How Homecoming fashion has evolved throughout the years


Image from 1996 Hart High School Yearbook

Homecoming itself has evolved and changed immensely over the decades since it first appeared in the late 19th century.

As homecoming has evolved and changed, so have the generations of students who attend high schools. Each generation brought with them new styles of clothing and incorporated current fashion trends into homecoming attire. 

The 1940’s were war years and material to make homecoming dresses were rationed. This made homecoming dresses of the era simplistic, yet elegant and floor length. For some pop, many dresses also had glitter or repurposed decorative elements from other dresses. 

1950’s dresses were very similar, but more extravagant because World War II was over and the economy was booming. Tulles, a nylon netting surrounding dresses, and taffetas, a luxurious silk, were in style. Society still expected women to cover their bodies, and the most homecoming dresses were allowed to show during this era were bare shoulders and arms. 

The 60’s homecoming dress was far different than the 50’s,

“Homecoming fashion was moving away from prim and proper to a more streamlined look reflecting the major attitude shift of that era,” said Marla Sandall, a high school student in California during the 1960’s. 

“Elbow length gloves, floor length skirts, and other [accessories] of past eras that generally hid the female body [were still mainstream. But,] by 1967, the empire waist was in… norms were becoming less rigid and more open to personal preference,” Sandall said. 

This led the way for 70’s homecoming attire, which was more colorful and fun than the former decades’ homecoming dresses. 70’s dresses had huge floral patterns, intricate sleeves and were mainly pastel, with bright colors favored in the “flower power” era and the rise of the hippie movement. 

The 80’s were much bolder than the 70’s. Many dresses during the 80’s were thigh length, which is shorter than any dress from previous decades. 80’s homecoming dresses included many other flashy designs, such as puffy sleeves, huge bows, velvet tops and various other never-seen-before fashion statements. This is strikingly different from the homecoming attire of previous decades, and from 90’s homecoming attire as well. 

With the rise of the grunge style and alternative fashion trends, 90’s homecoming dresses were more dark with muted colors. These dresses were much more informal, less “in your face” than dresses from the 80s and more likely to be paired with Doc Martens or other less formal kinds of shoes. 

The evolution of homecoming fashion trends reflect the progression of society’s views of women. Now more than ever before, women are able to freely express themselves in a variety of ways that were previously not deemed socially acceptable. In the 2020’s, fashion trends from previous decades may make a resurgence because women have more freedom to wear whatever they want. New trends and fashion statements that are inspired from previous decades may also arise with each new generation.