The White Dress Tradition
Spelman College proudly maintains a significant balance between acknowledging our time-honored traditions and establishing new and beneficial opportunities to forward the institutional mission and vision into the 21st century and beyond. The wearing of white dresses on designated official occasions is among the most well-respected and treasured of the College's traditions.
The obligatory commitment for each Spelman student to have a “respectable and conservative” white dress was established around 1900. During this period, a white dress was the attire most often used for formal occasions. This tradition established a uniformed appearance among those present and denoted the significance of the occasion or event. Prior to the 1940s the white dress was worn with hosiery made of cotton. However with the invention of nylons came beige and tan colored stockings. These stockings, referred to as "flesh-toned,” were worn with black shoes. Black shoes were a part of the basic clothing requirements which also consisted of having a pair of “sensible black shoes,” for Spelman students. This recommendation was made in an effort to avoid overwhelming students and parents with the cost of having to provide more than one pair of shoes.
In the spirit of this tradition, all first-year students are required to wear this “traditional white dress ensemble” for the New Student Orientation Induction Ceremony. All students are required to wear it when attending the Founders Day Convocation, and graduating seniors are required to wear this same attire underneath the academic regalia for Founders Day, Class Day, Baccalaureate and Commencement. Additionally, it is requested that alumnae wear this attire when attending the Founders Day Convocation, related Founders Day activities hosted by alumnae and chapters of the Alumnae Association around the country, and for the March through the Alumnae Arch held during Reunion.
As such, the traditional white dress attire is as follows:
- A solid white dress or a skirt suit. The dress or suit should be “true” white -- not off-white or cream.
- For graduating seniors, when wearing academic regalia, the white dress or skirt should range from calf length to two inches above the knee, so that the dress does not hang lower than the gown. Pants are not allowed.
- For first-year, sophomore and junior students, the white dress or skirt can range from ankle or calf length to two inches above the knee. Pants are not allowed.
- Flesh-toned hosiery
- Black, closed-toe shoes
- Functional jewelry only, which consists of a wrist watch and rings worn on the hand