Why Seniors Wear Costumes to Homecoming

Whenever I tell people I am wearing a Halloween costume to my Senior Homecoming, I receive weird glares and confused expressions.

     Most Ursuline traditions have a clear beginning, yet no one seems to know the origin behind seniors wearing costumes to Homecoming. It is the one tradition whose origins remain a mystery.

     Trying to uncover how the tradition came about, I did a deep dive into Ursuline and Jesuit’s Homecoming history by searching through Ursuline yearbooks in the Haggerty Library. I began in 1986.

     Through the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, seniors wore traditional, formal attire to Homecoming. Girls wore short dresses and boys wore suits and ties, like we know today.

     Interestingly, all of the grades had one homecoming dance together at Jesuit until 2006, where underclassmen went to Ursuline and upperclassmen went to Jesuit for the dance.

     As I endlessly sifted through pages, I lost hope that I would find an answer—until I reached 1997.

     I found the first record of students wearing costumes rather than formal attire to Homecoming in 1997. The theme was “Greasing Up the Night,” based on the movie Grease. Students decked out in 1950s fashion ranging from poodle skirts to leather jackets.

     The 1997 Ursuline yearbook states, “The theme this year was a change from the typical formal homecoming dances from the past. The change in attire was received with mixed feelings; nevertheless, it was still a night to remember.”

     Understandably, there must have been pushback against costumes since formal attire is normally expected for Homecoming.

     Furthermore, the 1998 Homecoming theme was “Jump, Jive, Swing the Night Away,” where students wore zoot suits and flapper dresses in honor of the 1920s theme. Students continued the costume tradition that had started the year before.

     However, 2001 was the first year where wearing costumes to Homecoming became a senior privilege. According to the 2001 yearbook, “The 2001 Homecoming Weekend was packed with decision making… what theme was the best? Was it ‘70s, ‘80s, Hawaiian, glitter superstar or traditional? While underclassmen were in styles fit for a queen, the Seniors tried a new approach… BYOT (Bring Your Own Theme).”

     The reason behind the “Bring Your Own Theme” idea is unknown. The BYOT idea could have been a joke or a senior act of rebellion. One theory for costumes at Homecoming is the sudden disappearance of the National Honor Society costume dance.

     There used to be an annual National Honor Society dance for juniors and seniors, where students had the opportunity to dress up in costume. There is no account of the NHS dance after 1998, which is around the same time students started wearing costumes to Homecoming.

     Perhaps upperclassmen missed the excitement of wearing costumes to the NHS dance, so they wanted to bring the tradition to Homecoming to carry on the amusement they experienced dressed in costume.  

     Nonetheless, whatever the reason behind the costume tradition, many seniors looked forward to carrying on the tradition at Homecoming this year.

     “I think the tradition is a fun way for seniors to have a special privilege and a great way to celebrate the seniors’ last Homecoming. My group and I are dressing up as the Winx Club fairies, which is a good group dynamic,” Natalie Ro ’22 said.

     Unfortunately, due to COVID, the class of 2022 never had the chance to have a Homecoming dance with formal dress attire at Jesuit.

     “Last year because of COVID we couldn’t dress up for Homecoming, so this year I would like it if we could wear dresses, but I still like the costume tradition,” Eliot Fisher ’22 said.

     Similarly, Mary Louise Theisen ’22 added, “I think it is really interesting to see all of the costumes and what people come up with. It’s also a fun guessing game figuring out who is who.”

      Seniors cannot wait for a night of fun at Homecoming, wearing fun costumes that express their individuality and creativity.

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