March 16, 2015

Ask a Metalhead: Can I Convince my school to go goth for prom?

Ask a Metalhead

day of the dead outfits

Hi Steff

I’ve read your blog a few times and I really enjoyed reading it. Maybe you’re not the exact person to ask but I feel like your advice could help. I go to a small Catholic school and I’m known as the ‘crazy halloween chick’ because I LOVE halloween and anything weird. My ideas are known to get over the top and most of my ideas are shot down by the school cause they’re “too spooky” or “throw away God’s message.”

I’m going to be a senior next year and I want to convince my school to have a Day of the Dead prom theme. Its so macabre yet unique and fun enough for a prom. The problem is I’m afraid the school’s going to say no or students won’t be crazy about it due to most of them enjoying hip hop and gangster rap. I think it may ride up their alley but I’m not certain. How can I convince my school and classmates to go for it?


day of the dead outfits

A Day of the Dead prom would be awesome. I love the idea! I can picture it – the hall decorated with bright Mexican colours, skull-shaped candies on the plates, red and black bunting circling the dance floor, and everyone wearing calevera makeup and dancing to funky music. It sounds awesome. I’d totally go. Buy me a ticket!

We don’t actually do “prom” in New Zealand. Our tradition is the school ball, which is attended by year 12 and 13 (16 and 17 yr olds – or Juniors and Seniors, I think). I think a school in Auckland or Wellington would have their ball in a hotel ballroom, but in little farming towns like the one I came from, the school gymnasium or a rental community hall is usually the spot.

For my yr12 ball, the theme was Wild Wild West. I arrived at the ball with my best friend, her boyfriend, and my date (set up through my best friend) – a lovely Christian dude who I had absolutely zero in common with – to find the hall decorated with hay bales and some saloon doors. Not exactly the fairy tale I was imagining, but we made the best of it. In yr13 I had more friends, so we organised a big group of us to go together. The theme was Night at the Oscars. We arrived in a convoy of vintage cars. I wore a velvet medieval dress that had absolutely nothing to do with the theme, headbanged to some shitty music, and had an absolute blast.

The reason I’m saying all of this is to give you a caveat that a) I’ve never been to a “real” prom and so my opinion may not be as valid as someone who’s experienced the whole deal, and b) a prom will still be awesome fun even if you don’t get the theme you so desire.

Here are some truths about your idea for a Day of the Dead prom theme:

1. A Catholic school is highly unlikely to go for a theme that centres around a holiday celebrated in Mexico which they may perceive as having indigenous (and therefore pagan) roots. I attended Catholic primary school and had a huge interest and pagan belief systems and I can safely say this sort of thing would never fly there.

2. However, the Dia de Muertos festival is strongly tied with the Roman Catholic celebrations of All Hallows Eve and All Souls Day. If I were going to pitch this idea to the Faculty and wanted to get approval, this is where I’d start. I’d pitch it as a fun theme that celebrated diversity and educated about lesser-known traditions within the Catholic community honouring the dead.

3. The ability to influence prom themes will have a lot to do with how much pull you have with the committee of students/teachers who decide these things. As a school weirdo, I never had any pull at all, so any suggestion I made wouldn’t have been listened to. Your situation might be different.

4. Coming from you, the “crazy Halloween chick”, the idea will probably seem way too out-there. If you can get a more conservative friend to suggest it, instead of you, people are more likely to go for it. (It doesn’t sound like it makes sense, but it does).

5. Is this theme appropriate for a school ball? Remember that Dia de los Muertos is a cultural festival in Mexico and as such, it might not be an appropriate choice as a prom theme. I don’t know enough about the festival or traditions surrounding it to make a call on that – you’d have to figure that out with your school community if you went ahead. Generally I think it’s wonderful for people to celebrate the diversity of the world’s cultures by learning and adopting and enjoying traditions outside their heritage and experience, but others may not see it that way.

6. Realise that more than likely the school is going to go for something more conservative (even if students / teachers were into it, they have to consider what parents of other students might think, and I imagine if your school is conservative a LOT of parents would have an issue with this theme), but don’t let that stop you from going in your own style.

steff metal school prom

Yes, this is me at 18, wearing top and tails, off to a ball.

What I would do is make sure that you do your prom in your own way, no matter the theme. I cross-dressed with a male friend at a Christian youth-group ball one year (that was the most fun, EVER. Watching my friend Shane limbo in my grandmother’s pink bridesmaid dress and hearing half the room realise suddenly he was actually a guy … priceless). I saw people at school balls dressed in gothy devil outfits, and super skimpy gold dresses that didn’t exactly fit the theme, either. So rock your own style, whatever the theme! If you want to go in calevera makeup, do it! If someone says something to you about it, who cares what they think?

Focus on making the night fun for you. Since my house was just around the corner from the hall our ball was in, we had a “pre-ball” and “after-ball” event there. At the “pre-ball” my mom and I made some finger food and us girls got ready and we took a ton of photos. At the “after-ball”, we ate pizza and chili fries at midnight, drank a lot of bourbon, and dived in the pool in our fancy clothes. I loved my 7th form ball not because of the decorations or the music (which was, for the most part, not my thing), but because of the friends I went with and the pretty dress I wore (which I still own and wear) and the great memories I have.

You only get one prom, so do it right.

I hope this is somewhat helpful. Good readers, do any of you care to weigh in?

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4 Comments on “Ask a Metalhead: Can I Convince my school to go goth for prom?

April 12, 2016 at 9:43 pm

All was going well until one student starting convincing teachers the theme wasn’t appropriate so her best suggestion of what would be more appropriate was a casino theme. I don’t mind the theme, I’m just disappointed someone would convince everyone to throw my idea away all for personal reasons. Fortunately, me and my boyfriend are showing up in style as crazy halloween chick and that eccentric lunatic with spider corsages and our little skeleton dolls we exchanged to each other. I am in charge of decorating and you bet the whole things going to be decked with heavy red and black and giant card faces staring down on everyone. It’s only 3 weeks away…!

November 25, 2015 at 8:50 pm

UPDATE** Hello! I was the one who asked for help here! I just joined the committee and came up with my sane version of the idea, a latin spanish theme with lots of marigolds, sunflowers, and roses. Most in the committee are up for it but I do intend on throwing a few skulls here and there later in the process so my insanity of the idea will slowly spread >:) Thanks for the advice and I’ll leave an update on what happens.

January 12, 2016 at 3:59 pm

@Aileen – awesome, glad to hear you’ve come up with something awesome!

March 29, 2015 at 8:25 pm

I grew up overseas and went to a British school, but got invited to the American school’s Prom. I was so excited! They had the theme of ‘Galaxy’ and everything was black, white, and silver with occasional colour bursts from floral displays.
Being Kiwi, I wore a black ball gown, and even at a non conservative school people were shocked at my “audacity” to wear a funeral dress to a school prom.

Your highschool appears somewhat more conservative than my friends, so I would focus on the bright colours, lots of flowers side of the day of the dead theme :)

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