Usually, spring means promposals, dress shopping, and scouring the internet for the best red carpet-inspired hair and make-up tutorials to botch. In the time of coronavirus, IRL prom is off, and TikTok prom is on. But you don't have to be in high school to pose for a TikTok prom pic — celebrities and attendees of proms past are continuing to pull out their Delia's tube-top dresses and retro three-piece suits to relive (or redo) that special event, even if corsages, limos, and grind lines are out of the question right now.
The platform hosted an official digital prom on April 25, debuting the hashtags #TikTokProm and #PromPortrait. Thanks to TikTok Prom host John Krasinski and his perfectly awkward slow dance video, users can continue to dress up for prom, if for no reason other than to make a duet video with him. But people are keeping prom season going on their own, too — the combined hashtags have amassed over two billion views.
For influencer and content creator Cristian Dennis, 24, getting a second chance at prom virtually was surprisingly therapeutic. Though Cristian notes that he did have fun at his IRL prom, where he rocked a tuxedo, he wasn't as comfortable expressing himself as he is today. "This time I was able to wear not only one but three dresses! It meant a lot to be able to redo my high school prom the way I wish I was able to," he tells Bustle. He adds that it felt like "a dream" to find a dress that fit him and that he walked around his bedroom "like princess, all night."
It seems that getting to redo your prom in quarantine is an opportunity many didn't know they needed. "Prom is significant at the time it’s occurring but we also know it has significance for the future, that our future selves will look back at that time, and we hope we have a favorable impression of our past self," clinical therapist Caroline Given, L.C.S.W., tells Bustle. "In a way, we’re kind of showing off to our future selves," Given adds. She explains that people who have already been to prom might be enticed by this trend as "a way of altering their narrative to reflect their more true self." Some things might have been too challenging to embrace as a teenager, like struggles with self-esteem or identity. "In that way it can almost be viewed as a corrective emotional experience," Given adds.
Other TikTok prom-goers were first-timers. "The tickets to our prom were pretty expensive and so were the dresses. I had a high school job at the time, but I needed all of that money for college and I didn’t want to burden my family by asking them for help," Jessica, 25, tells Bustle. "Getting dressed up reminded me of all the early giddiness — I think it worked out better that years later I could 'go to prom' with the perfect prom date," she says of dressing up with her now-husband.
If your prom was cancelled, or you're stuck in your childhood bedroom and being tempted by your old gown, or simply wishing you could do the night over again, you might want to queue up a slow song and give digital prom a whirl.
Caroline Given, L.C.S.W., clinical therapist and social worker