PHOTO CREDIT: 1905, http://www.ragtimepiano.ca/rags/waltz.htm
I know that this isn’t my usual 1950s Vassar piece, but as most of my research and writing is based around deconstructing the “Vassar Girl” myth, I’ve developed quite a collection of interesting bits and bobs since the college was founded in 1861, including this sheet music cover from 1905. I’ve tried to trace the significance of the Vassar Girl Waltzes, as there have been several composed around the turn of the century, each of which was dedicated to the college. While I haven’t managed to discover who (if anyone) at the college commissioned them (I’m in the midst of a little investigation… I’ll let you know if anything comes up!), I am always fascinated by any portrayal of a Vassar student so these covers made my day! What’s not to love about a smart Vassar graduate in cap and gown? And given that there are far too many paintings and magazine promotional images of “Vassar Girls” with flowers and overly feminine details from this time period, this is a refreshing change.
PHOTO CREDIT: Vassar Girl, 1910 - http://www.cardcow.com/183199/vassar-universities-college-girls/
PHOTO CREDIT: Preziosi Postcards - Ebay Store (I highly recommend - I LOVE old Vassar postcards… anyone still writing last minute Christmas lists… TAKE. NOTE.)
All these ultra-girlish images were part of the defence of higher education for women - college girls dressed in very feminine styles to try to avoid, or at least abate, the “freak” label. There were even fears that higher education was a health hazard; causing anxiety and even having the potential to affect fertility. Yes. Really. So I think it is refreshing to find a 1905 image of a Vassar GRADUATE, not a “Vassar GIRL.”
Anyway, I just thought I’d share this image of a strong turn of the century Vassar woman, as much of why the 1950s were so culturally and sartorially important for Vassar women, stems from all of this history. Half a century after these images were distributed across America, Vassar students embraced baggy denim jeans, slobbed out in plaid shirts, wore bermudas and men’s sweaters: femininity on campus was rejected, and casual, masculine styles were the order of the day as students focused on their studies. Now, the weekends were “an entirely different animal,” as one 1950s graduate told me, “we were transformed into fashionistas in so far as money would allow.” But still, I am always fascinated by how Vassar’s student style is a barometer for social change and attitudes towards women’s education throughout history.
Back to the 1950s next time… Stay tuned…