August 24, 2012
What if Elon students were required to wear a uniform while on campus and/or attending classes? Today students have a choice about what to wear each day, but that was not always the case for Elon students. The first mention of students wearing uniforms appears in the 1890-1891 Bulletin of Elon College catalog publication. It states, “For economy and to avoid unpleasant distinctions in dress, young ladies will be required to wear a black uniform. The trimmings and scarfs to be determined by the individual’s taste. It is desired that the quality shall not be expensive, but heavy enough to hold the color and last through the winter. Young men need plain and substantial, but not expensive clothing. As a general rule, the more money a student spends on dress the less time is given to study.” It was understood that the uniform for men and women would be worn on all public occasions.
The uniform changed slightly for women in 1895 to a navy blue uniform that was also to be worn on all public occasions. For commencement, women were expected to wear a white lawn dress. As stated in the 1895 Bulletin, “Cost not to exceed 80 cents per yard.” Beginning in the 1901-02 Bulletin the statement about uniforms changed to say, “Each girl is required to wear for a winter uniform a suit of plain black goods; for the spring white pique skirt and white waist of any kind. The Oxford caps are worn all the year. Uniforms should be made at home, whenever convenient to do so.”
The uniforms for women changed again in 1906-07. The Bulletin states, “Young ladies will wear, during the fall and spring waists of inexpensive material and plain black or blue black woolen skirts. During the winter jackets of the same material as the skirts will also be worn. On Sundays and all public occasions during the fall and spring plain white pique linen or duck skirts and plain white waists may be worn; during the winter plain black or blue black woolen skirts and jackets, and waists of any inexpensive material. Oxford caps will be worn throughout the year.”
Beginning in 1912-1913, there was no official uniform required for students. The uniform statement in The Bulletin reads, “No uniform is required, but simplicity in dress, both for young men and young women, is required. Decollete dresses will not be permitted. On all public and evening occasions, except at Commencement, simple white dresses shall be worn. Parents and guardians are earnestly requested not to let their daughters spend too much on dress, and the right is always reserved to refuse to allow a dress to be worn that in the opinion of the Faculty is too expensive or too elaborately made. Dress hats may be worn on Sunday morning, but shall not be worn on any other public occasion at the College nor to recitations. When possible all clothing should be made at home.”
The dress code changed again in 1920-21. While no uniform was required, “…simplicity in dress, both for young men and young women is required. Young women are permitted to wear evening dresses only on such occasions as are declared formal by the College authorities. The Dean of Women will be glad to confer with parents at any time in regard to suitable wardrobes for young women.” This statement was included in The Bulletin until the 1933-34 edition, and then beginning in the 1935-36 catalog there was no mention of a dress code.
In summation, Elon students were required to wear a uniform beginning in 1890 and ending in 1912.