Then & Now: Winter Fashion



Women of the Depression era typically had one evening and one day coat that would last them several winters. Students stayed warm during the cold Massachusetts winters by wearing long overcoats, most often made of wool. Fur was a luxury item worn by the wealthy, although collars and cuffs of fur were commonly added as trim to spruce up a drab coat.

While this was the beginning of the age of ready-to-wear fashion, most women were still making their own clothing due to the lasting economic effects of the Great Depression. Yet, even in these lean times a student would have two coats, one for daytime wear and, for more formal occasions, an evening coat made from velvet or satin, typically more stylish than practical.

The 1932 Mount Holyoke student handbook advises students, “Don’t bring a great array of hats. We never wear them except for week end [sic] trips or special occasions. An old rain hat (to preserve your wave) is a good thing to have on hand for damp weather,” and includes the seemingly out-of-the-blue exclamation, “We wear socks!”


Students wear winter coats in a variety of styles, lengths, and colors.From wool pea coats to down-filled “puffy” jackets to long, rainproof overcoats, there are countless winter outerwear options available today, and many students own more than one coat to get them through the coldest season.

To stay warm on walks across campus, students wear brightly colored winter hats made from fleece, cashmere, faux fur, or wool—some even hand knit in class by the students themselves. Most popular on the Mount Holyoke campus is the “slouchy beanie,” a knit hat that sags in the back.

Winter boots also come in a variety of styles and fashions, but waterproof material is key for staying warm and dry during the cold, snowy, wet days of winter in South Hadley. The trendiest boot to sport is a “Bean boot,” an insulated leather and rubber boot made by L.L. Bean.

This article appeared in the winter 2014 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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