What they Wore: LSU Sorority Style in the 70s vs. Today
By Jalal Alani, Cameron Chiasson, Courtney Leonpacher, Sydney Rodriguez
Baby boomers were the last generation that experienced the whole of their youth before the corporatization of America; everything was more authentic, compared to today. The 70s were truly the pinnacle of American freedom. College students in the 70s really saw the results of the civil rights movement, antiwar protest, and second-wave feminism. Along with the Vietnam war and Watergate came an overall decline in Greek life. People stopped trusting governing organizations and students across all college campuses in the 70s expressed their discontent for “the establishment” through leading “the hippie lifestyle”. Alternatively, typical sororities tend to bring in structured, conservative students. Because of this, Greek organizations were generally seen as part of “the establishment”, which was traditional, prejudiced, and conservative (Torbenson). The 70s, however, were about quite the opposite of tradition– they were about change.
Free Speech Alley was founded in 1964, which led to a lot of speaking out. Along with this, The Associated Women’s Society at LSU was in full swing in the late 60s/early 70s due to the social rights movements of the time. The group was focused on promoting regulation changes, abolishing dress rules, and deleting penalties given to women for minor offenses. The dress code was ultimately abolished on LSUs campus in the year 1969. During that time, gender neutral dress came into fashion, women were wearing suits and pants more often, and dresses were going out of style. Women’s fashion in the 70s underwent a revolution, which is shown on LSU’s campus as well.
In The Gumbo, LSU’s yearbook, it was evident that between 1960 and 1970 there was a world of difference, even in sorority wear. The 1970s was a period with very distinct fashion. As America transitioned from the “hippie” period of the late 1960’s, it brought along some of the fashion that was worn. Celebrities like Joni Mitchell exemplified how 1960‘s style transitioned into 1970‘s, while others like David Bowie and Cher showed how flashy the 1970‘s would be. Women’s hair was also something that changed in the 1970’s; Farah Fawcett, who was the ultimate standard of beauty at the time, was a major influence on how girls around the nation were styling their hair (Leaper). A lot of 70s outfits featured certain styling like bell bottom pants, tie dyed colors, bright blouses, floppy hats, jumpsuits and more. Individuality seemed to take a forefront this decade, with every outfit seemingly trying to out-glamorize the others. Dull colors like black and gray were not very popular as people opted for more unique colors that made them stand out. Color tones such as chartreuse and burnt orange were also very prevalent among 70’s style. These trends are very noticeable among 1970’s sorority girls, as many of them followed the trendy styles that were being worn around the country.
“Student activism and the rise of the counterculture continued through the late ‘60s into the 1970s” (Kingkade). With the abolishment of the campus dress code in 1969, LSU sororities took notice of the change in the 70s and began expressing themselves through the nonconformist style that the 70s embodied. Although certain trends remained dominant- high-waisted bottoms, hoop earrings, and big hair- each sorority sister embodied them in her own way. Sorority photos taken from The LSU Gumbo Yearbook of 1972 not only show the clear representation of 70’s trends, but also the strong component of individuality; no girl is dressed like another. Sorority girls were not showing up to class in a t-shirt and jeans in the 70s, something more was needed to portray the essence of sorority style. Debby Evans, LSU Homecoming Queen of 1971 and member of the Pi Phi sorority, said “you can never afford to look bad…Never forget the competition. They’re out there waiting for you to make a slip” (Evans). Sorority style at Greek parties also imitated the trendy nature of what was worn to class. The Greek parties remained strong and followed the “Animal House” style (Kingkade). As mentioned previously, the 70s also brought about a gender-neutral aesthetic; Debby Evans also said to “try for that pert, pretty coed look. Not too Pollyanna, but not sleazy either” (Evans). The effortless style, coupled with sheer individuality made up the sorority style of the 1970s.
The 70’s sorority style compared to today is quite different, but there are a few similarities amongst the two time periods. One thing that has not changed in LSU sorority wear throughout time is the standard to which formal event dress is held. All sororities have many social events, one of the most prevalent is the formal. Formals are dressy events where the women must wear a long dress and their accompanying date must wear a tuxedo or a long dress also. In the 1970s, sorority girls all dressed very alike for formal events; it was not unusual to see women wearing the same dress. Today, however, there is no requirement to dress like another sister.
The day after rush day comes “bid day,” which is another social event for sororities. During bid day, the women receive a “bid” from the sorority that wants them most. On bid day, the girls dress very feminine in their sorority colors, paint their faces, and cover their bodies in flamboyant glitter (Brasted). However, bid day in the 1970’s was not as over-the-top as it is today; women wore more formal outfits such as skirts and dresses and waited to greet the girls when they arrived to the houses. For casual wear, today, sorority girls at LSU typically wear a large Greek t-shirt with Nike tennis shoes and a sporty pair of shorts, which has become an unofficial uniform. They do not put much effort into what they wear around campus compared to what the women wore in the 1970’s; “sorority life has not always been Lululemon” (Kaleigh). 70s sorority sisters enjoyed dressing up for class and making themselves stand out from others. Sorority style in the 70s maintained its dressy demeanor throughout all campus events-class, bid day, formals, and more. Today, sorority girls usually need to have a specific occasion to dress up.
LSU sorority style in the 70s was very reminiscent of the trendy period that the 70s embodied and girls mostly wanted to stand out from their sisters. Today, sorority members do not shy away in making it known they belong to a sorority by what they choose to wear.
Brasted, Chelsea. NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. “LSU Students Head to Campus in Hopes of Joining Greek Life.” NOLA.com. The Times Picayune, 22 Aug. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
Evans, Debby. “Memoirs of an Ex-LSU Homecoming Queen.” Gris Gris [Baton Rouge] Nov. 1973, 1st ed., sec. 8: 8-9. Print.
Fig. 1. 1972. LSU Gumbo Yearbook.
Kaleigh. “Photos of Sorority Girls from Each Decade Since 1880.” Greekrank. Greekrank, 05 Jan. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
Kingkade, Tyler. “This Is What College Parties Looked Like Back in the Day.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 13 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
Leaper, Caroline. “1970s Fashion: The Moments That Defined Seventies Style.” Marie Claire. N.p., 29 Mar. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
Torbenson, Craig L. “National Expansion I.” Brothers and Sisters: Diversity in College Fraternities and Sororities. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2009. N. pag. Print.