Arts and Culture

A Promising Night

By Chloe Fiske


As prom creeps around the corner, the girls start to regret their dress choices while the guys scramble to rent suits last minute. Fueled by extravagant promises made by teen movies, prom appears to be the biggest night of the year. You sport the most expensive outfit you’ll ever wear in high school, shoveling hors d’oeuvres into your mouth because you forgot to eat all day. That’s prom! But how did we get here? How did prom become prom?

According to, it all started in the 1920s: the era of flappers, consumerism, and speakeasies. After the first World War, the American economy was booming, and so was the party circuit. Upper echelon families would participate in debutante balls, which were elegant parties dedicated to showing off adolescent girls to eligible young men. The middle class, unable to attend such events, decided to make their ball and named it prom, short for promenade. These proms were not only fun, but also

cheaper, piquing the interest of the lower class. Because of this interest, prom became a school-sponsored event by the 1930s. By the 1980s, movies such as “Pretty in Pink” and “Footloose” depicted prom as the most important night in a teen’s life: one with infinite possibilities. Movies like these paved the way for how we see it today.

Pinewood is no stranger to prom. History teacher and Pinewood alumnus Cameron Helvey recalls his high school prom experience.

“Sophomore year prom was in an abandoned warehouse that was renovated into some sort of event space. Senior year was on Angel Island; that was really fun. We rented a party bus one year and a limo the other,” Helvey said.

In the past years, Pinewood prom hasn’t changed much. Last year’s prom at the Fairmont was beautiful, and this year at Filoli promises to be no different. Who knows? Maybe this one will end with my own “Pretty in Pink” moment, but I’ll probably just fall asleep in my bed with a full face of makeup at 2 a.m.