Facebook as a tool for planning and organizing before and after prom activities and photo events.  And of course, there will be photos.  They’ll use a combination of Facebook, Twitter, and texting for critical announcements.

Pinterest Boards

Some of the girls are huge fans of creating and sharing Pinterest boards to visually collect and organize everything prom–dresses, shoes, accessories, rides. We like to see other girls’ prom boards, see what they’re planning to put together dresses with hairstyles and accessories.

Shopping for dresses, etc.

It’s March. They’re shopping already. So I asked about the best shopping sites.  It clearly depends.

Those girls who plan to visit major department stores and try on dresses, definitely visit online counterparts of the stores first to plan their visits more strategically.  We want to know what we’re looking for before we get there.  They are also big on comparing prices before getting into Mom’s car to shop. I am trying the find the cheapest sites for the dresses I like.

Some girls, as I expected, are going to visit their favorite thrift shops and look for vintage.  A couple of them are searching online for ideas and inspiration and actually plan to make their own dresses.

Some are planning to rent online: Why buy if I’m only going to wear the dress once?

They were eager to share some of the best shopping sites:

Modcloth is a favorite of my vintage-loving, alternative, hipster girls. It’s a little less prommy and I know I can’t afford the dresses there, but I can find ideas and things I think I’ll look good in.

My crafty/funky girls are also shopping on Etsy, where they hope to snag vintage and custom dresses, dresses you don’t see everywhere.

Several girls told me has every single dress of every single designer. Others mentioned Caché.

Some pointed me to Sherri Hill, where they shop for inspiration among the designer dresses.

One showed me the site of the local shop Golden Asp, and shared, it took 10 minutes to find a prom dress that I fell in love with there. (OMG, the prices, I said.  She said, Sometimes we’re just shopping for ideas, Dr. V! And sometimes we wait for the sales.)

They are also shopping at David’s Bridal, where the selection is not as expensive, and it ‘s not just prom dresses.

One shared that she shopped Bloomingdale’s both on- and offline:

I love Bloomingdale’s prom dresses selections! I got both my prom dresses there my sophomore and junior year and I got compliments on both of them left and right. The dresses were so reasonably priced too that I’m definitely going back this year to look for another one. And since it’s so close by, it makes prom dress shopping a lot easier for myself.

One of the girls is a huge fan of,

I just started looking at this site this year and some of the dresses I’m obsessed with!  I have always been against the idea of buying dresses online, since I can’t try it on till I buy it and receive it in the mail. But these are celebrity-inspired dresses and they have so many selections. The best part is that they are so inexpensive too.

And in general, students are using their mobiles to keep organized and to create lists and timelines. Students tell me they will use Google apps and docs to plan–to make lists and calendars and organize activities with family and friends. Though they didn’t actually say it, I suspect they do not want to cross the streams with their Facebook lives.

And what of the boys?  Frankly, they didn’t have much to say.

I am calling around and looking for limo services.

I am just going to get a nice tux and it will all fall together

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. What a fun post!

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