Baring it all on the Boulevard: Fashion as an SMU tradition

It’s a warm, sunny day in early fall on the perfectly manicured Dallas Hall lawn. A sea of people dressed in red, white or blue sundresses, collared shirts and cowboy boots are hopping from tent to tent enjoying an ice cold beer and socializing with their friends.

The SMU football team is preparing to take the field at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, but for many, the main event has already begun. Some might mistake the familiar scene for a tailgate. But the SMU community doesn’t just tailgate, it Boulevards.

“From the beginning, ‘The Grove’ at Ole Miss was a strong model for tailgating at SMU. A big party, mixture of all generations, more upscale, lots of music and food,” said Jim Johnston, class of 1969 and Chairman of the Traditions Committee which developed the concept of the Boulevard in 2000.

The iconic 16-year-old SMU Boulevard sets itself apart from other college tailgates in a very specific way. Take one look at the Boulevard and the difference becomes strikingly obvious: the fashion. SMU students are known for being fashion forward, and the Boulevard provides the perfect opportunity for individuals to flaunt their best looks for the entire school to see.

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Classic Boulevard outfit – Sundress and cowboy boots. From left to right: Lauren Hanour, Kate Allen, Charlotte Boyse, Julie Marino, Grace Howland. Photo credit: Emily Sharp

“I always joke with my friends that went to TCU that while our football team may not have been spectacular, our Boulevards are the best dressed in the country,” Christina Geyer, SMU class of 2010 wrote in an email interview.

This fashion forward culture is what inspired Geyer and Sarah Bray, both 2010 grads, to create SMU Style, a student-run fashion and lifestyle blog. Although Geyer and Bray both went on to be highly successful in the fashion industry, Geyer as the Editor-in-Chief of PaperCity Magazine and Bray as a style writer for Town & Country Magazine, their legacy continues today through the popular blog. As one of the first fashion media outlets on campus, SMU Style allows fashionable students to be seen and heard, especially at the Boulevards.

Although Boulevarding has only been around since 2000, the stylish atmosphere has always been an innate characteristic of the school.

“When I was at SMU, Neiman Marcus chose a group of girls to be mam’selles,” Mary Hardin class of 1970 said. “We modeled Neiman’s clothes for them at various events.”

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Neiman Marcus' 1970's "Mamselles". Model: Mary Hardin Photo credit: Neiman Marcus

Along with the style, modesty and class were traditionally the status quo for SMU students as they carefully planned their outfits for the season.

“The girls at SMU in the 66-70 era always dressed up…for class, for games, for any occasion,” Hardin said. “For example, I was a Pi Phi and we were not allowed to wear slacks downstairs and no one even had jeans. We really did not go out unless we were well dressed.”

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SMU class of 1971 students dressed up for any and every occasion – Mary Hardin and friend Photo credit: SMU Photos

However, fashion statements have taken a turn, say Boulevard observers. What some students once described as “Sunday best” has transformed into much more scandalous apparel than would be acceptable at church.

“I feel like many girls have taken boulevard style to a whole new level where they believe the more they show, the better. Although I wouldn’t like boulevard style to be very much church appropriate, I am very much for dignity and respect,” said Adriana Bremer class of 2017 an SMU Style blogger.

Bremer has observed that most people stick with the typical Boulevard style of classic sundresses and boots for only the first Boulevard. After that, they dare to break with the status quo. The new norm, however, seems to be revealing more than most football fans expect to see at a game.

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Modern and edgy style is the new norm on the Boulevard. From left to right: Dori Drislane, Maddie Olmstead, Caroline Jones, Leila Dodd, Jules Pouch. Photo credit: Emily Sharp

“I’ve seen plenty of things I was shocked people would wear in public. It seems more like a bar or Vegas scene than a football game,” said Madeline Rice, who will graduate in May.

The scandalous apparel has not gone unnoticed by alumni. Some are even beginning to try to actively change the pattern they’ve been witnessing.

“I don’t go to the football games often. I did visit with a friend my age who does go. According to her, the girls are dressed very scantily. In fact, her daughter is an alum advisor to her sorority. They have had to speak to the actives about their dress on the Boulevard,” Hardin said.

While speaking at a fashion media class last month, Scot Redman an SMU alum and co-owner of Kristi + Scot Redman Photography, also expressed his fears that the style on the Boulevard has gone downhill.

However, some current students believe that the style at the Boulevards has not gone away, in fact, it has only grown. If that’s true, then what gives with the all the deep V’s, ladies?

“I truly believe Boulevard style encourages people to express themselves through clothing – and this can be good. However, in a school as social and competitive as SMU, many are victims of dressing more revealing simply because they believe they will capture more attention from others,” Bremer said.

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SMU Seniors expressing their personal style on the Boulevard. From left to right: Sara Mullally, Addison Anthony, Nati Bru Photo credit: Emily Sharp

Although Boulevarding fashion over the last 16 years may have become more scandalous, that doesn’t mean every generation hasn’t gone through their own similar phases.

“By my senior year in 1971 the hippie look with bell bottoms, long vests and going braless for the daring, were in, even at SMU,” Suzanne Johnston, class of 1971 said.

Like other stylish SMU students, Bremer still believes in the individuality and creativity that people bring to the Boulevard. Boulevard style is not just wearing sundresses, but wearing the absolute best in your closet.

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Students bring the latest trends to the Boulevard. From left to right: Shannon Lindee, Daniela Hernandez, Schuyler Mack, Adriana Bremer Photo credit: Emily Sharp

“Whether it’s a romper, jeans and a crop top, dress,” Bremer said, “people no longer stick to the usual.”

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