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In the United States, a prom, short for promenade, is a formal dance held at the end of the years of high school and college, called junior prom and senior prom respectively. In British English such an event would be called a ball, although in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand it is also often called a formal. In Australian schools the terms used are either formal or sometimes as Leaver's Dinner, usually so when the night includes a meal. In Ireland it is known as a debs (an abbreviation of debutante ball). In the U.S. a "formal" is typically a similar dance that is held by a fraternity or sorority affiliated with a certain college or university. In Australia, the term "prom" has also come into sparse usage and in Britain it is becoming widespread, because of US influence. The name is derived from the late ninteenth century practice of a Promenade ball. The end of year tradition stemmed from the Graduation Ball tradition.

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The Prom Garter

prom dress, prom gloves

A garter is usually worn by the bride on her wedding day and which is usually taken off her leg by her groom to throw out into a crowd of bachelors at the reception party. The garter has been viewed as a piece of intimate clothing because it used to be worn to hold up women's and men's stockings. The advent of elastic stockings, however, has left garter use to fashion purposes rather than practicality. It may have sexual connotations for some people as an item of clothing usually reserved for mature and experienced women. But have you ever heard of a prom garter? What does a young girl do with a prom garter at the prom?

Quoting from a Wikipedia article on garters, the prom garter is now being worn as part of prom tradition. Girls wore it around their leg, and after prom either their date would take it off from them or the girls take it off and give the prom garter as memento of the occasion. Some girls would exchange the prom garter for the boy's bow tie. The boys, in turn, would either wear the prom garter on their arm or hang the prom garter from the rearview mirror of their car as proof that "they got some" from their dates.

This prom garter tradition may seem sexual in nature, but considering that proms were ascendants of the debutante balls of the elite in which girls were formally introduced to polite society. This “coming out” event signals the readiness of a girl for marriage.

In effect, proms used to be some sort of informal introductions to weddings. Many young girls used to marry right after high school and were not able to enjoy a formal introduction to society. Proms held during the end of the high school years were a way to give these young girls a chance to enjoy their youth even for just one night.

As precursors of the debutante balls and formal balls attended by polite society, proms in high school were vehicles of education in social graces for teens. These not only include formal dinner etiquette, but also in interacting with the opposite sex. This is why proms are heavily associated with love and romance.

A prom garter, then, serves as a symbol for a girl’s maturity and readiness for a relationship. It is not customary for a girl to wear a prom garter to the prom, though many prom dress shops and tuxedo services attach a prom garter to purchases as a bonus. Other prom parties also include a formal garter ceremony in which the boys take off or were given the prom garters worn by their partners as mementos.

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