Cal fashion

150 years of Cal student fashion reflect attitudes, defy labels

You’d be hard-pressed to find Chanel or Kanye West’s Yeezy line on Sproul Plaza. Since our founding, Cal students have tended to favor comfort and creativity over designer labels or Ivy League uniforms.

That’s not to say they don’t have a sense of style. Take the early 1870s when the University of California’s inaugural female class spurned ultra-tight corsets and rear-enhancing bustles in favor of a more serious look that included long narrow skirts, high-neck blouses, and pinned-up hair or battered top hats known as “plugs.”

Over the following decades, Cal coeds’ hemlines and necklines went up and down and menswear became increasingly less formal, but each era maintained a sense of whimsy. Whatever the style, UC Berkeley students have added their own sartorial twists to the fashions of the day to reflect changing cultural and political attitudes.

Watch a video on 150 years of Cal student fashion.

Explore Other Stories

Athena, Doe Library

May all who enter gain wisdom

Athena, patron of Athens and the goddess of war and wisdom, is often portrayed as a majestic woman with a beautiful, stern face.

Chang-Lin Tien addresses the crowd on Charter Day.

Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien: An unabashed cheerleader for Cal

In a Twitter thread sharing memories of Chang-Lin Tien, Berkeley’s chancellor from 1990-97, one person recalled him passing out cookies in the library and exhorting, “Study hard! Go, Bears!” Another remembers students mobbing him as he walked across campus — “like something out of A Hard Day’s Night” — and Tien always made time to shake hands or give hugs.

Japanese Americans receiving honorary degrees from Berkeley

Commencement: A special day Cal students deserve

After years of hard work and personal growth, graduating from college can bring a mix of emotions, from pride and nostalgia to fear and excitement about what lies ahead. It also brings a special day when, at Berkeley, some 5,000 graduates and over 40,000 guests gather for a formal procession, speeches, performances, and more to mark this momentous occasion. 

Barry C. Barish '57, Ph.D. '63

Alumnus of the Year proves Einstein was right

Barry C. Barish ’57, Ph.D. ’63 says watching ocean waves marked the start of his work on detecting gravitational waves a century after Einstein’s prediction. His research would win him the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shares, as well as Berkeley’s 2018 Alumnus of the Year.

Strawberry Creek, UC Berkeley campus

Around the Bend, Strawberry Creek

A poem written and performed by José L. Rodríguez Nodal, a long-time staff member with deep family ties to UC Berkeley, for the university’s 150th birthday on March 23, 2018