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Mom Proms: The music's fab, the liquor's legal and the kids are home with Dad

Rob Rugge Photography

Seattle Mom Prom organizer, Myla Rugge, far left, mugs with her mom friends.

It was prom night and the dance floor was jumping. DJ Disco Vinnie was spinning '80s hits; girls in party dresses were shaking their groove things, or standing in groups, gossiping, taking pictures and eating cupcakes.

Where were the boys? At home, watching the kids. This was Mom Prom, and it was just for the ladies. 

Myla Rugge, a 36-year-old mother from Redmond, Wash., conceived the Seattle Mom Prom back in 2008, while trying to get her baby son to sleep.  “I thought to myself: ‘My mom friends and I really need a party.’”

Courtesy Kristin Kalning

Jodie Queener, from Bothell, Wash., sings along to Whitney Houston.

Imagine: An evening without the kids, and yes, without your partner. You can get dolled up, you can dance yourself silly, you can sit down and have a conversation that isn’t punctuated by “No, no – we don’t finger-paint the cat.” And best of all, you can be with other women who totally get it.

Rugge recounts the story of one woman who showed up by herself, but by the end of the evening was posing for prom photos with ladies she’d just met. “She came, she had the guts to show up by herself. And she sensed that it would be OK.”

Adult proms are catching on in a growing number of cities. Betsy Crapps, a mother of three from Canton, Mich., threw the first Mom Prom in 2006. And since then, they’ve gone viral, with organizers around the country urging women to unearth their old prom frocks or bridesmaid monstrosities for the events, which usually benefit a local charity.

Rugge’s vision differs a bit from these proms: For one thing, you needn’t be a mom to attend.  “I had friends that weren’t moms who wanted to hang out and party and they’re my support system,” said Rugge. “I wanted it to be about women more than about moms.”

You don’t need to dig up your lace-and-tulle disaster from 1990, either.  Rugge said, “You can rock a pair of Tevas and a North Face fleece”  (considered formal wear here in Seattle). “It’s already hard enough to get that one night out, so just come as you are, and have fun with it. You can come in sweatpants and a t-shirt with spit-up on it.”

On a recent Saturday, about 180 women turned up the Seattle Mom Prom but I saw neither fleece nor sandals. The prom had an 80s theme – mostly for the rad music -- and many gals went for it, sporting fingerless gloves, neon fabrics, side ponytails, and Flashdance-style sweatshirts. (I am now the proud owner of a crimping iron that I will likely never use again.)

This prom had a totally legal bar, as well as snacks you might see at a slumber party for 180 people: jars of Sour Patch Kids, Red Vines, M&Ms and Doritos. Rob Rugge, Myla’s husband, took over 300 prom photos against a legitimately cheesy prom background, where women gleefully mugged, hugged and jumped. If you weren’t the proud owner of a crimping iron, there were two stylists on deck to give women the hairdo of their prom dreams. The night raised nearly $4,000 for Postpartum Support International of Washington.

Alee Spencer, a 47-year-old mother of three, said she came to “dance for a good cause.” Erica Gaebel, a new mom from Bothell, Wash., said she came "to get free!” And Trina Fateh, of Bellevue, Wash., was psyched to get together with the ladies at an event that wasn’t a play date.

 “I loved getting dressed up, putting makeup on, coordinating with the girls,” she said. “I like feeling like a woman, and not just a mother.”

Rob Rugge Photography

Writer Kristin Kalning, third from right, rocking the Mom Prom with her playgroup buddies.