Hints of UVA’s rich history can be found in its architecture, its Honor Code and the clothes worn by its student body. Here, we explore the historical progression of fashion trends from the past several decades.

Then: A tradition lasting well into the 1940s mandated that all first-year students wear hats while outdoors. "You don’t have to do it," explained a reminder in a 1921 issue of College Topics. "Absolute freedom of thought and action is one of the boasts of this institution. But you are expected to do it, and it is well to enter into the spirit of any school you attend."

Now: Barbour jackets, North Face fleece and Hunter wellies have taken the place of first-year hats. Students are not required to wear them, but if they don’t, they run a serious fashion risk.

Then: Fancy dress at football games is a tradition from the days when an exclusively male student body only got to see girls once a week. Dates met at pregame lawn picnics in jackets and floor-grazing skirts.

Now: When former head football coach Al Groh (Com ‘66) took the Hoos’ helm in 2003, he encouraged spectators to wear Cavalier gear, creating a unifying "sea of orange" at games. This change caused an uproar among sartorial traditionalists, who protested by forming a Facebook group called "Guys in Ties, Girls in Pearls" of more than 900 members.

Then: In the 1960s, while students at other schools were wearing bell bottoms and long hair, Virginia men continued to maintain UVA tradition by wearing jackets and ties to all events outside their dorm rooms. A Cavalier Daily article from 1967 describes a scandalous breed of student who "went out of [his] way to prove one [could] be grungy even when wearing a coat and tie (e.g., dirty shirt with frayed collar, rancid wheat jeans, and the usual nasty sneakers held together with once-white adhesive tape)." But these men were the exception rather than the rule.

Now: Students today wear leggings and gym shorts to class, flip-flops in the dead of winter and boat shoes without socks.

Then: The advent of the miniskirt coincided with a sharp increase in female enrollment at the University. Between 1967 and 1970, several editorials on the topic of hemlines appeared in the student paper. A writer who’d recently traveled to London gushed over a city filled with "the mini-est of skirts [and] the most exotic flower children." Another wondered whether women at UVA would shop for their school clothes at the local men’s shop, Eljo’s.

Now: On warm weekend nights, Grounds becomes a spectrum of sensible sundresses. Styles tend toward the conservative, full-skirted and comfortable. Metallic Navajo sandals, heels or cowboy boots complete this classic, summery look.

Fashion Shows

FAME—short for Fashion, Artistic and Musical Expression—is the University’s fashion and design club. The organization hosts an annual runway show featuring student designers and models, musical performances and an art gallery. Abby Ciucias (Col ‘12), fourth-year visual arts major and president of FAME, has shown several of her creations in shows over the last two years.

Ciucias acknowledges that students at UVA dress well, but laments the fact that “everyone dresses the same.” It’s a trap even she falls into, she admits: “You see everyone wearing these things and you think, ‘Oh, I should go buy those.’” And it doesn’t take a designer to recognize that UVA is less friendly to fashion experimentation than universities in larger cities.

FAME follows in the footsteps of previous organizations that have brought fashion to the fore at UVA. Following World War II, the Cavalier Ladies, a group of more than 1,000 wives of University veterans, hosted a biannual fashion show for charity. Featured pieces included everything from ball gowns to professional attire.

The October 2011 issue of Glamour magazine includes a six-page fashion spread of UVA students around the Academical Village. Student models wore clothes by Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger and Prada as well as Cavalier wear socks, T-shirts and ties.