Trinity students in their uniforms in 1896.
How Trinity students have dressed on campus has always been a reflection of the surrounding social climate. Over the course of the University’s history, student dress codes have evolved from a rigid set of guidelines specifying even the color of ribbon that is appropriate to wear, to being virtually nonexistent.
In 1871, female students were required to wear a formal uniform to class. From November to the last of April, women wore leather shoes, along with solid maroon dresses in winter, and pink calico delaine dresses for fall and spring. Their hats, made of straw, had green ribbon for winter and a blue ribbon for summer. Gradually, however, the dress code became less prescriptive. Although the University dropped uniform requirements for males, it continued to impose them on females into the 20th century. Women wore a "simple inexpensive uniform" consisting of dress and cap for daily use and a "simple white dress" for school entertainments. Regulations specified that "low neck and short sleeve dresses will not be permitted."
World War I saw a significant shift in the lifestyle of students and cultural practices among women. Trinity, along with most colleges, dropped dress codes, mandatory church attendance, and card-playing prohibitions. However, loco parentis, which refers to the legal responsibility of the organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent, still dictated certain styles of dress for men and women as inappropriate, including shorts and low necklines.
In the ’60s, students became increasingly vocal in their criticisms to the University’s in locos parentis policies and practices. Students no longer wanted arbitrary rules and vague regulations. This resistance caused the beginning of a tradition called ‘Bermuda Day.’ The annual tradition began in April 1961, and was a fun occasion where students wore bermuda shorts to classes and dinner. Even the occasional professor participated. Eventually the event grew so popular it lasted a whole week and included fun activities such as sugar daddy eating contests and canoe races.
The Trinitonian reports that the event died in the early 1970s when dress codes were abolished and students could dress as they pleased on upper campus. Bare feet and ragged cutoffs appeared as a popular style even during the coldest days of winter. By 1978, the University’s dress code had been reduced to two sentences: “Students are encouraged to exercise good taste, judgement, and appropriateness in their dress. Persons who are barefoot will not be permitted in the Dining Hall, Refectory, or Coffee Shop.”
Today, there is no formal dress code, but students can be seen matching in hoodies and yoga pants.