Rebecca C. Tuite

Rebecca Tuite is a writer, fashion historian and freelance journalist based in NYC.

She is also the author of "Seven Sisters Style: The All American Preppy Look."

Kindly Note - All original content is © Rebecca C. Tuite 2014 - Contact me if you require permissions or additional information regarding reproduction.

The “Vassar Girl” Sells… Wrigley’s Chewing Gum

Everyone knows Juicy Fruit, Wrigley’s Spearmint and Wrigley’s Double Mint, but what about the Wrigley’s brands that came before? Well, in 1892, just a year before the launch of Wrigley’s eponymous gum flavors, there was “Vassar.” Launched to target the women’s market exclusively, “Vassar” gum, with its “Perfect Peppermint Flavor,” was sold in a pink case, with elegant (and collegiate) navy blue typography that made no secret of its flagrant ties to the Seven Sisters College. Just as the “Vassar Girl” would become a fashion icon, a movie star, a gossip column regular and a cosmetics maven, she was also able to shift gum off the shelves. With her endorsement (although not the college’s), chewing gum became socially acceptable and even glamorous.


ABOVE (Courtesy of An 1892 Wrigleys Vassar Chewing Gum tin - Some Vassar Style, Confectionery Style.

Vassar would continue to hold ties with Wrigleys and in 1938, Elizabeth Hawes, VC ‘25 designed a dress especially for a Wrigley’s Double Mint advertising campaign: “How Healthful Double Mint Gum Makes you Doubly Lovely.” LIFE magazine noted that, “Elizabeth Hawes has always had, in addition to her talent for designing clothes, an equal talent for publicising and promoting Elizabeth Hawes,” and so this campaign with a tie-in to the ever popular chewing gum reaffirmed her position as a fashion force to be reckoned with; on the runway, and in business. With Joan Bennett as her model, the dress was, “Simply designed,” with “the wide full skirt to which Hawes has always been partial.” The Vassar-Wrigleys partnership continued, not least because there is rarely a mention in mass-media of Hawes without the obligatory sentence: “An attractive lady […] Hawes graduated from Vassar in 1925.” The Vassar connection still managed to attract clients looking for a certain style something.

ABOVE (Courtesy of LIFE archives): 1938 Advertisement for Double Mint in association with Elizabeth Hawes - You too could look “doubly lovely”!

ABOVE (Courtesy of LIFE archives): A detail shot of the Hawes-Wrigley dress, with its full skirt, accentuated waist and high collar. 

Actually, this isn’t the only tie to the famous Chicago-based family company… while it was William Wrigley Jr. (1861-1932) who launched the “Vassar” chewing gum, his son, Phillip Wrigley would later launch the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Given that the first organized women’s baseball team in U.S. started at Vassar College in 1866, Wrigley’s eventually rewarded their forward-thinking sporting ambition with an entire League.


ABOVE (Image courtesy of the Vassar College Encyclopaedia): Vassar’s baseball team in 1876, “The Resolutes.”

From a dress history perspective, their uniforms were intended to abate criticism that Vassar women were losing every scrap of femininity: high necklines, with cravats and bow-ties, long sleeved blouses, classic striped caps, leather buttoned booties and, just to add to the team camaraderie, belts embroidered with “The Resolutes.” Wonder if these women were buying Vassar chewing gum fifteen years later?!   

Take me out to the ballgame, indeed.

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter for more Vassar related updates and history: @rebeccatuite