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Prom: Through the years

It’s that time of year again when girls frantically search for the perfect dress and boys attempt to look dapper in rented tuxedos and limousines are packed full of excited teenagers who just finished taking the most awkward photos of their lives. That’s right, it’s prom season.

What most promgoers don’t know is that prom, short for promenade, or “the formal, introductory parading of guests at a party,” can be traced back to the 19th century with co-ed banquets held in universities for each year’s graduating class. As time went on, prom was pushed earlier and earlier, thus the high school upperclassmen tradition.

Aside from the younger age, the dance itself has changed over the years as well.

Deacon Robb Ciezki of Boston, who attended the proms at Bishop Turner High School in 1982 and Villa Maria Academy in 1983, commented on the changes in fashion: “The girls dresses are much shorter today. Back then, everyone wore full-length gowns. The tuxes are better looking today, too.”

So after 30 years, all that has changed is the length of dresses and the quality of tuxedos? Not quite. Most proms back then didn’t serve dinner like today. Promgoers would go to the dance and usually go out for a fancy dinner before or after prom.

“In those days, they [proms] were in the gymnasium ... sometimes we had live bands ... Afterward people went out to eat, bowling and sometimes a little house party. It wasn’t all that big of a deal afterward like it seems to be now. We did go out to a nice dinner beforehand, no limos and stuff though,” said Dave Sambora of Hamburg, who attended prom in 1977 and 1978 at Hamburg High School.

By the ’90s, some schools began offering post-prom activities.

Jeffery Walling, who attended prom in 1991 and 1992 at Orchard Park High School, remembered his post-prom experiences: “My junior year, we went to the post-prom party at Orchard Park High School and then Denny’s. Senior year was at a friend’s house – pool party – I think we rented a hot tub.”

As times continued to change, proms, and the after-parties, grew to be even more extravagant.

“After prom we went to a post-prom party at the Pepsi Center (now the Northtown Center) in Amherst,” said William Kaputa, who attended Williamsville North’s prom in 2001. “They had ice skating, pizza and wings, carnival/arcade-style types of games, etc.”

The styles and outfits for prom have also changed over the years. Monroe, the owner of Monroe’s Place in Hamburg who just uses her first name, discussed the ever-changing trends.

“It used to be a specific style every year. In the ’50s it was A-line dresses, the ’70s was very simple dresses, the ’80s had neons ... now, nothing is specifically in or out. It all depends on the girl’s personality, body design, skin color and tastes.”

Although Monroe said this year’s “in color” was coral, two area seniors didn’t even consider it an option.

Bailey Gawley, a senior at Immaculata Academy who will be attending her second prom this year at Immaculata, opted for a very different color than the trendy coral.

“My dress for IA prom this year is an emerald green color that has a slight teal hue,” Bailey said. “It’s a tight, mermaid-style dress and it was the first one I tried on.”

Brittany Packard, a senior at Lackawanna High School, who will be attending her third prom this year, chose a floor-length red gown that she got at Monroe’s Place. “I got a great deal on the dress, so I couldn’t pass it up,” Brittany said.

Some people are fortunate enough to never have to buy a prom dress at all. Katie Sheara, who graduated from Mount Mercy Academy in 2002, attended nine proms during her high school career and her mother made her dresses.

“I would tell my mom what I wanted and she would find patterns and run them by me or I’d help her pick them out,” Sheara said. For my senior year she made me a Cinderella dress because she’s my favorite princess. It was a perfect copy. I had my hair done just like Cinderella, the long white gloves and even clear heels to mimic the glass slippers!”

Prom seems to generate happy memories.

Even Elizabeth Reguira of Lackawanna, who attended prom in 1998 with a broken jaw, still managed to have a blast.

“We went to Denny’s and back to a friend’s house for a movie night ... I just remember dancing and having a lot of fun,” Reguira said.

“I wouldn’t have missed my prom for the world. I took the same girl both years,” Sambora said. “I lost track of her now but even a thousand years later, I still get butterflies thinking about it. I would hope that they’re great memories for her, too. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it.”

Hannah Gordon is a senior at Immaculata Academy.