Fashion Throughout the Years at WCU
Abercrombie and Fitch, Old Navy, The Gap, and Express are just a few
of the popular name brands of fashion in today’s society of college
students at Western Carolina University. Most students at WCU
are defined by the clothes they wear. Fashion has a huge influence
on cliques. Though many students would not admit that their clothes
define them, fashion does express who they are and what interests them.
Today at WCU skater, preppy, gothic, country, and athletic looks are
prevalent. These styles have developed over time, but in the history
of fashion at WCU, styles were very different. It’s easy to laugh
at changing fashions, but they tell us about who we were and who we
want to be.
Corsets, garters, and patent leather
At the turn of the 20th century at WCU, male students sat in classrooms
wearing trousers and lightweight, cotton knit shirts, while female students
wore corsets. The corsets had long hips to make the waist appear
small. Garters were also popular. Women wore skirts with
knee-high slits to make walking and getting in and out of vehicles easier.
Students walked to class in patent leather, high-buttoned shoes.
Women bobbed their hair, and hats were popular among both male and female
Before World War I, female styles at WCU began to change. Dresses
became shorter, revealing more, and hair became shorter. After
WWI, and into the '20's, the women wore long dresses and blouses, while
the men wore slacks with coats.
Wingtips and letterman sweaters
In the 30's, the fashion evolved into the casual look.
Clothing was lighter in weight and color (creams, tans, and earth tones).
The guys wore long-sleeved shirts and baggy, wide-legged pants with
belts. The footwear included saddle shoes, buckskins, Spectators,
and Wing Tips. Some optional accessories for the men included
bow ties, golf caps and 30's style letterman sweaters with the WCU school
logo. The ladies wore either day dresses or pleated skirts with
light colored tops, such as fitted sweaters. They wore strapped
shoes, saddle shoes or plain low heels. Accessories included a
matching scarf or ribbon tied in the hair.
The '50s and the 60's were known for rock-and-roll, Elvis, root
beer and poodle skirts. Attire at WCU for male students during
this time included gray flannel suits, white t-shirts and tight blue
or black jeans. Women wore dresses with pinched in waists, poodle skirts
made of felt decorated with sequins, acrylic sweaters and high heels.
From the early to mid 1970's, students at WCU strolled down the street
in their bellbottom pants, tie-dyed shirts and fringed leather.
This time was also known as the Hippie decade in which students had
long hair, beards and hemp necklaces. They also wore earth shoes,
which were heavy, clunky shoes that slanted back with the heel lower
than the toe. The front of the shoes was broader than the back.
According to Tom Gamble, a French professor at WCU, the students wore,
"hippie sorta stuff." Tom has lived in Cullowhee since the '70s
and he experienced the whole hippie movement and fashion.
Gamble says, “after the '70s the style became more normal.” Students
on campus started to wear regular relaxed attire. They wore normal
jeans and t-shirts similar to what students today at WCU are wearing.
Speaking of today, many students at WCU are enjoying the fashion trends
of the 21st century. The newer, cooler clothes are more available
these days to most students because of easy-to-get jobs and clothing
sales at stores. The popular brand names seem to define particular
styles among college students, whether it is the preppy look or the
gothic look. Students are drawn toward certain groups; within
those groups, fashion reflects the students. There are many stereotypes
from clothing. Even during the 50’s, students who wore the tight
jeans and leather jackets were known to be rebellious. Like today, students
who have the gothic look or skater look are viewed as rebellious and
wild. History repeats itself through different clothing styles.
People will always be stereotyped and defined by the clothing they wear,
whether the clothes really reflect the person or not.
Fashions, styles and trends always change with the times. There
is no exception of the changes that have taken place in the area of
fashion and clothing at WCU. As students continue to come and
go at WCU, there will always be new fashions, new styles and that is
what makes WCU unique and appealing.
Kingwood College Library American Cultural History