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Friday, May 8, 2015

Once Upon A Promenade: Prom 2015

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. May? It sucks. 'Tis the month in which millions of high school students suffer at the hands of the hellish disheartening pulverizing ruthless AP/IB tests. Luckily, though, I started May off attending Prom with my best friend. It's a bittersweet feeling, the sort that makes your heart stutter a bit, like you're trespassing in the past and you're afraid of saying anything, because anything might shudder you back into reality where time swings into infinity and all of your memories become just dried-up petals in dust-stained scrapbooks. But in writing this post, maybe I'll help engrave these memories into a little corner of the world. In times like these, I wonder if maybe forgetting is our greatest tragedy.

This year, my school's Prom took place at the Santa Anita Park, which is a horse-racing track. Admittedly, when the location was first revealed, I may or may not have grumbled a bit. A horse-racing track? What? Are we even legally allowed to bet on horses? And because I'm a photographer... I couldn't help but think that the lighting must suck if we're outdoors most of the time. But it actually turned out that the lights they had outside, when shot at the right angle, produced some beautiful dual tones. So although these pictures are going to be not the same quality as previous posts (I took most of these with my phone since I didn't want to bring a giant camera with me to Prom), I'm hoping they are enough. :)
It's funny, because Johnny asked me to Prom on the very last day possible, though he had wanted to ask me five months prior. Typical Johnny xD Anyhow, I don't have a picture of the Promposal 'cause I guess we forgot to take one, but it was very sweet. Je te remercie du fond de mon coeur, morse! I'd probably be suffocating in stacks of review books taller than my 5'2" self if we hadn't gone to Prom, aha. So thank you!

Anyways, he can read my mind, which is sort of annoying at times. Example? We both showed up to the same florist to get the boutonniere/corsage at the same time. Unplanned. So I'm coming from a swim test for a boat-racing event, and I run into him there the morning of Prom. I decided to just pretend like I never saw him, because, yo, it's just slightly awkward. But as you can see above, I bought a white rose boutonniere tied with dark blue ribbons. I almost stabbed him when I pinned it on him. Oops.
I am terrible with hair. And makeup. And basically the whole "looking decent" thing. Typically you will find me dressed in what I call a "chic hobo" style: oversized sweaters, maybe skinny jeans, definitely a pair of headphones if I haven't lost them again for the fourth time in two days. This is why I photograph for this blog, not model for it, aha. Dorothy is far better at looking fabulous (<3 to Doro). So of course I had to ask my good buddy Casey to help me with hair. Casey often helps me out on photoshoots that I do for my photography portfolio, and she's just a hair whiz in general. The above style I found here, if you'd like to attempt it yourself. It's basically a half-up half-down pancake braid with curls. Mad appreciation to Casey for helping out a sistah in need. ;) 

My friend Annalise helped me with my makeup. I was twitching the whole time. Such an overreaction, I know. I'm so not used to these things. Poor Annie was so nervous after she left my house because my restlessness was not reassuring to say the least, aha. But thank you so very much, Annie. I could've never pulled this off without your help!

After Johnny came to pick me up, my dad snapped this picture of us.
We ended up not getting professional pictures done at school, because I totally screwed up. I thought the pictures were to be taken at the venue, not a few hours before prom itself. Advice to all: figure out the logistics, and figure them out early

We went to my friend Sarah's house to take pictures with a group of people I mostly know well from Science Olympiad. Here is a picture of Johnny putting on my corsage (thank you Gabe for the pic!) and then I promise I'll get to the more culture/fashion side of this whole shebang.

My bangs are in my face. *sigh* Dorothy claims this picture is her favorite though, so I had to include it.

Before I submerge into the fashion of Prom, I think it's interesting to look at...

The History of Prom

Though yearbooks didn't include pictures of Prom until the 1930s, prom may actually have started as early as the late 1800s. Prom, short for promenade, is by definition a formal dance. Whereas it began as a college gathering, prom eventually weaved its way into a high school tradition. In the early 1900s, when it was more of a simple tea party than "a grand affair," the 1920s and 1930s saw the evolution of Prom into a party-themed extravaganza. This makes a heap of contextual sense, because the 1920s saw end of WWI affluence in the U.S., and a youth culture emerged that defied the "modesty" of previous eras. Through flappers and the prevalence of smoking, it's easy to see how Prom in that time adapted to shifting ideals. 

By the 1950s, when the U.S. emerged from WWII as a world power, widespread American affluence sprinkled in doses of elaborate traditions into the dance so that it grew to resemble the Prom we think of today. From that time on, Prom became more competitive; a symbol of popularity; the zenith of the high school experience. It can seem shallow, for sure, but that doesn't in fact derail too far from the early days of Prom's history. Indeed, Prom used to be like a debutante ball; a revolution of firsts; an adventure as reverberating as a wedding. But surely it is no longer strictly this way. I think nowadays Proms are far more relaxed, tolerant, and malleable. It's relieving to think that many students who couldn't enjoy their Prom before (LGBTQ, for example) now can, at least in more and more areas around the world now. The history of Prom is an amusing-in-retrospect and a revealing one, not just of the human desire to feel important and worthwhile, but also of ever-changing ideas and social standards.


When we arrived at the dance, there was a long line of people waiting to check in. Even the check in table was beautifully decorated. I love the attention to small detail. Details are easily forgotten but never erased. I think they embellish any story the way our shadows embellish our lives: a constant reminder of a complex, staggering reality that we sometimes forget exist. (You know, because the fact that shadows exist, that they obey laws of physics arbitrarily carved into the heart of the universe...)
Here is a panorama of the inside building (click on it to enlarge). Apparently another school was having their Prom on the second floor while we were on the first floor. You couldn't even tell. The dance music was so loud. Throbbing. Unforgiving. Deafening with drumbeats vibrating every joint in your body.
Here is a picture of the actual dance space. I have to say, the music wasn't particularly grand. Maybe even bland. I think there was only one slow song, which was a shame. Johnny and I ended up spending far more time at the karaoke station outdoors by the horse carriages. 

By the karaoke station was where the lighting nerd in me flourished. Wow wow wow. I loved the contrasting lights. Blue and pink, green and orange. Opposite colors on the color wheel.

A cage and a candle along with miscellaneous empty cups at a table

More details; yay! The hearts are the view from the inside of the carriage. It was quite nice, just riding in a Cinderella-esque carriage with gentle caresses of wind and brushstrokes of stars. I felt bad for the horse though... :-/


Of course, this is the big thing at Prom, right? All the dresses, the glamour... It's a big deal. Choosing the perfect prom dress can be stressful. But I've noticed some trends throughout the night that I'm here to share with you to help you find the perfect solution.

Here is Eve again, a previous guest poster. What I loved about Eve's outfit was how it was so utterly her. I think that's the key here. No matter how glittery/glitzy everyone else seems to be, don't be afraid to be yourself. After all, fashion is a way to express yourself. So don't be scared to take "too long" deciding on a dress, and don't be scared to take "too many risks" with what you want. It might not be brimming with sequins, but why is a classic Audrey Hepburn-look (which I saw a few of) not fabulous? Also, Eve's headdress is so on point. Speaking of which....

Accessories! As an artist, I look at things looking for balance. I think that's what is the most aesthetically pleasing thing for most people: balance. If you have a strapless dress (like I did), go ahead and wear a necklace, but make sure it's not so long that it drapes past your bodice so that there is a heavier focus on the bottom half of your body than the top half. If you look at Eve, the lack of necklaces actually helped accentuate her dress while the headdress balanced the outfit. Sometimes, less is more!

Here are some details of the necklace I wore:

What I found surprising but fascinating is how popular color is these days. And by color I mean bright colors. I saw a number of neon dresses. I think neon dresses could definitely be cool, but personally I suggest that if you want a neon colored dress, make sure it's of a shade that isn't too mixed. What I mean is that a pure pink or a pure yellow, in my opinion, is a lot smoother than if something that is halfway between teal and lemon yellow. Mixed colors can look messy, especially if they're super vibrant, like they are in neon. Plus, there will be colored lights everywhere to make your dress a mix of all sorts of colors, so if the dress is an ambiguous shade to begin with, it can get jarring to look at under disco lights.

Of course, classic colors--champagne, white, black, maroon, royal blue--were numerous as well. Many had sequins or beads or glitzy stones on them, and mesh was very popular. Many dresses had mesh sleeves or a mesh area around the neck. I think variance in texture is awesome. Just don't overdo it. While there are certainly people who can pull off a fully-sequined dress, I personally wouldn't be able to look at it very long without my head spinning.

My favorite trend, though, has to be the emergence of floral/watercolor/patterns. I'm biased, I know. My dress is floral. But I think they're pretty unique, and in addition to the whole balance thing I am also a fan of strategic geometric asymmetry. And patterns are awesome for that.

These details are what compelled me to the dress. The fabric flows like water with the shimmery blue, and the bodice isn't a typical strapless/sweetheart neckline. Also? THIS DRESS HAD 2 (!!!) POCKETS. What more could I ask for?!

Here are some of my wonderful friends. While they all look fabulous, I especially love Vicki's dress (the rightmost one). The blue and the gold provide great contrast (and if you don't want something plain, choose something either very complementary like blue and green, or something with a solid background that has shapes/details in a contrasting color). I think the pattern on her dress is just so cool. It draws your attention but isn't forceful. Subtlety. Subtlety! (I sound like an essay-grading rubric...)

Key words? Contrast. Complements. Subtlety. Patterns. Pure colors. Balance. Geometry.

Annnnd now time for a group picture!

I have to post #Charleitan here, because Sarah and I shipped this Prom duo so hard. Charlotte tried to deny it, but WE PREVAILED! 8) #PromOTP (Also photo cred to John)
Thanks for reading, everyone! Apologies for the erratic schedule of posts. AP/IB testing is pretty soul-sucking, aha, but we will do our best to update as consistently as possible. I leave you with this glorious picture of Gabe with his... is that ginger ale?
photo cred to John

My Prom Outfit:
Floral dress: Nordstrom (and I found a similar/amazing one here)
Necklace: Macy's
Shoes (you can't see them, but they're your standard black heels, basically): Macy's

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