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In 2005, prom dress designer Xcite held a runway show in Houston, Texas to show off its newest collection. One model walked the runway in a dress that seemed particularly risqué – her breasts were covered only by two very narrow straps of fabric forming an X across her chest. Is this really what was being marketed to teenage girls? Well, no, it turned out. Some said the model had worn the dress backwards, others said she didn't cross the straps behind her neck like she was supposed to. Either way, she made an already quite revealing dress even skimpier. But that didn't matter — the buyers loved it, and it became one of the most popular dresses of the season.
With puffy pink dresses having gone the way of the VHS, prom-goers have been eager — particularly in the last few years — to flaunt shoulder blades, midriffs, breasts, and thighs in all manner of backless, stomach-baring, skintight, embellished dresses. The Xcite incident only accelerated a prom dress trend of less fabric, more skin. Now, the ever-skimpier dresses have led to a nationally sensationalized slutty dress crackdown by vexed school administrators. Even Sarah Palin was asked to weigh in on it on the "Today" show this week.
Most fashion trends trickle down from designer runway shows, and astute fashion followers can usually trace a fad back to something that was previously paraded on the runway. But that's not the case with the skin-baring looks that now dominate promwear, says Moellering. In fact, she says runway evening wear has been more covered up in recent seasons. Rather, today's popular prom dress look, Moellering says, "comes from 'Dancing With The Stars' and 'Jersey Shore.'" She adds, "I think it's the Real Housewife-iciation of social occasion dressing."