If you’ve been looking forward to high school dances your whole life but haven’t yet actually been to one, it can be that you only have a vague idea about what they’re going to be like from TV and movies. The two biggest high school events are naturally prom and homecoming, and these both feature what are usually fairly lavish dances that you can dress up for and enjoy with your friends. While there may also be other dances throughout the year or for students in junior years, these are generally less formal occasions, and so the ones you need to really know the differences between when it comes to what to expect and what kind of outfit to wear are just the big two: homecoming and prom.
Here, we look at each of them and what is traditional for the occasions. There may be some differences between schools (for example, if you go to a girl’s school there will most likely only be a homecoming queen and maybe a princess, rather than the full court with male roles filled, as in a co-ed school), but these are the general ideas in most American high schools.
Prom is held to celebrate the ‘promotion’ of the senior students who’ll be graduating this year. It is held in the spring, though when exactly depends on the school. It will usually be some time between April and June. Often, students will be involved in the planning of the prom, though not always. Prom may take place at the school itself, or somewhere else – for instance, a nearby club or hall.
Prom is the most formal occasion in the high school calendar, and for many teens, it is the first time they will have been to a black tie event, with tuxedos, long formal gowns, photographers, and even sometimes things like limos. Prom is also the most expensive event to attend, usually, with tickets costing more than for other dances and with people generally spending a lot more of their outfits and extras like having their hair done professionally or hiring a limo.
Prom is a very luxurious event and is usually a pretty big deal for the students. Some people, especially girls, spend months planning what they will wear for prom and other aspects of the occasion, like who their date will be and how they want their evening to go. However, it isn’t always like in the movies, and there are definitely also some people who don’t take it as seriously and just enjoy it as a fun night with their friends! Prom dress codes depend on the school, but are often fully formal, with girls wearing long gowns and their hair generally up. There are some schools that have less formal ideas about prom where short cocktail style dresses or even formal outfits for girls that aren’t dresses at all may be appropriate, but this is something your school will tell you!
Homecoming is a week-long event at most schools that takes place in early fall and which is usually about celebrating the achievements of the school football team (though in some schools known for other sports, football may be less of the focus), and the general beginning of the school year. Homecoming should not be confused with homecoming at college, which is a time when previous alumni return to the college and is more akin to a reunion period of sorts.
There will be all kinds of different events during the week of homecoming, with the dance at the end being the one most people get excited about! Homecoming usually has people who are voted for as the homecoming king and queen, and sometimes other roles like princes and princesses. This ‘homecoming court’ has various roles to fill during events of the week and are celebrated at the dance.
Homecoming dances are usually less formal than prom, and so this is where you can wear more fashion-focused evening wear rather than the traditional, formal gowns of a black tie event. Shorter dresses are usually acceptable, as can be flatter shoes, and wearing hair down in a less formal style if you want to. You can find some beautiful ideas for homecoming dresses at Jovani. Jovani is a fashion brand that specializes in evening and formal wear with dresses suitable for everything from prom and homecoming to beauty pageants and even bridal wear. Take a look at the Jovani homecoming dresses for inspiration if you’re not sure what sort of style you should be going for at this big school event.
As you can see, both events are quite different, but they do both give you a great chance to wear something really special and have a special night with your friends.