Prom in 2017 Sounds Like a Rule-Heavy Bureaucratic Headache

Models  at Lord & Taylor’s NYC Prom Fashion Show, 2015.
Models at Lord & Taylor’s NYC Prom Fashion Show, 2015.

You’ve seen the viral promposals, and you know about the ever-climbing price tag. But it seems that increasingly, a defining feature of the prom is a whole shitload of rules—especially when it comes to the dresses.

How strict were the rules for your prom? Did the guidelines involve a 21-page handbook? Because teens today are complaining that it’s gotten too strict and finicky and while teens have a history of skepticism towards rules that exist for good reasons, frankly it sounds like they are correct. The Wall Street Journal goes deep on the topic. God help you if you are shopping for prom in 2017:

Today, things are a little more complicated. At Boylan Catholic High School in Illinois, the dos and don’ts of prom-wear alone stretch to 21 pages.

Melissa High School in Texas requires female students to have prom dresses preapproved by a school coach. At Archbishop Ryan High School in Pennsylvania, all female students submit a photo wearing their prom dress, or bring it to school, for approval by a three-person committee.

Carencro High School in Louisiana has no preapproval for dresses—but floor-length ones are required at prom. Earlier this month, a student was barred from entering the prom because her dress was asymmetrical, showing the lower part of one leg beneath the knee.


It’s not just dress codes, either. Schools run by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia require everybody bring a date of the opposite sex. Bringing a guest often includes paperwork, and one Texas district goes so far as to require criminal background checks. Joshua High School goes a little looser on the dress code, but requires a Breathalyzer (which seems like a fair tradeoff). Then there’s the Alabama kid who wanted to take his 69-year-old grandmother, but she was turned away because she was over 20.

Mitzi Clayton, a spokeswoman for Eufaula City Schools, said Ms. Maine attending the prom could have prompted other students to invite older relatives—people who would be old enough to consume alcohol and present a safety issue.

“It just causes problems,” Ms. Clayton said. “Where do you draw the line?”

After getting public pushback, the school district “decided to join with a senior center to host an annual prom for senior citizens.”

Some students are so fed up that they are in fact attempting to organize their own renegade proms. At Danville High School, they are specifically objecting to a rule that students with three or more post-winter holiday unexcused absences wouldn’t be allowed to attend, presumably because that would knock out a sizable chunk of almost any senior class. Teens at Boylan are striking out on their own after taking offense to such rules as, “Some girls may wear the same dress, but due to body types, one dress may be acceptable while the other is not.” Excuse you?

“The girls were offended by it,” explained Ben Calkins, one of the “Morp 2017” organizers. “Somebody needed to step up and do something. We knew this wasn’t right.” Honestly, at some point, wouldn’t you just rather stay at home, eat pizza and watch Frozen with your pals in your pajamas?


Are you a teen? Are you the parent or teacher of a teen? We’d like to publish your experiences in a future post. Email and let us know whether prom has become a total nightmare, or if there are just several high schools with extremely strict administrations.

Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

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Prom stories!

My sophomore year I went on a group date with my older sister and her cool friends, and ended up getting paired up with a *very* cute boy I had a crush on. We had hibachi, spent about 10 minutes at the dance, then got dressed up like pirates and went roller skating for the rest of the night.

My junior year I went with my boyfriend to his prom at a different school. It was a big deal because it was a 5-hr drive away. He arranged for me to stay with an old lady from his church. She sent me christmas cards for like 5 years after. The date itself was a glorious disaster (everything planned went awry, but we had a good time).

My senior year, my bestie and I skipped prom and got dressed up in pretty slips we bought from goodwill, combat boots, goth makeup, and went to the ballet to freak out all the doctors and lawyers in town. Afterward we met up with our friends who bitched about how lame the dance was while we regaled them with stories about how everyone was so scandalized by our undergarments.