by Jenny Nehrt, Student Assistant
James Madison University Special Collections is excited to welcome back the Class of 1964 for their 50th anniversary this Friday! To commemorate the event, Special Collections will be doing a series of blog posts to reminisce on life at JMU, or as it was known back in the day, Madison College.
Some differences are obvious: Madison College boasted only 1,660 students when the freshman class entered in 1961, unlike JMU’s large population of 18,431 today.
Doris Shillingburg, Editor in Chief, reviews the first Breeze of the year. From the 1961 Schoolma’am.
Others are a bit less apparent, like musical tastes and dorm life, Today we will be talking about fashion, and as far as we’re concerned, the men and women of 1964 had it going on! The student body was always up-to-date on the hottest fashions, thanks in part to the Breeze, which published articles about the latest trends. Students were not totally free to express themselves though.
The 1963 Madison College Student Handbook introduced a rule that only allowed students to wear Bermuda shorts, pedal-pushers, and slacks until 9:00 a.m. each day and prohibited the use of blue jeans during the day. These garments were classified as sportswear and could be worn out to group picnics, hikes, and outings, rather than to class and around campus. This raised plenty of hairs among students, even with the ability to use a coat to “skirt” the rules.
In an October 26, 1963 Breeze editorial, a student complained that she “didn’t feel that the student body is able to take full advantage of the Bermuda rule.” She felt “that [students] would exercise good judgment by wearing the accepted and proper sports attire.” Despite protests, the regulation stayed in place.
A Breeze article published in 1963, “Casual Look is Fashion Must for Fall ’63 Well-Dressed Girl” stressed the importance of the sporty look and leather accessories. While it appeared Madison girls kept it classy and mostly abstained from the influences of the hippy movement, it’s fair to say Ms. Nancy Spady (pictured below), looked groovy.
A little rebellion against the rules was only natural for fashionistas of all ages and the women of 1964 were no exception. In our next post, Special Collections will explore a different platform for rebellion: the popular music of 1964!