This recruitment bulletin from Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina, was sent to prospective students for the 1955-56 school year. Columbia College is a college for young women, and was established in the 1850s, making it one of the oldest women’s colleges in the US. In 1915 Georgia O’Keeffe taught at the school.
The study of photographs and literature from women’s colleges is interesting from a fashion history perspective because of the unique environment. Even in the 1950s women in co-educational colleges were often prohibited from wearing pants or shorts in co-ed situations. At women’s colleges the dress code was usually much looser.
The curriculum at Columbia is what one might expect to find at a women’s college in the 1950s. Home economics, education, music and art were standard courses for women. There was also a business course, with a short two year certificate.
Physical education courses mandated the gym suit. This style actually looks quite nice, with the well-fitting shorts.
Dressed for tennis, the girl on the right is wearing a Columbia College jacket.
Dramatic productions seemed to be a popular extra- curricular activity.
I assume that The Postscript was the college newspaper. Note that many of the students are in jeans and sweatshirts.
There was no explanation for the historical dress, but since home economics was a big part of the program, it may have to do with clothing history.
The bulletin attempts to paint Columbia as an active place where the students were kept safe and busy. In the early Fifties it was not always taken for granted that girls would even be allowed to attend college. One of the big stories from my mother’s family concerned her younger sister, Jean. Jean was an exceptional student, and as a high school senior she was offered a scholarship to Women College in Greensboro, NC. The problem was that my mother had just dropped out of nursing school to get married, and my grandfather vowed not to let Jean leave home.
A big argument ensued over dinner one night, and my seventeen-year-old aunt got so angry that she picked up the bowl of beans and flung it in my grandfather’s face. It was a grand gesture, but the best that she was able to negotiate was a two-year business school. She then worked as an administrative assistant in a bank until she got married and started a family.