That’s what many are saying this year, as The Ohio State University celebrates its 150th anniversary. In this Buckeye’s case, though, happiness was seeing my relative’s dress on display as part of exhibitions celebrating the traditions and experiences that have made campus life at Ohio State so memorable for generations of students.
Remember Ruth Weinman Herndon, the other CSG girl in my family who lived in a Frank Packard-designed home in Marble Cliff and was a member of the River Ridge Riding & Polo Club of Columbus? A black silk dress with ribbon work embroidery and lace that she wore in 1925, during her first year studying sociology at Ohio State, is front and center in “Campus Fashion: 150 Years of College Style,” an exhibit from Ohio State’s Historic Costume and Textiles Collection.
Dozens of garments highlight what students wore to class, football games, special occasions, and in their dorms. The formal silhouettes of bustled dresses and morning coats worn during Ohio State’s early days in the 1870s progressed to shorter, yet still appropriate, attire of the 1920s and 1930s.
Also on view are samples of Ohio State football program advertisements the Varsity Men’s Store at the Union and the Lazarus Collegienne Shops ran to target students. Following the fad of the 1920s, Frances Ingwersen bought this long raccoon fur coat at The Union to wear to Ohio State football games. It’s displayed alongside the letter sweater Floyd Henderson, member of the Class of 1928, earned for managing the OSU cross-country team.
While there was no official campus dress code, Residence Hall and student government association handbooks provided suggestions about what was best to wear, as this 1957 example shows: “For dinner on school days, including Saturdays: Dresses, or skirts with either blouses or sweaters. No slacks, bermudas or jeans. No shirt tails out and no sweatshirts.”
“Since OSU is a casual place, wardrobes are made up largely of skirts, jumpers, sweaters, and blouses,” another example from the 1950s continues. “To complement these outfits and add a touch of interest it is good to have a supply of scarves, collars, and tailored jewelry. Always a favorite anywhere, loafers and saddles are popular at OSU.”
While an exchange student in Ireland, Anne Clark Foltz wore this circa-1955 two-piece dress of a turtleneck and matching skirt, hand-knit by her aunt, Virginia Woolpert.
White cotton nightgowns and a blue chambray at-home gown from the late 19th century, together with Asian-inspired silk sleepwear from the 1930s, capture changing tastes in what students wore to unwind in their dorm rooms.
White dresses were traditionally worn for initiation ceremonies into honor societies and sororities because they both created a uniform look and underscored the significance of the occasion. Ruth E. Moore wore her 1922 high school graduation dress for her circa-1924 initiation into Delta Sigma Theta sorority; other white dresses were worn by Anne Clark Foltz for her 1954 initiation into the Mortar Board Society, an honor society recognizing seniors for their scholarship and service, and Margaret Jacob Dombey, OSU’s May Queen in 1927 and Rosebud in 1924, for her initiation into Kappa Kappa Gamma and for her 1928 graduation.
Three dresses Susan Hunter Beall made during Home Economics classes she took at Ohio State in 1948 and 1949, including her wedding and going-away dresses, are on view in Thompson Library’s Highlights from Special Collections exhibit space. A Bergdorf Goodman advertisement in the May 15, 1948 issue of Vogue inspired the style of the dress she would wear for her marriage four days after her graduation. To make it, she used parachute silk, embroidered eyelet silk, and silk satin which her father and brother brought home from Japan.
“Scarlet and Gray: The Student Experience,” an exhibit in Ohio State’s Thompson Library Gallery, features items from the University Archives collection that highlight student life on campus.
A scarlet-and-gray bow tie worn by a member of the Class of 1888 illustrates the class rivalry that characterized Ohio State’s early years. “Ye expose your idiocy with every word and action,” an example of the good-natured teasing reads. “We came to glorious O.S.U. to learn, and to associate with cultured upper classmen. Alas! we find our guides (?) the Sophomores, to be a pack of DRIVELING IDIOTS.”
Next to the “fan cave” and its display of Ohio State football memorabilia, an eye-catching wall mural includes almost 40 different archival images, including songbooks, programs, ads, pennants, Homecoming buttons, football tickets, a photo of the first “Script Ohio” from 1936, and a calendar created by acclaimed artist George Bellows, a member of the Class of 1905.
“Campus Fashion: 150 Years of College Style” continues at The Ohio State University’s Historic Costume and Textiles Collection, 175 Campbell Hall, through December 13, 2019. “Scarlet and Gray: The Student Experience” is on view in the Thompson Library Gallery through January 19, 2020. For more, read Time & Change: 150 Years of The Ohio State University, by Tamar Chute, University Archivist and Head of Archives at The Ohio State University — and my archives classmate.
Take Buckeye Biography: 150 Years of Ohio State, a free online course based on the popular History of Ohio State course. Learn at your own pace through nine modules illustrated with videos, archival documents and photographs. If you finish the course, you’ll get a digital badge to show you’re a Buckeye historian. It will be available through December 18, 2020.