Here’s a look at more than a hundred of the styles available back then that eighties girls thought were totally awesome.
Looking back at vintage ’80s prom dresses: The night required a certain style
The first thing you have to understand about dressing for the prom is the utter, absolute importance of Seventeen magazine.
“I saw this dress in Seventeen, and it had a toll-free number you could call in California, so I called and they said it would be at the Mayfair, so I went and bought it,” said Molly O’Brien. 16, of South Burlington, whose parents sank more than $150 in a hot fuschia dress with spaghetti straps.
“Seventeen does that March issue — Gunne Sax shows seven or eight dresses, and that’s what the girls want,” shrugged Shirley Alpert, owner of Gigi’s on Church Street.
“It’s their Bible,” agreed Cheryl Cummerow, who buys the prom dresses for Magrams.
Vintage ’80s prom dresses hot in ’86: Pretty in Pink
“I saw my dress in Seventeen, so I knew someone else would have it, too,” said Laurie Watson, 16, of Underhill, who spent $130 of babysitting money on a strapless white formal by Gunne Sax with a candy-box pink satin bow.
Her good friend Lori Ardovino, 16, of Underhill, also will be going to the Mount Mansfield Union High School prom Saturday. She, too, will be wearing the $130 strapless white Gunne Sax dress with candy box pink satin bow.
“It doesn’t really bother us,” Watson insisted. “I really like my dress — pink’s my favorite color.”
And that’s the other thing you have to understand about dressing for the prom this year: the importance of pink.
“Pink, pink, pink,” cried Lori Reese, 17, a senior at Winooski High School. “Everybody’s wearing pink.” That includes Lori herself.
“My date wanted me to wear pink,” said Karen Kane, 16, of Winooski, who found a pink off-the-shoulder satin with a hoop skirt.
Asked to name someone wearing an unusual dress to the prom, Michelle Gosselin, 16, of Winooski (who is wearing a pink-and-white striped Gunne Sax) came up with the name of Tami Jo Smith, whose dress is an unstartling frilly white confection trimmed with red bows.
“The color is mostly pink this year,” Gosselin said, in explanation.
’80s prom dresses: Southern Belles and vampish looks
The Gunne Sax look, in addition to being pink, means big hoop skirts, lots of lace and bare shoulders.
“They all want to look like Scarlett O’Hara — like they just tore down the curtains and made a dress,” one salesperson said of the wide-hooped, off-the-shoulder Southern belle look.
The alternative is what Barbara Tarshis, buyer at the Mayfair, calls “a little more vampish ‘Back to the Future‘ — that ’40s look that my mother might have worn.”
That means slinky satin (no hoops or crinolines) with lots of big satin ruffles and bows, and plenty of bare shoulders and backs.
“It made a statement,” said Cheryl May, 17, a junior at Rice High School, of her clinging white jacquard satin dress. It wasn’t, she said, like the other prom dresses.
May couldn’t exactly say what the “statement” was, but going out on a fashion limb this year mostly involved avoiding Gunne Sax and pink.
“I liked it because it was different,” said Karen Brouillette, a sophomore at Colchester High School, who invested in a strapless, royal blue tea-length gown from the Mayfair for the May 25 prom.
“I wanted to steer away from Gunne Sax. I was afraid I’d see not just double of myself, but triple,” said Stephanie O’Brien, 18, of South Burlington, who ended up with pink, but slinky pink. “I wanted something more sophisticated… I don’t want to be like everyone else.”
Vintage ’80s prom dresses in silver sequins and white
Frilled retro prom & party dresses from the eighties
Blue classic prom dresses (plus see pink versions in the corner)
The Prom Collection from What’s Up, New York
Promwear from Nadine Formals & Party Dresses
Glamorous. Glimmerous. Flirtatious. Romance… waiting to be unmasked.
Happy with their retro ’80s prom dresses & fancy fashions
Few girls went as far as 16-year-old Diane Sullivan of Burlington, a junior at Rice High School. She’s wearing a white tuxedo to the prom Saturday at Mather’s.
“The typical prom dress is just so so… prom-y. It’s like fingers scratching on a chalkboard, so I thought a tux would be fun,” she said.
Kim Niquette of Burlington didn’t like the dresses she saw in stores and made her own for $60; Cheryl Maheux of Jericho transformed her two-year-old $94 dress by adding a hoop (“I couldn’t see buying a whole new dress — at least this way no one will have the same as mine”).
In most cases, though, Mom and Dad foot the bill.
“My mom thought it was a little too expensive, and said to talk to my Dad; so I told him I really, really wanted it and so he said I could get it,” said Michelle Gosselin of her $144 pink-and-white striped Gunne Sax.
Then there are Daniel and Sandra O’Brien of South Burlington, parents of Stephanie, Molly and Kerry, 15. All three girls are going to the prom, and all are deliriously happy over their new dresses.
“My Dad says to say he’s filing for bankruptcy,” Stephanie relayed over the phone, to giggles and groans in the background.
Brooke Shields modeling a pink prom dress (1984)
Supermodels in pastel vintage ’80s prom dresses
That’s supermodel Yasmin (Parvaneh) LeBon in the middle there
Red dresses for her
4 retro prom dresses with sequins and sparkles for days
An eighties new wave/punk girl in a silver-gold dress with sequins all over
Strapless and one-shoulder vintage ’80s prom dress styles
’80s formal dress styles from Alyce Designs in Chicago
Serious girls with serious dresses and seriously ’80s hair
A soft and lacy white dress & matching fingerless gloves
Dark-toned retro prom dresses: black, dark blue and teal
A black satin sleeveless formal dress
She’s wearing the dress with a beaded bracelet and a big lace bow in her hair
NOW SEE THIS: Gunne Sax prom dresses of the eighties