High School proms have become a national rite of passage.  This year, most Juniors and Seniors will be holding virtual proms, prom in their living room or will perhaps miss out altogether. 

Prom, short for the promenade of young people in their best and self-expressive attire, is usually held in the month of May.  Starting in the late 1800s at New England universities, proms spread to high schools across the nation by the 1930s.  By the post-war 1950s, prom was the event of the year for many American teenagers. 

Patricia Brackett, of Portsmouth, wore this pink satin and lace dress (1988.130) when she attended the 1954 Portsmouth High School Junior Prom.  Her dress is the height of 1950s fashion, when tiny waists, full skirts, extra frills, and poofs brought a sense of both innocence and romance.   On Saturday, May 22, 1954, at 8 pm the Junior Prom was held in the Junior High School gymnasium with the theme “Moonlight Serenade.” 

In the 2012 exhibition Thread:  Stories of Fashion at Strawbery Banke, 1740-2012, the prom dress was displayed in the 1950s era of the Shapley-Drisco House. The premise of the exhibit was to invite contemporary designers to be inspired by historic garments to create a new look. The dress accompanying Ms. Brackets was created for the exhibition by Denver fashion designer Katerina Lankova. Both dresses are made of lace and are true to their respective decades. 

According to their website, Portsmouth High School’s core values of Excellence, Community, Commitment, and Leadership provide the cornerstones we strive for as a community of learners. With these core values firmly in place, Portsmouth High School graduates are well-positioned to take on challenges and opportunities in our global society. 

Special recognition for the teachers in Portsmouth, and the rest of the world, is deserved for how they kept students engaged for the last months of the 2020 school year.  Next year, hopefully, they can all be back at prom.