HoCo, Prom, Semi-Formals, and Formals – Oh My!

Posted on Posted in Homecoming, Prom

It’s hard enough just figuring out which is which, let alone finding the perfect dress for prom, another for Homecoming (HoCo), and another one for Winter or Spring Formal or Semi-Formal. No one owns that many gorgeous gowns or sharp suits!

To give those folks who are newer to the scene a cheat-sheet they can use to understand what each event is, who usually attends, and what is generally needed for each, we put together a super-quick guide to all of these types of school dances and have shared it below for your information. i

Homecoming (HoCo)

Homecoming dances are held as part of a fall tradition that usually includes a football game, a semi-formal or formal dance, and sometimes other alumni spirit activities. Though the dances are usually reserved for high school, most colleges also have weekends called Homecoming with multiple events.

The homecoming dance, like many proms, may have a court where students vote for a “king” and “queen”. Unlike prom, they are usually crowned at the associated football game. HoCo is usually open to more grade levels than proms, which are frequently the domain of upperclassmen (or women) and their dates). Men generally wear tuxes or dark suits and women opt for semi-formal gowns, often cocktail length … a step less formal than prom.


While HoCo is almost exclusively a fall event, proms are usually held in spring. They are the most formal of the high school dances and are standalone events, not associated with sports. Juniors and Seniors are the target audience of most proms, but may be allowed to bring dates outside of their classes and schools. Prom “bids”, or tickets, can be more expensive than HoCo or other dances, and prom tends to involve a sit-down meal in most regions. “Promposals” are the Social Media Age elaborate invitations recorded for posterity and posted for the world to see.

Prom dresses are more formal than most other dances. Men usually wear tuxes; women can wear gowns of any length or fabric. Pre- and post-prom parties are an event class of their own and can often compete with the main event itself.

Other Semi-Formal and Formal Dances

Schools from junior high or middle school level through college host dances each year to celebrate a variety of occasions. Semi-formal dances are common at all levels. In college, sororities often host dressy events throughout the year, for example. While there is an overall distinction between semi-formal and formal dances, the truth is that outside of the military and certain social circles, few dances are truly “formal” in the modern era, requiring strict adherence to a set of unbendable etiquette rules.

Most schools, at least at the middle and high school levels, have dress requirements meant to preserve modesty, so check with your specific school to ensure you are in compliance. There is nothing less fun than arriving at your school’s dance only to be turned away for a dress code violation.

What kind of dances does your school host each year?

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