Go Back In Time With 20s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s Prom Themes

Sometimes there is nothing more fun that pretending to be somewhere else or becoming someone else. Small children love to play pretend – it comes naturally. We have whole industries built on fantasy. Just look at Hollywood for a major example. Again, Halloween is one of the biggest party holidays of the year, because even the adults get to dress in costume. We, the people, love to play pretend.

Elegant and beautiful formal evenings are one of the perfect places for people to be able to become someone else in another place and another time. With a decade themed prom night, your evening can range from the truly glamorous of the 20s and 50s to the glittering glitz of the ridiculously fun 80s. All it takes is an imagination and a little bit of elbow grease. With some luck, the following ideas will get your started on the imagination end; this year’s prom crew can provide the rest!

1920s Prom Theme

Known as the “Roaring Twenties” or the “Jazz Age,” when we think 1920s, we often think of Bette Davis, flappers, speakeasies, and Greta Garbo, to name a few off the top. To create the look and feel of the 1920s without revisiting the popular Great Gatsby theme from 2012, turn the prom into a speakeasy. Start with some invitations with iconic Art Deco lettering to invite the juniors and seniors back to a particular moment in time, and make sure all the guests know the “secret entrance” code: knock twice, give a whistle, and then knock once more. “Park” a gangster car standee near the entrance for added back-alley authenticity.

For drinks, make sure the punch is a clear liquid – perhaps mix sprite with clear kool-aid – and instead of traditional cups, use coffee mugs! (Since alcohol was illegal then.) Set up plenty of fog machines, because a real speakeasy was sure to be filled with cigarette smoke.

To announce the prom court, instead of doing it in the traditional fashion, stage a “raid”. Have the principal or whomever is going to announce to court come and “raid” the prom venue, complete with police sirens and everything. Once you have secured the attention of everyone in the room, announce the prom court!

Decorations can be simple, yet swanky. Black and gold satin and gossamer table linens, votive candles, and gobs of real looking strings of pearls on the table tops. For the photo standee, be sure to have fedoras and feather boas on stand-by to complete the point.

1950s Prom: At the Hop

Pink and black poodle skirts. Greasers and bomber jackets. Greased Lightnin’! And it is all going to happen at the hop! The 1950s was a time of hope and promise for the U.S. as soldiers returned from war and the war economy produced a time of prosperity that had been preciously unprecedented. Keep this feel good vibe in mind while planning a 1950s prom.

Be sure to have a juke box, or at least a cardboard reproduction. Keep the music themed to the 1950s, or use music from bands like Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s, who do updated covers of classic tunes. This is definitely the time to be channeling Elvis Presley, milk shakes, and cat eye glasses.

Set .45s on every table in the form of centerpieces, of course. Have records whirling from the ceiling, as well.

Alternatively, this could also be a good decade to use to play off the popularity of the new film, “On the Road,” featuring James Franco and Kristen Stewart. Beatniks, blues, wine, and social commentary could make for an interesting spin. Prom night attendees can even pose in the car from “On the Road!”

1960s Prom Theme

In contrast to the feel-good fifties, the 1960s was a time of turmoil and swift change. Playing on the art and ideas brought to the fore in San Francisco by the beatniks in the previous decade, protest slogans and peace signs are two prominent icons of this decade. Rainbows and flower power interspersed with some hand-made protest banners about Vietnam can set the stage here.

Use leis for favors at the door to give guests the look of flower children as they make their way through the beaded curtain. Face painting is always an option, and not as childish in the proper context. The music choices for the evening are varied, as the songs of the sixties remain some of the most popular music of all time. Create Haight and Ashbury street signs and hang faux-electric guitars on the wall. Scatter guitar picks at the tables, personalized with your prom info.

You could even make your prom into Woodstock, minus the illegal drugs, violence, and mayhem, of course. As any prom attendee would have obviously been too young to attend the ACTUAL Woodstock, the summer of ’69 and the famous music festival remain an idyllic fantasy for many young people. Capture the moment in time with 1960s peace sign stand in to help guise the brilliantly bedecked teenagers in sixties garb for a photo op. All in all, being able to attend “Woodstock Prom: 2013″ (through rose-colored lens, of course) could be the perfect magical evening.

1980s Prom: Studio 54

Many schools who choose to do an 80s prom theme go with neon, leg warmers, and feathered hair; more “Breakfast Club” than “Rent,” if you will. Those proms can be fun and special, to be sure. This year, however, consider a spin on the 80s prom theme and consider styling the venue like an 80s nightclub. Dark lighting, a mirrored disco ball, and dancers in the background help create the illusion of the infamous New York nightclub, Studio 54.

Brick corrugated paper should line the walls, complimented by strategically placed reflective metallic curtains to help with the illusion of dark and depth. Place different lights, like LED balls, throughout the venue space to create an understated yet dynamic lighting effect.

Be sure to play some *timely* 80s rock and dance music to fit with your theme. Instead of setting up a typical drinks and snacks table, create a bar tableau. When each couple comes in, give them city favor bags with money clips and some fake cash to spend “at the bar” for their drinks at Studio 54.

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