Make the most of your moment

The History of Homecoming: Dresses & traditions of the past century

August 8, 2013


The History of Homecoming

An illustrated look back at the schools, styles and spirit that makes the Homecoming tradition a special moment like no other:


Six ways to spread the word

Facebook Twitter Share on Pinterest Share on Google+ Share via E-mail Share Link  



The idea to celebrate Harvard Yale GameHomecoming has its roots on the gridiron.

Though official Homecoming celebrations were not organized until the 20th century, during as early as the 19th century colleges would host alumni football games, bringing back many past attendees to watch or participate.

The most famous of these was held in conjunction with the annual Harvard-Yale game and dates back to the 1870s.

Kansas vs. Missouri1890s

In 1891, the “Border War” between Missouri and Kansas, produced its own alumni game, making its the longest standing rivalry west of the Missisippi.

Around the turn of the century, the University of Michigan also began holding a game which pitted a team of alumni against the UM varsity squad. This event included participation from the UM band, glee and banjo clubs, fraternities and other groups, making it one of the first Homecoming-like celebrations.


Kansas vs. Missouri1909

Alumni of Baylor University received a postcard signed by three professors asking past graduates to “renew former associations and friendships and catch the Baylor spirit again.”

This, the first occurence of a Homecoming event took place over Thanksgiving weekend and included a band concert, an “old-time soiree,” class reunions and a parade with more than 100 automobiles and carriages.



Though it had held a “Gala Day” celebration to mark its annual rivalry with Purdue in 1909, it wasn’t until 1910 that Indiana University held its first Homecoming.

Kansas vs. MissouriAlso around the same time, University of Illinois held its first Homecoming event. This celebration, the idea of Seniors Clarence Foss Williams and E. Elmer Ekblaw, has been held more often than any other school’s — missing only one year in 1918.



Prompted by Director of Athletics Chester L. Brewer, Missouri University invited its alumni to “come home” in order to add some excitement to its longstanding rivalry with Kansas.

Complete with spirit rally, parade and more than 9,000 fans turning out to watch the big game, this was the school’s first Homecoming.

Harvard Yale GameDespite other school’s claims on the origin of Homecoming, this is officially sanctioned by the NCAA, Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit as the originator.

Harvard Yale Game


During the decade, Homecoming spread like wildfire throughout the ranks of many colleges and universities, with a number of newspapers and other publications noting that the idea had become “contagious."

Among the largest of these celebrations to sprout up during the teens were Wisconsin (1911) and Arizona (1914) as well as Baylor (1915) and Michigan (1916) who both officially started their Homecoming celebrations after earlier events failed to catch on.


Kansas vs. Missouri1923

At the University of Northern Iowa — an early Homecoming tradition involved a “raid” or “rush” the Regent Theatre in Cedar Falls.

On the Friday before Homecoming, students would march from campus to the theatre and force their way inside without paying. Generally this practice went without incident, but in 1923 students did damage to theatre and behaved so badly that the Fire Department had to be called to turn water hoses on them.



For one weekend in 1926, Maudine Ormsby was the most popular “girl” at The Ohio State University. Nominated by the Kansas vs. MissouriCollege of Agriculture, Maudine — a Holstein cow — was elected Homecoming Queen after a voting process that saw 13,000 votes cast despite an enrollment of only 9,300 students.

Unable to sort out the voting snafu, the election committee declared Maudine the winner and heralded the cow as the centerpiece of that year’s Homecoming parade.



The idea of electing a Homecoming court has its origins in the 1930s.

During this time, Kings and Queens were chosen based largely upon the float they rode in the Homecoming parade with the individual qualities making up a small part of the vote.

Harvard Yale GameOriginally, the Homecoming King and Queen slots were reserved only for Seniors, while underclassmen were elected as Homecoming Princes and Princesses.


Harvard Yale GameThe first Ramblin’ Wreck Parade is held on the campus of Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

What began in 1929 as the “Old Ford Race” to nearby Athens, Ga., was cancelled after the race was deemed unsafe by school officials.

After a number of student protests, the idea was hatched to hold a parade of classic cars and engineering oddities before each year’s Homecoming football game. Over the years this has become one of the most beloved and unique Homecoming traditions around.


Kansas vs. Missouri1944-46

During the heart of World War II, many schools did not celebrate Homecoming.

Some, such as the University of Wisconsin, turned school spirit into a show of support for U.S. troops, by cancelling its annual Homecoming bonfire in 1944 in favor of a weekend paying tribute to the war effort. The event brought back one of the largest crowds of alumni the school had ever seen.

By 1946, with the war over, most schools had returned to a traditional Homecoming event.


Kansas vs. Missouri1940s

In the wake of the war, formal styles evolved as a result of rationing.

In order to save fabric, dresses became shorter with more ladies showing off slim silhouettes and flaunting their legs.

Other side effects of rationing were the reduced use of buttons and zippers, giving up girdles, wearing wooden heels, reusing 1930s dresses and opting for plain colors such as maroon, grey and beige.


Kansas vs. Missouri1953

At Colorado State University, Homecoming festivities included a “Kangaroo Court” which doled out punishment for infractions such as not wearing a beanie, walking on the grass or failing to show respect to upperclassmen.

The court would use a paddy wagon to round up rulebreakers, giving them sentences like scrubbing the steps of the administration building with toothbrushes, riding a bike around the Oval blowing a horn or bowing to the Homecoming Queen for 5 minutes at halftime of the football game.

Kansas vs. Missouri1957

In a bold prank, students at the University of Oregon posed as reporters from a Seattle newspaper in order to kidnap the Oregon State Homecoming court.

Though the victims enjoyed their abduction — which included attending a party on Oregon campus before being released — their fellow students did not.

The OSU football team, which had launched a manhunt for the girls, eventually got the last laugh beating their “Civil War” rivals in the Homecoming game.


Harvard Yale Game


Styles changed dramatically during this period, morphing from the conservatism of the late 50s to Mod-like styles in the early 60s to the Hippie-influenced looks of the late 60s.

Despite the evolving social landscape and increasingly androgynous styles, for much of the decade formal styles remained femine and delicate.

The frocks worn to dances were pretty, yet modest and often featured bows, belts and other frilly accents including elbow-length gloves.

Harvard Yale Game


Though it had been celebrating Homecoming since 1912 and crowning a winner since the 1925, Kansas University stopped holding a Homecoming Queen competition in 1969.

In the midst of anti-war demonstrations and stormy race relationships on campus, a committee decided to recognize those who embody the academic spirit of the university. The school now gives the Ex.C.E.L. Award annually to two students with outstanding leadership, involvement and academics.



Florida State University student Doby Lee Flowers is elected as the school’s first African- American Homecoming Queen. This would later earn her a permanent spot on Kansas vs. Missouricampus as part of the school’s “Integration Statue” built in 2004.

Others who helped pave the way for black women as Homecoming queens included winners Daphne Reid Maxwell (1967) of Northwestern, Mary Sue Gaines DePass (1968) of Univeristy of New Mexico and Mary Evelyn Porterfield (1970) of NC State, among others.

Kansas vs. Missouri1975-77

In the late 1970s a pair of Michigan schools each had unique Homecomings.

In 1975, Cadillac High School started cranking up KISS in the locker room before games. After a long winning streak credited to the rock band, KISS caught wind and showed up for a surpise perfomance at the school’s Homecoming weekend.

In 1977, Northern Michigan University used Homecoming to set the record for the largest game of musical chairs with 1,674 players.



In an era defined by excessive consumption, the Homecoming and Prom experiences became more elaborate in the 80s, with trends including rented limos, tuxedos and increasingly over-the-top parties.

Along with the big, teased hairstyles of the time came trends in dresses such puffy sleeves, gathers, ruffles, huge bows, fabric roses, geometric fabric insets, asymmetrical cuts and metallic fabrics.


Kansas vs. Missouri1986

A one-year coincidence that caused its annual Homecoming game to occur on Oct. 31, led to what’s become a tradition for C.E. Jordan High School in Durham, N.C.

That year, the school’s band dressed in Halloween costumes to perform its halftime show. Despite the fact that Homecoming now occurs in September, the band still dresses in costumes each year, with director Andrew Weiss challenging his band members to come up with the most creative costumes.


Kansas vs. Missouri1992

The annual Homecoming game between Northwestern State and Louisiana- Monroe became little more than a sideshow to the main event — fight between two mascots.

During the game, Northwestern’s Vic The Demon and Louisiana-Monroe’s Chief Brave Spirit duked it out in a brawl highlighted by Vic landing a series of haymakers after Chief Brave Spirit ripped off his head. Northeast Louisiana won the game 28-18, but police separated the mascots before a winner could be declared.


Texas A&M’s well-known annual tradition, the Aggie Bonfire, took a tragic turn when 12 students were killed and 27 were injured after a 40-foot- tall pile of logs collapsed.

Kansas vs. MissouriThough this wasn’t an official Homecoming activity — A&M is one of the few schools that doesn’t celebrate Homecoming — the incident forced many high schools and colleges to suspend their annual Homecoming bonfires.


Kansas vs. Missouri2006

Beginning in 2006, Minnetonka (Minn.) High School principal Dave Adney began an effort to stop grinding — a sexually suggestive form of dancing — at his school’s Homecoming by creating a series of humorous “Anti-Grinding” videos that went viral on YouTube.

Though the result of the videos was mixed at best, Adney continued to crusade for modesty at his school including an “Anti-leggings” e-mail to parent which received national attention in 2012.


Baylor Univeristy holds a special Homecoming ceremony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its first Homecoming held in 1909.

Harvard Yale GameDespite the fact that it did not celebrate Homecoming from 1910-1915, the school is the first to reach the centennial mark and has since been joined by only a handful of other colleges and universities.



Harvard Yale Game

In the 1940s students Rice University abandoned the tradition of crowning female Homecoming queens, instead opting for a string of nonsensical nominees.

Over the years, nominees have included a ferret, a toad, a car, a former Texas governor, the creature from the Black Lagoon, Beavis and Hurricane Ike, among others.

In 2011, they elected Saint Arnold Centenni-Ale, a locally-brewed dark beer, as Homecoming King.


Just over 50 years since James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Missippi had served as a flashpoint in the Civil Right movement, the school elected its first African-American Kansas vs. MissouriHomecoming Queen in 2012.

Courtney Roxanne Pearson, a 21-year-old senior English major made national headlines for her achievement and also recieved significant attention from the media, based on her full-figured physique.

Resources Articles and others sources which contributed to this timeline:Resources

1. “Baylor Homecoming History”:
2. “The Homecoming Tradition at Mizzou”:
3. “The Origin of University of Illinois Homecoming”:
4. “Homecoming” on Wikipedia:
5. “History of Homecoming,”
6. “History of Homecoming at UNI”:
7. “4 Unique Homecoming Traditions,”
8. “When Homecoming gets weird”
9. “The History of OSU Homecoming”:
10. “The History of Homecoming”:
11. “A Brief History of Homecoming Events”:
12. “History and a Homecoming Queen,” by Kerry Dexter, Perceptive Travel Blog:
13. “NMU Homecoming History”
14. “Homecoming Trivia From Bygone Days”
15. “How to Dress in 1940s Fashion,”
16. “1960s Fashions,”
17. “Minnesota Princple Urges Students Not to Wear Leggings” :
18. “Rice Centennial Timeline”:
19. “Courtney Pearson First African-American Elected Homecoming Queen at UM,” by Edwin Smith, Ole Miss News:

See our Homecoming 2013 guide for more style tips and advice: