Fancy Dress: A cherished tradition

Emma Derr

As the Washington and Lee website so elegantly states, Fancy Dress is one of the University’s oldest and most cherished traditions.

The event was started in 1907 by the school librarian Anne Robertson White, otherwise known as “Miss Annie Jo.”

W&L was still an all-male college at the time, and Fancy Dress was meant to provide a nice night out for the students and girls from the neighboring women’s college, or “steadies” from home.

Praised as “the social event of the season,” Fancy Dress continued with much success as the years went on. As are most events of this nature at W&L, it is seen as a nice break from the rigorous academic curriculum.

To outsiders, Fancy Dress probably seems like a glorified college prom – and that assessment isn’t entirely wrong. But instead of it being a night with large expectations and the label “a night to remember,” Fancy Dress has much more room for interpretation.

To me, and to many students here, it is not just another party or excuse to go out – it is truly a wonderful tradition.

I personally love the idea that generation after generation of students here have attended the same event. Parents, and grandparents, of many of my friends have told us their own Fancy Dress experiences.

W&L is a school seeped in tradition, from avoiding the middle opening in the tunnel of

the Graham-Lees dorm to the speaking tradition. We love the idea of community.

We love feeling like we are distinct and unique, yet all so similar – and if I had to sum up W&L in one sentiment, that would be it.

So we get dressed up and have concerts and date parties and make wonderful memories, pushing away the stress of our presentation that is due on Sunday and the tennis match next week and the student ambassador meetings and committee gatherings that we also need to think about.

In this vein, we uphold the much larger tradition of being good students, and active social beings. And I think that it is fair to say that Washington and Lee has a much higher bar for both than most universities.

We are expected to make it to every class and do well on our assignments and succeed because the number one reason we are all here is to receive a meaningful education.

Yet as soon as we get here, we realize that our number two priority will be socializing. It will be engaging in all the fun that night-time activities have to offer.

The build-up to Fancy Dress is all a part of the fun that makes this event different than the rest; and the idea that tradition lives on, how- ever one would like to interpret the interesting duality that W&L offers, is the most exciting part of it.