That Dress

11 of the most memorable on-screen prom dresses

Words: Melly Neil | Illustrations: Anja Venter

Is it just us or is our local version of the high school prom – the end of year matric dance – getting out of control? Dress by Terrence Bray, limousine rental, after party outfit, hair, nails, wax, shoes, clutch bag, jewelry… and all this just months prior to that Matric Rage expenditure? The movies have a special way of making something as simple as a school dance even more of a coming-of-age milestone than it really is. (Trust us, you won’t care about it a month into your first year of varsity). Obviously every girl wants to play the princess, and you’ll be glad to know that there are better ways to do this than dip into your varsity savings. A little bit of imagination goes a long way. Get inspired by our selection of iconic teen-movie prom dresses, and then shop Superbalist for evening dresses, cocktail dresses, winter dresses and more, so that you can relive some of the most memorable on-screen looks, ever.

Never Been Kissed

Who? Josie Geller.

What? Pink, puffy sleeved dress.

When? Ironic, so-bad-it’s-good dress-up prom parties.

With? Nerdy charm and a side-pony.

Never Been Kissed had Drew Barrymore playing ugly duckling Grossy Josie, who gets a chance to go back to school and right her previous wrongs. Having her orthodontics removed, and replacing that puffy-sleeved, lace dress proved that setbacks pave the way for comebacks.


Who? Sandy Olsson.

What? Strappy, retro midi dress.

When? The 50s call...

With? The one that you want.

Not everyone can say that their school dance was televised, but when DJ Vince Fontaine comes to town the kids of Rydell High put on their flounciest dance dresses and slide to the devil’s Rock 'n' Roll. Olivia Newton John’s Sandy is a picture of virginal purity in her white dress, and you’ll get double points if you have a tight-fitting, all-black outfit to slip into for the after-party to go bad-gal Sandy.

She's All That

Who? Laney Boggs.

What? Super hot and extremely elegant LBD.

When? You’re undercover hot and need to show it.

With? Inner beauty and a French twist.

Who would’ve guessed that bookish Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook) had such a banging body? When she lost her specs and switched out her painter's smock for a black bodycon it was the ultimate reveal, and made us want to dance to Fat Boy Slim’s 'Rockerfeller Skank'. Still, it must be noted that you should never dress for anyone other than yourself. Don't forget that Laney was beautiful even before she conformed.

10 Things I Hate About You

Who? Kate Stratford.

What? Purple sphaghetti-strap gown.

When? Your school is a castle, and he can’t take his eyes off of you.

With? Mom’s pearls, chiffon shawl and an updo.

Like She’s All That this was another goodie from the late 90s that made us want to prom like it was 1999. Besides Julia Stiles’s getting wooed by Heath Ledger in his first American role, you should totally watch this one again for the following exchange:

“There’s a difference between like and love. Because, I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack.”

“But I love my Skechers.”

“That’s because you don’t have a Prada backpack.”

Pretty In Pink

Who? Andie Walsh.

What? DIY pink polka-dot prom dress.

When? Off the rack just won’t do.

With? Rose-tinted glasses – that dress is almost as fugly as Grossy Josie's!

80s teen queen Molly Ringwald (yay The Breakfast Club!) plays Andie Walsh, who takes a hand-me-down dress from her older friend and remixes it with the 'thrifted thing' her dad found her. Using her seamstress skills she then makes everyone look dumb, and obviously goes on to get the guy.


Who? Bella Swan.

What? Halter-style, royal blue dress.

When? You need to sparkle as much as your date does.

With? Vintage cardigan, Chuck Taylors and a cast.

After narrowly escaping death, again, this time by a bunch of wandering vampires, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is persuaded to attend her prom and does so by dressing down a tiered mid-length dress with a beat-up pair of Converse. So Bella!

Mean Girls

Who? Regina George.

What? Fitted, satin pink mini dress.

When? Spring fling.

With? Flower-crown-adorned neck brace.

Okay so while it’s not exactly difficult to compete with a ginger in a mathlete’s jacket and a riot girl wearing a purple tux, Regina (Rachel McAdams) looks SO FETCH even while wearing a neck brace! 

Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion

Who? Romy and Michelle.

What? Black, Madonna-inspired outfits.

When? Flashback scenes.

With? Madonna-styled hair, rosaries and your BFF.

Want to know why Romy White (Mira Sorvino) and Michelle Weinberger (Lisa Kudrow) have the best time ever? Yes they dressed up like Madonna, danced the Vogue and performed a choreographed dance routine to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’. But it was by having fun as besties (not popping their cherries or being voted the most popular girl in school) that they made the best memories.


Who? Courtney Shayne.

What? Micro bodycon dress.

When? You need to drop jaws as well as break them.

With? Confidence.

Rose McGowan plays satan-in-heels Courtney Shane, and we know that we should hate her, and we do, kind of, but mon Dieu, that dress! It’s so whispery and light, it’s as if she simply showered and then walked through a sexy silver ghost. She is the teen dream.


Who? Carrie White.

What? A homemade, silky satin pink slip. 

When? You dress to kill. 

With? Preferably no pig’s blood.

You may be a bit young for this one, and Carrie’s definitely not your typical teen movie queen, but trust us when we say that Sissy Spacek as Carrie White is worth PVRing TCM for. Carrie is a prom movie classic, the moral of which is to say no to bullying, because you might just get locked inside the school hall and set on fire by telekinesis.