It could be argued that the ‘90s was the decade that birthed the teen movie genre, and its accompanying prom scenes. We were spoiled for choice when it came to pop culture style icons back then, but early 2000s prom icons were as equally inspirational as the ones we looked up to in our childhoods. 1990s teen movies like She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You , and Never Been Kissed put a comedic twist on proms with their dramatic makeovers, catty one-liners, and freakishly good yet unrealistic dance choreography. But in the 2000s, prom got serious.
Many of our favorite teen movies and TV shows of the early noughts proved that dances didn’t always have happy endings. Crossroads saw Britney Spears as Lucy being almost peer pressured into having sex on graduation night, while the cotillion in The O.C. ended up in fisticuffs. Personally, I loved seeing some reality when it came to memorable dances that were supposed to be among the "best nights of our lives."
In addition to all this realness, early ‘00s prom outfits stepped things up a notch, too: Our fave on-screen icons looked super glam and resembled fully-fledged young women, rather than teeny boppers playing dress-up. These gals were serious about their formal wear, so here are a bunch of early ‘00s prom icons whom you might have admired when you were growing up.
1. Mia Thermopolis
If you were obsessed with The Princess Diaries books, you were likely equally smitten with the movies. Mia Thermopolis' transformation from a geeky school girl into a polished princess is celebrated when she wears this divine gown that's definitely worthy of royalty. At prom, many of us wanted to feel like princesses. So naturally, we pined after Mia's flowery strapless dress and tiara.
2. Sam Montgomery
Sam Montgomery's gorgeous gown and matching eye mask in A Cinderella Story gave us major inspo for masquerade ball-style proms. The embellished and structured bodice of her dress was so grown-up, but if you had strict parents, you might not have been allowed to wear an ensemble in this style.
3. Regina George
Mean Girls' Regina George gets run over by a bus and still manages to slay at her prom in a silky pink strapless dress and decorated back brace. This style of gown was the epitome of cool girl chic in the earlier millennium.
4. Janis Ian
Janis Ian of Mean Girls waved the flag for all the dress-hating folks out there. She also wasn't afraid of looking different or going against the grain in her purple suit. Janis likely helped many non-confirming kids show their personalities and unique styles at their own proms, which is really what this dance should be all about.
5. Gretchen Wieners
Fashion conscious Gretchen Wieners of Mean Girls was a little ahead of her time when she wore this lilac prom dress. While most femme girls in the early '00s opted for the strapless, straight dress — whether it be a maxi or mini — Gretchen picked a pretty fit and flare one instead.
However, she did choose a strapless style that was in keeping with the trend of the time. Fashion forward gals of the early '00s would follow in Gretchen's footsteps.
6. Joey Potter
Spaghetti straps? Check. Floaty shawl? Check? Teeny tiny purse? Check. Dawson's Creek's Joey Potter's prom game was off the chart in the 2001 episode "Promicide."
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7. Lucy Wagner
Goody two shoes Lucy Wagner of Crossroads wore a pretty pink prom dress with a complementing corsage to her graduation. Girly girls of the early '00s would have fallen hard for this feminine frock come prom.
Lucy's friend Kit, on the other hand, was super popular; and as such, she wore a more fashionable dress to their graduation. Kit's dress was hot pink, slinky, and came with the standard '00s style shawl. You were sure to be a pretty confident teen if you wore a gown similar to Kit's bright, trendy dress.
9. The Sugar & Spice Cheerleaders
These ladies may look like sugar, spice, and everything nice, but beneath their glitzy dresses and their butter-wouldn't-melt facade, they were actually bank robbers. This was all the more reason for our rebellious teen selves to try to look like them at prom.
10. Marissa Cooper
The O.C.'s Marissa Cooper attending The 47th Annual Newport Beach Debutante Cotillion was everything. She looked as lovely as a bride on her wedding day dressed all in white, with her beautiful bouquet, and her dad by her side.
It didn't matter to us in the slightest that she wasn't even at a prom, because a cotillion — involving extravagant gowns and dancing — was basically the same thing anyway. Except for the fact that all your parents would be there, so you probably couldn't sneak a kiss from your dance partner.
11. Anna Stern
With her quirky sartorial taste, pixie haircut, and Studio Ghibli references, The O.C.'s Anna Stern was a blessing to all nerdy girls everywhere. When attending the cotillion, she also wore a white gown like all the other debutantes. However, Anna's was incredibly on point when it came to prom fashion. In the early '00s, strapless, shiny, straight dresses were totes in, so Anna was technically trendier than Marissa.
No matter who your early '00s prom icon was, you were destined to look totally enchanting at your event with these stylish gals acting as your inspo.
Images: New Line Cinema (1); Walt Disney Pictures, BrownHouse Productions (1); Warner Bros. Pictures (1); M.G. Films, Broadway Video (3); Columbia TriStar Television, Procter & Gamble Productions, Outerbanks Entertainment, Sony Pictures Television (1); MTV Films, Zomba Films, Shondaland (2); College Hill Pictures, Wonderland Sound and Vision, Game Over Films, Warner Bros. Television (2)