When the push alerts announcing the next installment in pure chaos become too much, and your social channels are no longer safe from terrible news updates, it may feel like there is nowhere to turn to find anything pure and joyful. Where is that simple happy feeling we used to occasionally enjoy?
I’ll tell you, my friend: It is hiding within the #TSRPromQueenz hashtag.
#TSRPromQueenz is one of the Shade Room’s many hashtags, and it’s more or less exactly as it sounds: A running feature of user-submitted photos of young men and women in prom attire. The distinguishing characteristic is that the high schoolers who appear on #TSRPromQueenz look so good that they make guests at the Met Gala look like Pig-pen from Peanuts. Feathered trains, tasteful cutouts, silk and glitter and sequins. Reveling in this royalty will bring you more joy than you could find in the entire Kardashian family’s social-media backlog combined.
I get lost in the #TSRPromQueenz hashtag with sheer awe and splendor. High school is a weird, ungainly time for most people, after all: bad hair, blemishes, bodies that you either grow into or out of, extremely peculiar senses of style, hormonal flare ups, Taco Bell. But the teens on the Shade Room exhibit anything but. They are confident, sleek, and in dresses so glamorous and stylish that there’s a reason many of the pictures are stitched together with a photo from a Beyoncé red-carpet appearance. These teens want to point out that they are just as much Beyoncé as Beyoncé is, and when you scroll through enough of these snapshots, you — like me — will begin to agree.
Many of the dresses these teen girls wear are home designs, which makes the hashtag a fun rabbit hole to dive down. Click on the handle of the teen, then click on the handle of the designer, then scroll through dozens more prom designs that haven’t made it to the Shade Room, but will soon be in the running. It’s been more than ten years since my prom, but I remember one of the most potent fears for many girls was that another, cooler, hotter girl would show up wearing the same dress. This did happen sometimes, and it was the source of great, unforgettable embarrassment. Shade Room Prom Queenz avoid this altogether by not only having custom designs, but custom designs that outshine even the frilliest, most lemon-colored of David’s Bridal’s confections. How quaint it feels now to remember the best-dressed couples at my prom, in suits loaned from their dads and magenta satin cocktail tube dresses. Peasants, all of them.
Young men sport velvet blazers and loafers and color-coordinated bow ties. In more than one shot I’ve seen, the men, who might I remind you, are in HIGH SCHOOL, convey in their body language that they are worshipping their high-school sweetheart, that they can’t believe how lucky they got to win a date to prom with a girl who looks that stylish in a dress and who will end up on #TSRPromQueenz. Who cares about a dumb promposal? The pre-prom photoshoot — often in front of a freshly washed car, staged and serious and ice-cold — is the thing to remember. One of my favorite pictures is of a young woman in a burgundy dress posing in front of three white police officers and a cop car. The caption? “She came to serve and they came to protect.”
I hardly remember my prom — what we ate, what music we danced to, who was there, if I had fun — but I would be lying if I said I didn’t remember my dress. I ordered it online, which, in retrospect seems weirdly futuristic for the time. (Were we really ordering things online in 2005?) Regardless, I don’t remember what store I ordered it from, or how much it cost, but it was a spandexy cream-colored thing with gold sequins down the center. I paired it with a rose-colored beaded necklace and gold open-toed mules — and yes, I looked as unfortunate and dumb as all of that sounds.
More than one adult advised me back then to enjoy every second of my prom or I’d regret it someday. For more than ten years, I did not regret my forgettable prom — until I found #TSRPromQueenz. So many teens are out there looking like Bill Gates owes them rent money, and I couldn’t have bothered to wear eyeliner? I might not have the real memories, but I’ve got the Instagram scrapbook with which I can pretend, and those are the memories that will last me a lifetime.