You see a group of young women wearing the same Greek letters on their shirts walking across campus. This typically brings to mind two thoughts: either you see the group as a walking advertisement for their sorority, or you see a unified group that proudly represents that sorority.
Dressing the same can form a bond between the sisters, but it also can limit individual expression by conforming to a specific look the sorority may want. Sisterhood has many potential benefits for those involved, but unification can sometimes be taken too far.
While I am not part of a sorority, I have many friends who are a part of Greek life and have enjoyed their experiences. At ASU, there are 28 sororities and 8 Professional Fraternity Council co-ed chapters. However, only 12 sororities are recognized by the National Panhellenic Council (NPC) and participate in the official, traditional Fall Rush process. Seemingly all sororities have received criticism throughout the years and have been stereotyped for both appearance and behavior.
Appearance can be a large part of making women feel accepted, or can be a leading cause for self-consciousness. Clothing is an incredibly emphasized aspect of a sorority girl’s overall experience beginning during rush, and following them throughout their life as part of the sisterhood.
In some circumstances, like in athletics, I would agree that wearing the same clothing allows people to feel a sense of belonging and form camaraderie. However, the need for identical outfits within sororities can hinder self-expression and invite conformity.
According to ASU’s Fraternity & Sorority Life 2015-2016 Annual Report, 2,596 women are affiliated with a sorority. Although the repetitive, specifically feminine aesthetic they present during recruitment week lacks individuality, there are positive aspects to being in a sorority, such as leadership opportunities, a chance to participate in community service and raise funds for philanthropic causes and charities, in addition to educational programs.
In ASU's Annual Report, fraternities and sororities contributed 103,981 hours of community service and raised $543,856 for charitable organizations. Educational programs covering an array of subjects including anti-bullying, leadership development, nutrition, self-defense, social responsibility and stress reduction were implemented by the organizations.
Before women participate in the activities mentioned, they go through recruitment and rush in order to join a sorority. Typically, this is the first time college women are introduced to the physical expectations of sororities.
All universities have varying requirements for rushees' attire. According to research conducted in 2013 at the University of Missouri-Columbia, "The first two days of rush require rushees to wear a provided t-shirt, subsequent days include more choice in attire, requiring the rushee to choose her own “sundress,” “business casual” outfit, or “semi-formal” dress.
Instead of enforcing such a stringent dress code, sororities should celebrate differences and encourage diversity if they wish to form honest and strong friendships. While some may think conformity in clothing and imposing unrealistic appearance expectations for women who want to be in a sorority is an example of exclusivity or prestige, I think it creates a massive moral conflict. A woman's self-esteem is in great jeopardy if she feels that without looking a particular way, her dream sorority won't want her. More emphasis should be placed on appreciating the individual rather than applauding their ability to conform.
A study done at Missouri-Columbia discusses the details regarding what women in sororities wear and display. Some of them wear items as simple as matching shirts, but others exhibit keychains, tote bags and water bottles as a way to show membership. In addition, these items can display "values associated with the social identity category of ‘sorority’ member,’" according to Missouri-Columbia's study. "But also function as an illustration of conformity to acceptable presentation of self, much in the same way that adhering to beauty standards does."
Clothing can be a way to express personality, and when that expression is taken away, individuality is stifled. If I was rushing, I would want to wear a different colored undershirt with a headband or earrings, so I could feel a little more like myself. Unfortunately, I may or may not actually be able to make that decision, which may leave me feeling out of place.
According to the research conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia “An individual’s participation (or desire to participate) in a certain group, organization, or subculture is often expressed and represented via dress and appearance, and a group culture itself frequently grows out of shared appearance choices and characteristics."
I cannot argue that sorority life is not appealing in many social aspects, and they do contribute to the community, assist others through service and provide leadership opportunities for members. However, as an aspiring fashion journalist, I don't see the benefit in requiring that appearances be identical.
Matching clothing may visibly forge a sought-after bond between some sisters, but for others it may be a matter of sacrificing individuality. In my opinion, the latter is more common. Sororities should not build themselves on the concept that if their outsides look unified, their insides will feel like family.
Editor's Note: Quotes from 224 Apparel were removed due to a reporting error made by the columnist. The quotes were used out of context and were removed to fairly represent 224 Apparel's opinions and involvement in the writing of this piece.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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