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Dress to Impress

Who wants to play dress up?

Chelsea Rademacher ’13
March 01, 2016

“So, what are we doing tonight?”

“Are we like, getting dressed up or dressed up?”

“Well, what are you wearing?”

“I have literally nothing to wear.”

This is a very real example of the college struggle being #real. It doesn’t really matter what the occasion is — Game Day, study party, actual party — figuring out what to wear can cause a serious amount of undue stress on college students (don’t pretend you don’t remember).

Today, it’s as easy as Snapchatting your BFF your 16 different outfit options, and demanding snaps back to compare. But how on earth would you have solved this life-or-death conundrum in the pre-Internet, pre-smartphone era?

Well, lucky for students of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, there was Wiscetiquette. Published at the start of each fall semester by the Women’s Self-Government Association, Wiscetiquette promised to provide a “guide to Wisconsin student social customs” and help young co-eds avoid “embarrassing social errors.” This, of course, included what to wear and when.

“Classroom attire is the most important item time-wise, but you will also want to be prepared for dates, parties, plays, receptions, and other special occasions,” the 1959 issue of Wiscetiquette so wisely advised. “Remember, too, that costume parties are a favorite at Wisconsin.” (Aren’t they, though.)

Image of the WIscetiquette Dress Chart 1959

Here’s the dress code provided by Wiscetiquette in the fall of 1959.

How complicated! For students today, it’s probably safe to say that leggings could be used for (just about) every occasion listed. Though the styles have changed tremendously, I’d wager that “I’m almost ready” meant the same thing in the fifties as it does today: “I’ve just figured out my outfit, but there’s probably like another hour before I’ll actually be ready to leave.”

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