Prom dresses are a sign of the times: There were exaggerated puffy sleeves in the ’70s, neon hues in the ’80s, two-piece sets in the ’90s, and so on. Go back in time to get a closer look at the most memorable prom dresses — some bold, some beautiful, some questionable — in your favorite classic movies, starting with Stephen King’s Carrie in 1976. And while you’re at it, make some popcorn, pour yourself a glass of wine and stream these classics to relive your glory days.
Carrie in ‘Carrie’
Though her dress was eventually drenched in blood (spoiler alert), Carrie’s pink gown was lovely before the night of horror began. Now, if only they could’ve kept it that way …
Bianca in ’10 Things I Hate About You’
Much to her father’s chagrin, Bianca wore a pink satin crop top paired with a tulle skirt that showed off a hint of her belly button. Note the incredibly ’90s hairstyle.
Rachel in ‘Glee’
Rachel Berry’s peach prom dress was fit for a queen, which it fitting since she was named Prom Queen at William McKinley High.
Sandy in ‘Grease’
Blair and Serena in ‘Gossip Girl’
Kim in ‘Prom Night’
Andie in ‘Pretty in Pink’
Alison in ‘Pretty Little Liars’
While the entire crew at Rosewood High School looked amazing on prom night, Alison was the belle of the ball in this cream gown, complete with loose curls and a red lip.
Romy and Michele in ‘Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion’
After graduating, a high school reunion is basically prom for adults. These short and shiny dresses that Romy and Michele wore prove that the best outfits you wear are the ones you have the most fun in.
Laney in ‘She’s All That’
Laney Briggs’ prom night didn’t exactly turn out as planned, but she still looked gorgeous in this sparkly LBD.
Gabriella in ‘High School Musical 3: Senior Year’
Not only did Gabriella get to dance with her boyfriend Troy Bolton at prom, but she also got to wear a super sweet chiffon dress with appliqué flowers that looked best mid-twirl.
Ariel in ‘Footloose’
The only thing better than Ariel’s bubblegum pink column dress and her envy-inducing curled updo is the dancing that took place at her prom.
Summer in ‘The O.C.’
Summer rarely strayed from her California-cool wardrobe and prom was no exception. She wowed in a fuchsia printed strapless maxi dress that surely inspired many prom goers in the early aughts.
Buffy in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
Buffy Summers never got a day off — not even for prom. The teen slayer had to wrestle a pack of hell hounds, but still managed to look impeccable in a strapless mauve taffeta gown.
Penelope in ‘Bridgerton’
Being presented to the Queen at the start of London’s social season is essentially the same thing as high school prom, just during the Regency era. Penelope Featherington stunned in an empire waist evening gown with gold embroidery for her debut.
Lorraine in ‘Back to the Future’
Not many people can say they actually saw their mom’s prom dress in person, but Marty McFly can. His mother, Lorraine, wore a very ’50s design, featuring an A-line silhouette and polka dot print.
An Li in ‘All My Children’
Of course a major event like prom was bound to result in tons of drama on a soap opera like All My Children. But An Li Chen still looked great in a strapless purple princess gown.
Linda in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’
When prom season came around at Ridgemont High, Linda didn’t disappoint her male admirers with her red lace gown that screamed prom queen.
Regina in ‘Mean Girls’
Not even getting hit by a school bus could keep Regina George from the school dance. Some pink flowers on her back brace and an attention-grabbing strapless satin pink mini dress did the trick.
Topanga in ‘Boy Meets World’
Cory and Topanga were crowned prom king and queen at prom, naturally. The only thing sweeter? How Cory’s pocket square perfectly matched Topanga’s red column dress.
Alex in ‘Modern Family’
Alex Dunphy was a few years out of high school when she went with her brother’s friend, Reuben, to prom, but she deserves extra credit for the grey sweetheart gown she wore.
Josie in ‘Never Been Kissed’
Lily in ‘How I Met Your Mother’
So they were technically crashing a high school prom, not attending it together, but Lily’s cheetah print wrap dress was perfect for the adventurous evening.
Penny in ‘The Big Bang Theory’
Penny + Leonard = an uber cheesy prom picture that we’re obsessed with. When the cast recreated a school dance in season eight, Penny wore a sleeveless fuchsia chiffon gown with a thin gold headband.
Stifler’s Mom in ‘American Pie’
In American Pie, it was the prom after-party that caught our attention. Specifically, the scene where Stifler’s mom “chaperones” in a grey sleeveless sheath dress that is oh-so very ’90s.
D.J. in ‘Full House’
You better believe D.J.’s prom included one or two heart-to-hearts. But the eldest Tanner daughter also looked all grown up in a black off-the-shoulder mini dress and statement earrings.
Hanna and Emily in ‘Pretty Little Liars’
Hanna and Emily have very different styles, but both looked like queens on prom night. Hanna stunned in a v-neck illusion sleeve gown with a high-low tulle skirt, while Emily channeled an edgier look with a long sleeve black patterned gown.
Spencer and Aria in ‘Pretty Little Liars’
What, you thought we forgot about the other two liars? Spencer Hastings looked sophisticated in a high neck silk mermaid gown, while Aria mixed color and pattern together in a bold two-piece dress.
Mary in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’
At the beginning of the holiday movie, we see a young Mary in a one-of-a-kind prom dress. The chiffon ruffled tea length dress was enough to top all her other outfits in the film.
Jackie in ‘That ’70s Show’
From the lace illusion neckline to the chiffon ruffles, it’s impossible not to be transported back to the ’70s with Jackie’s perfectly pink prom dress.
April in ‘Parks and Recreation’
Prom was certainly not April Ludgate’s scene. But after dressing against the grain in a black long sleeve lace gown, she deserved to be awarded prom queen that evening.
Sabrina in ‘Sabrina’
While not technically a prom, Sabrina Fairchild’s return to the Larrabee Estate was certainly a coming-of-age fête. The chauffeur’s daughter made her grand entrance in a white strapless gown with black floral embroidery.
Zendaya on ‘Dancing With the Stars’
What happens when Dancing with the Stars does prom night? Inspo-worthy fashion. Contestant Zendaya deserved a corsage for the sweet empire waist white chiffon dress she wore for the episode.
Rachel in ‘Friends’
In a VHS tape flashback, viewers get a peek at Rachel Green’s
real nose prom dress. The blue puffy sleeved ’80s design did not disappoint.
Sue in ‘The Middle’
A faulty cheese machine prevented Sue from attending prom, but before the fiasco, she was ready for the dance in a sweet bubblegum pink ball gown.
Erica in ‘The Goldbergs’
Between her date’s powder blue jacket and the sparkly tulle skirt on her dress, Erica did a great job of wearing a very ’80s-inspired look to her prom.
The Most Iconic Dresses of the ’70s
We bet you’ll recognize more than a few of these iconic fashion moments.
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