Check out these breathtaking Gunne Sax prom dresses & see why they ruled the school in the 80s

Gunne Sax prom dresses from the eighties

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In the 1980s, fashion designer Jessica McClintock had HUGE a moment with her own line of formalwear.

In particular, the designer trend that reigned supreme on most prom queens of the decade were Gunne Sax prom dresses.

Romantic and lacy, the most popular Gunne Sax gowns in the 80s had a distinct Victorian-era vibe, one that persisted throughout most of the decade. (It’s not too far from the old-school cottagecore style, when the prairie dress had its first big comeback in the 80s.)

While it’s probably not the look you’d have expected from the generation known more for neon, flannel and Doc Martens, but these fairytale confections really happened — and we have the proof!

Below you can take a look back at 34 different classic Gunne Sax prom dresses that ranged from sophisticated to romantic to the full-on bubblegum look. Check out this frothy and ultra-feminine collection of prom dresses for yourself! (Want to see more? Check out the GS dresses available on eBay here!)

Deep blue sequined Jessica McClintock Gunne Sax dress from the 80s

Prom gowns are going romantic (1985)

Excerpted from the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) – April 14, 1985

A full-length pink taffeta-confection is the hottest-selling dream creation as high school prom season nears

When the prom music begins to play, another sound will fill the dance floor: the rustle of the layers of fabric needed to carry off this year’s most popular look in gowns.

Vintage Pink Gunne Sax prom dress 1988
Dream girl moves to the music in a breathtaking hush of ruffled pink satin. Full-length gown. (1988)

The attitude is romantic, and the fashions often are off-the-shoulder dresses with full, sweeping skirts decorated with small bows — all a wee bit reminiscent of Little Bo Peep.

This year’s hottest-selling dream gown for upcoming school proms, from the Gunne Sax collection of California designer Jessica McClintock, is a full-length pink taffeta confection featuring puffed sleeves and a draped overskirt fastened with little pink bows.

Pink vintage 80s Gunne Sax prom dresses
Gunne Sax prom dresses were generously adorned with ruffles, lace, and bows

Gunne Sax reportedly cut 29,000 models of the gown, and they sold as fast as tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert.

Irondequoit Bridal Fashions had 18 of the pink creations at its two showrooms in Rochester.

“They were sold out completely before they got to our store,” says Terry Hobson, co-owner of Irondequoit Bridal Fashions.

Vintage Gunne Sax prom dress (1985)

But all of the gowns in the Gunne Sax prom collection are big this year. The gowns were featured in Seventeen magazine, and they are all “hot” items, Hobson says.

Besides the Little Bo Peep concoction, the Gunne Sax prom collection includes a full-length, off-shoulder black and white gown, and a sophisticated-looking strapless gold lame with gold sequins on the bodice and belt.

Overall, the old-fashioned look appears to be this year’s prom favorite.

Vintage Jessica McClintock Gunne Sax white prom dress (1988)-gigapixel


Vintage lacy white Gunne Sax prom dresses (1981)

Two sheer, lacy, white Gunne Sax prom dresses with ruffles galore.

Vintage Gunne Sax prom dresses (1981)


Vintage 80s Gunne Sax prom dress… white sleeveless satin bustier with black bow

Somehow sensing that, after tonight, no other rose will ever mean so much. White satin busier with a black bow.

White sleeveless satin bustier with black bow - Vintage 80s Gunne Sax dress


Romantic and lacy Gunne Sax formalwear for girls (1982)

Velvet mood, whispered promises… in a holiday hush, the magic of the moment is you — and your Gunne Sax.

Gunne Sax ad 1982


Gunne Sax dresses – Victorian satin and lace (1980s)

Enter an era gone by with a Victorian fantasy of satin and lace. The petticoat ballet gown in white lace over pink satin, and the white satin gown with apron and bustle.

Gunne Sax dresses - Victorian satin and lace (1980s)


Jessica McClintock for Gunne Sax (1984)

An elegant embrace of onyx velvet, sashed with a sapphire cascade borrowed from a moonlit sky… inviting the promising touch of Jessica McClintock, the Fragrance

Gunne Sax 1984 blue black prom dress


Classic gold lame bustier prom dress from Gunne Sax in the 80s

Waiting for his first glimpse of you in a gown of liquid gold. Sequin-trimmed lamé bustier.

Classic gold lame bustier prom dress from Gunne Sax in the 80s


Vintage 1980s blue Gunne Sax prom dress

Cobalt blue, rhinestone embellished, off-the-shoulder ballgown style dress.

Vintage 1980s blue Gunne Sax prom dress


Pink and blue retro 80s prom dresses (1985)

Pink and blue retro 80s prom dresses (1985)


Black moire taffeta dance dress from Gunne Sax in Seventeen (1985)

While time stops, you look into your future — and see only him. Black moire taffeta dance dress.

Black moire taffeta dance dress from Gunne Sax by Jessica McClintock in Seventeen (1985)


Vintage 1980s black and white Gunne Sax prom dresses

Opposite attractions… Ebony sleek and white ivory; Polished to a smoldering glow. 

Vintage 1980s black and white Gunne Sax prom dresses


Retro 80s Gunne Sax dress at Susie’s (1985)

From Susie’s fabulous Gunne Sax collection. Style shown can be worn on or off the shoulders. Designed exclusively for Susie’s. Pink or blue, sizes 3 to 13.

Retro 80s Gunne Sax dress at Susie's (1985)


Vintage  black with white Gunne Sax prom dress

A magic moment — beginning to realize that you and he share something very special. Black and white satinette bustier tied at one shoulder with striped fabric..

Black and white vintage prom dress (1985)


Light blue romantic formal prom dress – 1980s Gunne Sax
Light blue romantic formal prom dress - 1980s Gunne Sax

Jessica McClintock Gunne Sax prom dresses (1987)

So, what are you wearing to the prom? Come in and see all the options you have to make a Prom Fantasy begin.

Your Prom Fantasy begins with “Will you go to the prom with me?” Joy… shivers… excitement… special perfume.. nail polish… hair curlers… and the perfect GUNNE SAX dress.

You’re lovely in satin, lace or lamé in long or matinee-length dresses. Many styles to choose from.

Jessica McClintock Gunne Sax prom dresses for 1987


A night to remember: Win the prom of your dreams (1987)

Imagine… a gleaming limousine sweeps you and your date to a fabulous dinner for two, then on to the Prom, where all eyes are on you…

Jessica McClintock Gunne Sax prom dresses for 1987


Gunne Sax white dress (1988)

Evening star outshining the rest in a luminous burst of white-on-white — Matinee length bustier

Gunne Sax prom dresses 1988 (1)


Vintage Gunne Sax prom dresses (1980s)

Seventeen magazine - Vintage prom dresses from Gunne Sax (1980s)


Vintage prom dress: Moonlit lace (1988)

Star dancer dazzling in an illusion of moonlit lace and gossamer netting. Peplum full-length gown.

Gunne Sax prom dresses 1988 (4)
Gunne Sax prom dresses were romantic and ethereal

Romantic 80s Gunne Sax prom dresses looked a lot like this

A Magic Moment — Falling in love and feeling the world spin. Blue floral Victorian with lace trim.

Romantic 80s Gunne Sax prom dress


Classic pink satin fantasy dress (1988)

Satin doll in a can-can fantasy dress of star-struck pink destined for dancing. Sequined lace bustier.

Gunne Sax prom dresses 1988 (2)


Gunne Sax gown with a blue ruffled bustier of flocked organza (1985)

Retro 80s Gunne Sax prom gown from Seventeen magazine (1985)


Pink satin and lace ruffled Gunne Sax prom dresses

From Ups & Downs: Pretty pink… a captivating twosome all ruffles & lace.

Vintage pink Gunne Sax prom dresses from Ups N Downs


Jessica McClintock for Gunne Sax: Dramatic dressing (1989)

Amethyst in the spotlight. Wrap-tucked, bare, and flounced for a very special effect.

Gunne Sax 1989 purple prom dress

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Comments on this story

6 Responses

  1. Looking for a prom dress from 1987 Jessica McClintock gunne sax sweetheart neck dropped waist ivory lace

  2. Oh! I had the sweetest pink floral Gunne Sax dress for my senior prom in 1980. My sister and I were just talking about it the other day. I miss that dress and I don’t know why I have photos of it.

  3. I still have my Gunne Sax dress from 1986. I’m thrilled – I get to wear it again at a Parent’s 80’s Prom night to raise money for my son’s prom. Now to fit into it… too funny. Pink and white taffeta with lace off the shoulder. Still have my lace gloves too and pink heart earrings and necklace. So glad I saved everything. MY Gunne Sax still looks amazing after 36 years!

  4. I still have my Jessica McClintock for Gunne Sax prom dress from 1986. It’s off white, tea length, sleeveless, and just as beautiful today as it was then.

  5. I got married in my Gunne Sax dress. A sweet neckline, laced up with ribbons, front and back. A white guaze type material, that hung from a fitted waist in full fluffy 3 tiers. ( I had to cut the 4 tier off bc I am only 5 ft tall. It would have flowed beautifully on a 6ft bride.) I still have this beautiful dress, (1979) 50 plus yrs and 3 kids later, lol hoping to get back into it. Ni rips, tears, or spots or stains. There’s the will, and working on the way.
    I have always loved this dress. My daughter used to play the bride when she was younger wearing it. She had a great path to follow on. ♥️

  6. Thank you for this trip down memory lane. I was 13 in 1986 and started a subscription to Seventeen Magazine (which I had until the early 90’s). I always looked forward to the prom issue each year and me and my mom would have fun going through it and pointing out all the dresses we loved (as well as all the ones we loathed, LOL). We always loved the Gunne Sax dresses the most. So beautiful and feminine. I particularly remember my mom liking the long pink gown with the open back (which is in this article). My favorite was the shorter pink dress with the sweetheart neckline (also in this article).

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