LC in History: Dress Code Evaluation

Dr Clifton W. Potter ~ L.C. In History

Last week I wore some of my Hawaiian shirts on campus, and I intend to don them each day until the arrival of cooler weather.  When I started teaching at Lynchburg College, in 1965, I would never have dared to sport island attire in or out of the classroom.

Sixty years ago, what was considered appropriate attire?

Lynchburg College students were allowed to dress in a casual style, within certain parameters.  With the arrival of the veterans after World War II, freshman beanies became a thing of the past for all students, and neckties for men became optional.  Women were expected to wear dresses or skirts and blouses to class.  In wintry weather slacks were acceptable.

However, in normal weather women were allowed to wear slacks or shorts in the Circle only on weekends.  Every co-ed had a raincoat to throw over her shorts as she hurried across the Circle to the library, Hobbs or the theater in Hopwood Hall.

What happened if these scofflaws were caught?  It meant a weekend “campus”—a woman was required to stay in her room except for meals.  If there was a class assignment that required research in the library, you were allowed to work there.  There were not similar penalties for men who committed comparable offences.

Casual dress was permitted at breakfast and lunch, but for dinner the rules changed.  Women were required to wear hose and heels with their dresses or skirts and blouses. Men were expected to wear jackets and ties with their slacks—no blue jeans were permitted under any circumstances. There were no exceptions to these rules—even after the famous tie raid of 1961.

In retaliation for a panty raid in the spring of 1961, the women decided on a unique form of revenge.  The plan was kept a secret until the whistle was blown and the women stormed the three sections of Carnegie Hall.  The men were taken completely by surprise as the women seized every tie in the place.  When it was time for dinner there was not a cravat to be found.

As the men arrived in Westover Hall expecting to be denied food, they found their ties decorating the area before the entrance to the dining hall! Nobody went hungry that night, but the men learned a valuable lesson.  The women of Lynchburg College had taken another step towards liberation and equality.  The administration, especially the Dean of Women, did not know what to do with the women—so they did nothing.

Professors were also required to dress in an acceptable fashion.  Female teachers were expected to wear suits, dresses or slacks and blouses.  It was also mandatory that they wear hose. Only in wintry weather were the rules relaxed.  Male professors had to wear suits or sport coats and slacks.  They always wore ties, even in hot weather.  There were no “casual Fridays” at Lynchburg College for students and faculty in 1958.  When a classmate of mine came to class without socks one day in the spring of 1961, the professor sent him back to his room to finish dressing!  How things have changed—thank goodness.