Fashion trends in 1963 reveal wide dichotomy

Brett Donohoe

With Austin Fashion Week beginning Thursday, the city will be brimming with innovative new clothes, and, with the introduction of new looks, the dress of the past seems even more antiquated.

Today, UT students boast a wide range of personal styles — varying from oversized T-shirts and Nike running shorts for women to the more expressive attire that one might see on the runway this week. Rarely will a student sacrifice overall comfort for style, and, if he does, it tends to be the exception to the norm rather than the trend.

Such a relaxed clothing paradigm, however, was uncommon 50 years ago. In the Aug. 16, 1963, edition of The Daily Texan, an article titled “Fashions Reveal the Collegian” surveyed a variety of clothing trends on campus. The article, part of a special edition welcoming incoming freshmen, reported that students were taking a more formal approach toward outfits in academia.

“Dress at the University can be described as casual for women and more formal for men, a reversal of the usual state of things,” the article said. 

Some students, embracing their newfound freedom, chose to physically alter their appearance as an expression of liberation from parental subjection. The first section of the article, titled “Blondes have more fun,” said: “College life is likely to go to the head of the newly entering girl. With Mama far away in Pflugerville, the forbidden wares of the dye merchants cause many a coed to succumb, and it is the rare maiden’s tresses which aren’t at least tipped or frosted.”

Women’s clothing tended to be much more modest at the time of the article’s publication. 

“Wear a raincoat over your shorts if heading to the Women’s Gym,” the article said. “Otherwise save them for picnics and retreats. And though short shorts may be coming back in vogue nationally, they have never been in vogue with housemothers at women’s residence halls.”

For men, the dichotomy between now and then in terms of fashion is even more pronounced. 

“Campus dress for males is usually very ivy: if jeans are worn at all, wheat jeans are preferred to blue jeans by most,” the article said. “Both solid colors and conservative prints
are acceptable.” 

Today, one might view the fashion trends of 1963 as old-fashioned. However, at the time, they seemed innovative and freeing. 

“Coeds have become for footloose of late, breaking the bonds of black suede loafers and white crew socks,” the article said. “These are still very popular, and the wise coed should have at least seven pairs of white socks — tops turned UP.”

Perhaps the most different aspect of clothing between 1963 and today doesn’t even relate to fashion trends. 

“The most important part of the wardrobe, considering Austin weather, is rainwear,” the article said. 

With only 83 rainy days per year, the “trenchcoats and black umbrellas” UT men carried in 1963 seem out of place.