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.

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The Big C on Charter Hill

Give me a (concrete) C!

On our rugged eastern foothills,
Stands our symbol clear and bold, 
Big C means to fight and strive
And win for blue and gold.

— Excerpt from the song “Big C,” written in 1913 by Harold P. Williams and N. Loyall McLaren

Lillian Gilbreth

Lillian Gilbreth: A master of human behavior and engineering

By today’s standards, Lillian Gilbreth 1900, M.A. 1902 was a superwoman. She studied literature at Berkeley in anticipation of becoming a teacher — and was the first woman to speak at a commencement ceremony — but her path took a dramatic turn. In 1915, she earned a Ph.D.

Trustees from the College of California at Founders Rock, 1860

Charter Day: A university is born

The University of California began on March 23, 1868, when Gov. Henry Haight signed an act catalyzing the audacious idea that California should have a great public university — one that would serve equally the children of immigrants and settlers, landowners and industrial barons.

Cal's emblem and colors

Cal’s blue, gold, and bear

The university colors of blue and gold were chosen in 1873 by a committee of representatives from each class. Blue was considered because it reflected the sky, student cadet uniforms, and Yale, from which many of the university’s founders and early administrators had graduated.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain finds a home at Berkeley

If Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, had lived today, his nonstop outpouring of observations on American life might fit neatly on a medium-size hard drive.

David Blackwell

David Blackwell: A trailblazing statistician

“He had this great talent for making things appear simple. … That is the ultimate best thing in mathematics, if you have an insight that something seemingly complicated is really simple, but simple after the fact.”