Ghetto prom dresses are garish, tacky, usually handmade outfits worn to the prom. They’re associated with black teenagers from the US ghettos; hence the name. However, the epithet says more about the outfit than the social class of the wearer. Exposed skin, especially an exposed belly button, any kind of “themed” fabric (e.g. a sports team, Barbie, Spongebob Squarepants) and combining gym shoes with formal wear all make for a ghetto prom dress.

These dresses look both cheap and ridiculous. They meld high fashion with the overexposed “video girl” aesthetic. There’s an undeniable undertone of classicism to some commentary, especially when people sneer at obviously homemade outfits that imitate red carpet, upper-class fashions.

A few people project their issues with teenagers, black people, America, and so on, onto these extremely unfortunate fashion choices. Others, of course, just get a sort of schadenfreude from fashion disasters, perhaps remembering their own lack of judgment as a teenager.

At least one young girl was arrested for wearing a ghetto prom dress. When the teacher refused to allow her to cover up, or to give her her money back, the police were called, and escorted her out in handcuffs. As horrible as the outfit is, it wasn’t worth being arrested for. (At worst, the fashion police might issue a “dire warning.”)

In one photo, both the young man and woman have made outfits out of Rasheed Wallace’s jersey. The lines of jewels on the young woman’s back, as well as the athletic wristbands pushed up her arm and the sneakers (worn with formal wear) complete the effect. I have to assume they think they look good, or else this is part of a performance art piece.

Sometimes, the difference between elegant and a ghetto dress is in the details. A passably embarrassing tuxedo can become just sad when paired with a “pimp” cane (especially when it’s worn by a 17-year-old boy). Similarly, a nice enough dress, adorned with a few unfortunate peepholes, and perhaps a sports jersey, can turn a nice dress into a ghetto dress.