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More in this section College fashions uncovered

Keeping up appearances


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Both colleges were established at a time when there was a lot of scepticism about higher education for women. To encourage parents to let their daughters study there, the colleges had to be seen to be decent places for young ladies to attend. One way of promoting a good impression was to ensure that the students’ personal appearance conformed to the conventions of respectability.



The Bedford College Senior Student records from November 1895 (BC/AS/121/1) advised the students about how to wear their hair in order to avoid being mistaken for secondary school pupils! Transcript 

Miss Tuke, the Bedford College Principal from 1907 to 1929 spoke to the students in October 1919 about the impact their hairstyles and clothes had on public opinion (BC/AS/121/2). Transcript 



Reminiscences from a Royal Holloway student shed light on the opinions of College staff and students to the ‘bobbed’ hairstyle which grew in popularity during the early 1920s (RHC/RF/132/8). Transcript



RHC-AS-161-4-letter-85-thumbnail The trend for curled hairstyles at Royal Holloway in the 1950s raised some questions about decorum and the appropriateness of appearing in the more public areas of college with one’s hair in curlers! In June 1954 a student was recorded in the Student Meeting minute book as having:

"Voiced a strong objection to students coming to Hall in curlers”. (RHC/AS/125/19)

And in January 1955 it was recorded that:

“Miss M asked for enforcement of rule about not wearing slacks or appearing in curlers in Hall”. (RHC/AS/125/19)



At Royal Holloway College in 1930, the Principal Miss Higgins (1907-1935) answered the students' request to go out without a hat in some situations. (RHC/AS/161/4 letter 85) Transcript

RHC-AS-161-4-letter-89a-thumbnail  The students began to take advantage of Miss Higgins's liberality, and in 1932 she asked the Senior Student to remind the students when they should wear hats (RHC/AS/161/4 letter 89) Transcript 


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