Have You Ever Made a Prom Dress?

In New Girl season 2, we flashbacked to Jess's high school prom and the dress she and her mom made together. Photo courtesy of Fox.
Of course Jess made her own prom dress, with her mom’s help. New Girl photo courtesy of Fox.

This is the time of year when high school girls and guys are thinking ahead to their proms and what they’re going to wear. Which is almost as important as who you’re gonna go with. Sewing your own prom dress has long been a thing and we’ve been providing prom dress patterns for decades. Take a look at these prom dress patterns from the past:

McCall's prom dress patterns from the 1980s. Brooke Shields on the right.
McCall’s prom dress patterns from the 1980s. Brooke Shields on the right. Not sure what’s going on with her hair. Was “bird’s nest hair” an ’80s thing?
Pink prom dress patterns from the 1950s and 1960s. The McCall Pattern Company
Pink prom dress patterns from the 1950s and 1960s. Why yes, you can have the next dance with lil ol’ me.
Glam prom dress patterns from the 1950s and 1960s. The McCall Pattern Company.
Glam prom dress patterns from the 1950s and 1960s. Precursor to Elsa the Ice Princess.

Have you ever sewn a prom dress? Either for yourself or someone else? We’d love to hear about it. I adore this short prom dress that Robin, who is a senior illustrator/technical assistant here at McCall’s, made for her daughter a few years ago using McCall’s M6349:

Prom dress made using McCall's M6349

I visited some shopping sites for prom dresses just now, and it seems “beauty pageant contestant” is the look for 2015.  Couldn’t we have a return to the prom styles of the 1950s, when our moms and grandmothers were girls and the more petticoats, the better? Those types of dresses just seem so quintessentially American prom to me. My own prom dress—which I did not sew—was a pink ruffly mess. Do you have fond memories of your prom dress?

If you are sewing a prom dress this year, either for yourself or for your daughter, take a look at all the patterns and inspiration we’ve pinned for you on this Pinterest board. And remember to share your prom creations with us on Instagram and Facebook! We like to live vicariously.

Follow The McCall Pattern Company’s board Prom 2015 Patterns on Pinterest.

We’ve been sewing since 1863.

  1. I definitely sewed my own prom dress (with my mom’s help) from a Big 4 pattern, though I have no idea what it was. It was a strapless mermaid dress with a sweetheart neckline, and it was a total hit. It’s still hanging around my mom’s basement somewhere!

  2. i made three prom dresses for my daughter. She helped me “tweak” the designs. It was always about the dress, not so much the date!

  3. I loved making my prom dress! I got exactly what I wanted. Here it is again, with the pattern I used. https://instagram.com/p/oozBOZJHB5

  4. Lovely blog post! Those 1950s patterns are especially divine. While I never sewed a prom dress in high school, I have created dozens of formal gowns for myself since I’ve been out of school. I attend many historical dancing balls, so it’s kind of like having a prom every month. 🙂

  5. My mom made my prom dress – I still have it somewhere. I highly doubt it would fit, though! 🙂 I loved having an absolutely one-of-a-kind dress.

  6. yes I definitely made my prom dresses, and I used Vogue designer patterns. I particularly remember one which was color blocked, I can’t remember the designer but it reminds me of the work of designer Roksanda Ilincic – which goes to show that everything comes around again in fashion. And another one I made had a coat that followed the lines of the dress pattern. I laugh to think how ambitious I was then for to make like that – and then spending the evening dancing with no shoes 🙂

  7. I made prom dresses for both my sisters! One, unfortunately, was out of a gorgeous cherub emblazoned brocade upholstery fabric, which I warned her would be very hot. However it was a cute little sheath dress that lives on in the minds of all her friends. My baby sister chose a periwinkle satin from (then) Minnesota Fabrics and I used horsehair braid for the first time on the hem! Because I didn’t line the skirt and didn’t want the hemstitching to show on the fashion fabric, and really? I just didn’t underline the skirt?! Again, it was before the internet! I love horsehair braid and it was a decent solution, but underlining was really all that it needed.

  8. Prom 1973, and yes I made the dress. It would be fun to find the original pattern, I’m pretty sure it was a Vogue. A sleek white dress, very form fitting. I added a baby blue wrap to match my date’s tux. I wore the dress again in college to a sorority formal. No baby blue wrap the second time and, fortunately, baby blue tuxes were no longer in style.

  9. Not a prom dress but I figure a bridesmaid dress is close enough. I made a knockoff of Kate Middleton’s blue engagement dress. I decided to take up sewing 2 years before the wedding knowing that my goal was to gain enough experience to make that dress. It worked out!

  10. I made my daughter’s 1950s style prom dress – I think it’s probably my proudest sewing moment!


  11. I made 3 prom dresses for my daughter and her wedding dress, which, 9 years later, I used to make a christening gown for HER daughter.
    My mother made me that pink dress with the tiered skirt and pointy things on the bust!! How great to see it!!!

  12. I’ve made my own prom dresses and both daughters, really fun sewing. My junior prom dress had me just finishing Gone With the Wind so of course I wanted to look like Scarlet. White lace gown, totally off the shoulder with a deep lace ruffle falling from the neckline. I had my long black hair pulled back and a big red flower to keep it in place to the side. Let’s just say I wasn’t wearing what the others wore. Another gown was a gold burnout chiffon with a very full skirt, empire waist and really simple but very pretty in the end. DD #1 wanted the 80s chintz dress look and I did the basque waist, off the shoulder neckline and full circular skirt. The chintz was salmon pink with lovely cream flowers. But my favorite of all was for DD#2. She asked me to make a dress just like the one the Baroness wore to the party in Sound of Music. It came out beautifully and was in dark green brocade sheath with a cream satin off the shoulder portrait collar. She look stunning. Only us sewists can honor requests for gowns like Gone with the wind or Sound of Music. We are a pretty lucky bunch!

  13. I actually sewed the dresses I wore to both my junior and senior proms, as well as a few Homecoming dresses. These were both in the late 90s, and I don’t remember off the top of my head which patterns I used. But the junior year one was a royal blue crepe, with a swishy double-layer skirt, an empire waist, and spaghetti straps (one of which broke when getting out of the car because the skirt was way too heavy for the strap, and one of my friends had to save me from wardrobe malfunction with an extra safety pin from her purse!) The senior year one was a fairly fitted A-line with a sweetheart-ish neckline and a scooped back with double criss-crossed wide straps. I made that one from a sparkly teal satin, and I distinctly remember that particular fabric purchase because it was one of the first times I’d tried to order fabric online instead of buying it from the local Joann’s!

  14. Ah — the early 70s were wonderful for prom dresses — why do we always skip the 70s in these retrospectives? Empire-waisted simple flowing gowns in flower prints. I don’t have photos but kept snippets of the fabric for dresses I made in 1970 and 1972 — the first things I sewed, with the help of my mom. My graduation gown (1972) was the only time I can recall wearing pink — the pink chiffon print had a dull satin sleeveless overdress worn over it, and a matching little purse. Perfect!

    1. Skipping the ’70s is never intentional! Sometimes it’s a matter of which old pattern books I can get to the easiest in a short period of time. Given the ’70s trend we’re experiencing now, I should post a 70s retrospective one of these days…

  15. My mother and I made my prom dress–a supremely 80s look, and not in a good way. It would be hard to find a silhouette that would be less flattering. We also made another fancy occasion dress based loosely on Princess Diana’s wedding gown… probably a McCalls pattern, although I’m not certain of that. It was definitely a better shape for my body type than the sack-like prom dress.

  16. My mom made my prom dress, and I really loved picking out every single detail! Unfortunately, this means that there’s no one to blame but myself for the lavender atrocity I wore! 😀 Imagine me engulfed in iridescent lavender poly chiffon… it’s as bad as it sounds! I loved it then, at least. 🙂

  17. I made my prom dress in 1988, I still have the pattern, and the dress. I have a remnant of the fabric, saving it for god knows what. I should do a blogpost.

  18. Never went to prom myself, but made dresses for the college equivalent, in the late 1970s. In 2008, ( made V2931 for my daughter, a Bellville Sassoon gown, interior corset and all. It was interesting, but I doubt I’ll ever sew that level of evening wear again.

    When she gets married, I plan to drape her in a sheet and put her on roller skates to drag her down the aisle, lol.

  19. I have sewn my daughters’ prom and homecoming dresses. They love being able to pick a look and customize it. I usually end up buying a pattern that has the general idea of what they want and making slight changes here and there for their creative looks.

  20. I sewed my pram dress in Grade 13. A strapless bustier from red crepe-back satin and a long mermaid style skirt to match. I think they were both Simplicity patterns though. The sewing job makes me cringe now, but 12 years ago I was so darn proud of myself. I still have it in my closet as I can’t bear to part with it.

  21. I hated my prom dress in the end. It was actually a bridesmaid dress and was black and white – too serious looking and not good colors for me. I was dying for a big floofy one, but we couldn’t afford it and my mom is not good at sewing.

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