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    23 Iconic TV And Movie Prom Looks Ranked From "Burn It" To "Bury Me In It"

    Pretty sure I'm going to make some enemies with this one.

    Just so you know, this ranking includes outfits from proms, homecomings, dances from outside the US, and all other types of formal high school soirées, because there are some iconic looks that deserve a spot on the list, even if they don't technically appear in a prom scene.

    A bunch of teenagers dancing at prom.
    Charles Gullung / Getty Images

    And now, without any further ado, an entirely subjective ranking of 23 iconic onscreen prom looks from "mediocre" to "literally what dreams are made of."

    23. Andie Walsh's DIY two-dresses-in-one mashup from Pretty in Pink.

    Andie wearing her handmade pink dress
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    I want to like this dress so badly, because Andie made it herself, and that deserves a near-endless amount of kudos. But...

    Andie and Duckie standing together at the prom
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    ...I just don't! From the high lace neckline to the poof-forward sleeves to the polka dot pattern to the way it fits, nothing here is working for me.

    Ducky and Andie arm-in-arm at the prom
    Paramount /

    I'd like to apologize to the 1980s for my sacrilege. 

    22. Josie Geller's Renaissance gown from Never Been Kissed.

    Josie wearing the dress and talking to her classmates
    Fox /

    I love a statement sleeve (and a statement dress), but the pink and green color scheme, along with the sheer amount of lace, is alarming to me.

    The dress showing off the bell sleeves
    Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    That being said, this dress is supposed to be a costume. While it's not my personal style, as a former drama kid I can only imagine how much fun it would be to wear it onstage and feel Shakespearean as hell.

    20th Century Fox /

    21. Carrie Bradshaw's senior prom look from The Carrie Diaries.


    Oh, boy. Carrie, you grow into a fashion icon, but now is not your time.

    Carrie wearing the dress and looking sad

    The random swirling pattern is what takes it from "quirky" to "bad" for me. It just looks like the carpet of your local bowling alley.


    If you're curious, these dresses are arranged from left to right in the order of how much I like them. 

    20. Rory Gilmore's vintage throwback dress from Gilmore Girls.

    Rory in a blue dress matched with combat boots

    First of all: Love the boots. Second of all: Eh.

    Rory in her dress

    I just can't condone a navy prom dress. Maybe it's my long history of having to wear school uniforms, but I don't associate this color with joyful self-expression.

    Rory sighing in her dress

    It's definitely a nice dress, just not a particularly exciting one. 

    19. Erin Quinn's turquoise gown from Derry Girls.

    Erin trying on the dress in the dressing room
    Hat Trick Productions

    Here's the problem with this outfit: Erin is clearly uncomfortable in it, and that violates the First Commandment of Clothes.

    Erin in her dress
    Hat Trick Productions

    The First Commandment of Clothes being, of course, "Thou shalt not wear clothes that make you feel bad to impress other people."

    That's why it's such a relief when she changes out of this perfectly-nice-but-not-Erin dress and into...

    Erin sitting at the table, waiting for her date
    Hat Trick Productions

    ...her Easter frock. I don't like how this dress looks, nor does Erin, but that's not really the point. She obviously feels way better in it than she did in her blue gown, and that makes it a good outfit.

    Erin coming down stairs in pink dress with white collar
    Hat Trick Productions

    18. Bella Swan's modest, "I almost died, so yeah I'm wearing leggings to the prom" outfit from Twilight.

    Bella Swan and Edward under a Monte-Carlo Sign
    Summit Entertainment

    I know that Bella's been through a lot, and she's dealing with a healing broken leg, but this look is just unforgivably bland.

    Bella wearing her cardigan and standing with Edward
    Summit Entertainment

    What teenager would willingly choose to wear a cardigan to their prom? 

    The movie doesn't dwell on this outfit, because I think it knows it could've done better. The blue tiered dress underneath the cardigan (*shiver*) is fine, but it's more "guest at an acquaintance's wedding" than "teenage girl going out with the immortal love of her life."

    Edward and Bella dancing in the gazebo
    Summit Entertainment

    I'd like to get on the record that I'm not opposed to cardigans in general; I'm just opposed to them in this specific context. The last thing I want is to have Big Wool after me. 

    17. Sharpay's hot pink performance dress from High School Musical 3.

    Sharpay in a dress with an uneven bottom and pink feathers adorning the skirt

    I've never seen High School Musical 3, but as far as I can tell, the musical is about their prom? So even though this is a costume, I'm counting it.

    sharpay dancing

    While I love the matching gloves, the rest of the dress isn't working for me. The tulle peaking out of the skirt seems like an afterthought, and since this is Sharpay, after all, I would expect more bedazzling than the few little stones on the bodice.

    Sharpay dancing onstage
    Disney / Courtesy Everett Collection

    16. Buffy's lavender rhinestoned gown from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    Buffy walking into prom
    Mutant Enemy Productions

    I said lavender, but it may be mauve, which I think is basically lavender that's feeling a bit under the weather. 

    When I first saw it, I definitely didn't love it, but it's fine. Completely acceptable. And then...

    A close up of the bodice of Buffy's dress
    Mutant Enemy Productions

    BAM! It's got a giant train...thing. A bustle? I get the need for drama, but this actively makes the dress worse.

    The back of buffy's dress, with all the fabric gathered behind it
    Mutant Enemy Productions

    It looks off-centered and a bit haphazard, like the wardrobe department had to pin it up to make sure it didn't drag too much. 

    The reveal of the bustle (I'm just going with it now) happens to coincide with one of the show's most heartwarming moments: Buffy receiving the "Class Protector" award. And to be honest, it's a touch distracting.

    Buffy receives her parasol for Class Protector
    Mutant Enemy Productions

    This dress receives extra points for being in one of the series' best scenes, and negative points for committing the crime of bustle in the first degree. 

    15. Liz's "I'm blissfully ignorant of my father's super-villainy" party dress from Spider-Man: Homecoming.

    Liz in her short red dress
    Marvel /

    There's nothing wrong with it, but it's a little plain, and comes across as more "interview" than "party."

    Liz smizing in her dress
    Marvel /

    The length and overall shape of it are cute, though. I just wish there was a statement accessory. Maybe something that says, "My dad is an illegal arms dealer, and until that meddling Spider-Man showed up, he was doing pretty well for himself."

    Liz left alone at the prom

    And I can't with flats. I don't like how they look, and I don't like how the flat industry lies to us and tells us that they're more comfortable than heels. They're not! They're just uncomfortable in new and innovative ways! 

    14. Gabriella Montez's fluffy white dress from High School Musical 3.

    Gabriella dancing in the white dress

    Just like Sharpay's look above, this dress is a costume from the high school musical about prom that features prominently in the high school musical High School Musical 3. That makes sense, right?

    Gabriella dancing in her white dress

    I love the thin little feathers attached to this dress, and it has great movement while Gabriella dances. But there's nothing particularly special about it, either. It's the sort of dress you'd try on, like, and then forget about five dresses later.

    Gabriella dancing in her dress

    The feathers attached to the shoes are a brilliant touch, though. 

    13. Mercedes' purple gown from Glee.

    Mercedes wearing a purple bejeweled gown
    20th Century Fox

    This dress is definitely of an era (specifically, the late '00s), and while that era may have passed, it's still a statement gown that looks great on Mercedes.

    up close of the bodice, with matching shawl and jeweling
    20th Century Fox

    This is without a doubt a prom dress, as in, it's a dress that would be completely out of place in any scenario other than a high school prom. It's a look you only get one or two chances to pull off, and Mercedes recognized that and delivered.

    Mercedes singing with Santana
    20th Century Fox

    12. Regina George's satin minidress from Mean Girls.

    Regina George sticking flowers onto her neck/spine brace
    Paramount Pictures

    Side note: I've never noticed before that Amy Poehler is also wearing a prom dress in this scene. It's a perfect character moment, and I have no notes. 

    It's not quite the bombshell look you'd expect from a Queen Bee, but as Cady points out, Regina still looks this good after fracturing her spine, so credit where credit is due.

    A close up of Regina's minidress

    And the flowers adorning Regina's brace move it from "cute but forgettable" to "movie costume Hall of Famer."

    Flowers adorning Regina George's head brace

    11. Kat Stratford's reluctant prom attendee dress from 10 Things I Hate About You.

    Kat in a long dark blue dress with a shoulder shawl and pearls
    Buena Vista Pictures

    It's sophisticated and mature, like Kat herself, but just a little too drab for my tastes.

    Kat walking up the stairs
    Buena Vista Pictures

    The pearls and shawl age up this look considerably. (The pearls are significant because they belonged to Kat's mother, but aesthetically I'm not into their use here.) 

    Also, that hair looks like it would be painful. I got an updo for one of my proms, and it wasn't anywhere near as elaborate as Kat's, but I still spent around 30 minutes afterward pulling out bobby pin after endless bobby pin.

    Kat and Patrick point in their prom looks
    Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    10. Santana's mermaid gown from Glee.

    Santana in a mermaid gown that reaches the floor
    20th Century Fox

    Again, this dress is from a period piece, and the period is "10 years ago." But while the ruching is a little extreme, the dress as a whole is dramatic and fun.

    Santana dancing in her red dress
    20th Century Fox

    The single shoulder strap of fake roses is pretty spectacular too.

    Santana performing at her prom
    20th Century Fox

    9. Sandy's simple white dress from Grease.

    sandy sashay-ing in a white dress

    I like this dress because I feel like dresses like this don't really exist anymore, outside of the costume closets of regional theater companies that have recently done Grease.

    Sandy dancing in her dress
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    I'm not a big fan of the embellishments around the waist, since they come across as a little flower girl-y, but this dress has so much movement that it just seems fun to wear.

    Sandy and Danny dancing
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Plus those white patent leather dance shoes are absolutely adorable and would make such a satisfying sound while you walked across the gym floor. 

    8. Toni Topaz's beaded ensemble from Riverdale.

    tni topaz in doorway while wearing beaded top

    I remember trying on dresses like this! The heavily embellished top combined with a chic black skirt make for a glamorous combination.

    up close of toni's beaded top

    I'm biased, because I wore a black prom dress, but can I just say, I love a black prom dress!

    toni's beaded top and bottoms close up while hugging cast member in red dress

    7. Sam Montgomery's Cinderella costume from A Cinderella Story.

    Sam at the top of the stairs at the venue in a huge white ballgown
    Warner Bros. Pictures

    This gown is objectively a totally absurd thing to wear to a costume party. But it's sort of magical because of its absurdity.

    A close up of the bodice
    Warner Bros. Pictures

    The transition from lace to rhinestones on the bodice is a bit clumsy, though.

    The bodice, with lace on top and then rhinestones underneath
    Warner Bros. Pictures

    But the best part of this ensemble is definitely our Cinderella's early 2000s glass slipper: Her star-studded, ankle-holstered cellphone.

    Sam's phone attached to her shoe
    Warner Bros. Pictures

    When Sam has to leave the party before midnight, it's this phone that her Prince Charming discovers. (Prince Charming is Chad Michael Murray dressed in a very convenient Prince Charming costume.) 

    6. Blair Waldorf's gold-embroidered peacock gown from Gossip Girl.

    Blair walking into prom with her date

    This dress is as rich kid ridiculous as you'd expect, and then some. But that doesn't mean it's not beautiful.

    Blair unfolding the dress from a box while her maid watches

    I could see someone wearing this to a bird-themed Met Gala and not making waves, exactly, but getting a respectful "they understood the assignment" from Twitter. 

    And extremely expensive prep schools always have the best prom queen tiaras.

    Blair wearing an extravagant tiara

    5. Emma and Alyssa's sparkly/retro looks in The Prom.

    emma and alyssa holding hands
    Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    What I like about these outfits is that they take the traditionally masculine (suits, sneakers, a boutonniere)...

    a close up of emma's pant suit

    ...and the traditionally feminine (pink, glitter, a corsage)...

    Alyssa's pink glittery party dress
    Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    ...and then individualize and subvert those traditions to create looks that are equal parts unique, queer, and fun as hell. They're not my personal style, but they're undeniably their characters'.

    Emma and Alyssa sitting on prom thrones

    Out of the two, Alyssa's glittery party dress is probably my favorite, though you can't deny the fact that Emma would become an instant school legend for that powder blue tux. 

    These outfits also don't take themselves too seriously, which is a common onscreen prom pitfall.

    emma nad alyssa hugging
    Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    It's a dance, not a State Dinner. 

    4. Tina's second prom dress from Season 5 of Glee.

    Tina in a tea-length pink glittery dress
    20th Century Fox

    So Tina walks into prom wearing this...

    Tina wearing a huge black ballgown
    20th Century Fox

    ...but then she gets doused in red goo, Carrie-style, so she changes into this.

    Tina holding roses and speaking at the microphone in the pink dress
    20th Century Fox

    Stop Carrie-ing your classmates, everyone! 

    I love this dress. I love its length, its color, its commitment to its shininess. The only thing I'm not totally on board with is the pieces of unadorned fabric crisscrossing the bodice, but I'm willing to forgive that, because this is adorable.

    Tina singing in the dress
    20th Century Fox

    3. Carrie's sweet pre-telekinetic rampage look from Carrie.

    Carrie receiving flowers and a crown in a long pink dress
    Red Bank Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Is this dress seconds away from being drenched in pig's blood? Yes. But does that mean we can't appreciate it, prior to it being drenched in pig's blood? No!

    Here's Carrie's (nearly identical) dress from the 2013 remake.

    Carrie, as played by Chloe Grace Moretz, gets ready for prom while her mother watches
    Sony Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    The shape of the dress (and Carrie's hair) are pretty damn close to the 1976 version, though the choice of fabric modernizes the look slightly. It looks like velour to me, but that's just a guess. 

    It ends badly for everyone, but I appreciate this look's simplicity. It's pretty, you can dance in it, and it looks great with a crown: What's not to like? (That '70s prom tux. That's what.)

    Carrie becoming prom queen and holding hands with her date
    Red Bank Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    That being said, I've never loved the whole shawl thing. You can't make me carry around a long, unattached piece of fabric and not expect me to a) trip over it and b) wave it around like I'm one of those Olympic ribbon dancers. 

    2. Bianca Stratford's hot pink tutu look from 10 Things I Hate About You.

    biance stratford posibgn with hands clasped
    Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Employee at the Prom Dress Store: How much tulle are you looking for? 

    Bianca: Yes. 

    Folks, it's time for some separates. The crop top + big skirt was a huge prom trend when I was in high school, though I never saw it executed with a floor length tutu, unfortunately.

    Bianca in her two piece prom look, with a big tutu skirt and a matching pink satin top
    Buena Vista Pictures

    From the pink rhinestone necklace to the tiny useless bag to the shiny satin top: Bianca committed, and she looks great. 

    The thin silver headband doesn't quite match with the rest of the look (not that that's inherently a problem; it's just, the rest of this look matches).

    Bianca wearing a thin silver headband in her hair while yelling
    Buena Vista Pictures

    OK, fine, I'll admit it: I mostly included this image to remind you that Bianca's wearing this outfit when she breaks the nose of her (and Kat's) shitty ex-boyfriend. She's defending her honor, her sister's, and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt's, all at once. It's perfect. 

    And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, the culmination of it all, the crème de la crème of the prom genre, my number-one pick for the best onscreen prom dress...

    MTV /

    1. Cheryl Blossom's bombshell gown from Riverdale.

    Cheryl Blossom wearing a dress with a deep V cut, a sequined bodice, and a tulle skirt

    This dress delivers both in its overall impression and in its details. I love the back, and the bow at the waist is an unexpected (but welcome) nod to an earlier era of prom dresses.

    the details on the back of cheryl blossom's dress

    The drama of this look is exquisite, and not only because she's modeling it in her creepy family mansion. This is the dress you wear for tearful declarations of love, for accepting your Oscar, for getting interviewed before you enter the Hunger Games. Prom is built up, rightly or wrongly, as a big moment in a young person's life, and this dress — nay, this gown — is made for a Big Moment and is itself one.

    cheryl blossom's low cut dress

    It may be more at home on the red carpet than in a high school gym, but it's too gorgeous to not take the top spot. 

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