What is Homecoming? The answer can be complex and really depends on who you are, where you are, and how involved your local community is. In this respect, it can mean different things to different people in all walks of life. But, generally speaking, homecoming means a return to a place that was once home to you. It could be where you grew up, a former school, even a place of work. In essence, it could also be a form of welcoming new people into a place of comfort. For some, its returning or reuniting with your family, be it in an old familiar place of fond memories or somewhere new and exciting. For men, Homecoming can mean reveling in the annual rivalry of local football teams. For women, it can be an excuse to buy another dress. Homecoming dances are a great place to reunite with friends from your past. And, of course, the ladies must look their finest, so the dress you chose for Homecoming is of the utmost importance.
In the United States, Homecoming brings a singular event type to mind that is commonly accepted. This is the Homecoming associated with schools, colleges, and universities. To this end, a Homecoming is an annual tradition that involves the celebration of welcoming back former students or graduates otherwise known as alumni of an educational institution. There are usually many activities that are prepared such as sporting events and cultural programs, as opposed to only one. A parade is also often included and the town or city is witness to it as this activity is held in the streets. If by any chance you should be confused between a Homecoming and a prom, just remember that the former is held during the fall while the latter happens in spring. While Homecoming occurs countrywide, those in the south are typically the more lavish and over the top Homecoming’s, as it is generally revered as a more significant event than it is in the Northern States.
Somewhere between the latter part of September and the early part of October each year is typically when the town and the people in it, come back and or put forth efforts to celebrate this annual occasion together. All for one reason, to make an even better memory with the concerned educational institution itself and its students. Flexibility is allowed in terms of the celebrations to welcome former graduates and residents who lived on campus. Definitely, though, the culminating event is usually a Homecoming party or ball where Homecoming attendees dress up to look their best.
There is also the main sports event, usually a football game, although it can also be a basketball game, ice hockey, or soccer. Whatever it may be, it has to be played on the home courts or fields depending on the chosen sport. This way, supporters of the school involved can all get together to watch, build camaraderie, cheer the players on, and rekindle the pride in the school. Should football be attached to the Homecoming, a date that coincides with the day the school team is set to return from its longest trip of the fall season from a competition is selected at the Homecoming night. It is the night the team is pitted against an out of conference team, typically that is weaker by a large margin to guarantee a sure win. The culminating dance or ball usually follows the Homecoming game in short order. It is here that the Homecoming king and queen of the night are crowned. This is considered a highlight of the event that not only brings more people out but also brings the end of the celebration full circle.
1891 was the year when college football competitions from schools in Kansas and Missouri became intense. It was known as the Border War and was characterized by a huge rivalry between schools located to the west of the Mississippi River. It was also at this time when a new ruling stipulated that all games between colleges or universities needed to be played on college campuses. The first game after this ruling was a football game that took place at Missouri University in 1911, and for which its athletic director called on alumni for support. It is considered by many official sources as the origin of the school Homecoming model followed by most of today’s schools and colleges.
A Homecoming court is a court that may be made up of a king and queen, prince and princesses, even a duke and duchess. Variations of the composition of the Homecoming court may depend on certain things, although leeway is allowed in terms of what and what not to include. For exclusive schools, all-girls usually have a queen or a queen and princess. Same goes for all-boys which usually has a king or a king and prince. For these schools, there is an option to celebrate Homecoming in combination with another school, usually its counterpart. This means for an all-girls school, an all-boys school will be invited and vice-versa. It is also the norm to choose kings and queens from senior-level students or those who are about to graduate. On the other hand, princes and princesses are selected from lower years. Sometimes candidates are picked based on their value to the school, that is to say, the bigger your contribution to the school, the higher the chances of being shortlisted. A tally is held of the votes cast by secret balloting. The selection, voting, and tallying are sometimes done way before the Homecoming game so that announcement of the winners can take place a few days before the game or at the game itself. But, it can also be done during other Homecoming activities such as a public ceremony, a pep rally, or a school assembly, or during the dance itself.
A Homecoming parade usually is accompanied by other activities throughout the day. These may include a pep rally, bonfire, etc. The whole school is usually represented. This means the grand marshal; all sports teams, school organizations, faculty, and possibly each class are participants in the said parade.
A tailgate party is formed usually outside the football venue and is attended by people who do not have any tickets to the game or prefer to party outside the game. A happy and electrifying atmosphere is usually the case at these sites as businesses and town people join in the festivities by setting up tents for food and drinks. It is a great way to socialize and connect again with familiar people.
The Homecoming picnic has similarities to the tailgate, but unlike the latter which happens before and during the Homecoming game, it is scheduled after class or during lunch break.
Throughout the week there may be themes to follow on certain days, such as funky/outgoing themes. By the end of the week-long celebration, which usually falls on a Friday, the school colors are usually worn with the name of the school also printed on the clothing.
A pep rally is a get together where several activities are lined up. These may include games, skits, launching of the Homecoming court, etc. It may be held on more than one day, and often ends with the Homecoming bonfire where some memorabilia of a competitor school is burned among others in a fire overseen by school officials for the safety of the participants.
The alumni band is composed of those alumni of the school who used to be band members in school. They may be a mixture of the most recent graduates all the way to old alumni.
Mums and Garters
This tradition is famous in the southern part of the United States, particularly in Texas. Mums are made by boys for their dates by basically piecing together chrysanthemum flowers artificial or fresh, accompanied with accessories which over the years have gotten more diverse. It is typically worn by the girl around their neck with the size associated with the grade level. The bigger the mum, the higher or more senior the girl. Garters, on the other hand, are similar to the mums but made by the girls for their dates, and are made to be worn around the boy’s arm. The colors used are the colors of the school. These are worn to the Homecoming game.
Finally, the most anticipated culminating activity of the Homecoming week is the Homecoming dance. For high schools, it is often held on campus either in the gymnasium or on a field. But it can also be held outside of campus in hotels. Large colleges and universities find it impossible to have one single Homecoming dance for the whole student population. In this case, the population is broken down into smaller groups where student organizations, sororities, and fraternities are given jurisdiction to organize their own version of the Homecoming dance. In some ways, it is the fall version of the spring prom. The difference lies in the attire. Homecoming dresses are in many cases less formal compared to prom dresses. In the former, short dresses are the usual norm with hair worn down, while the boys just wear tucked long-sleeves over trousers. Proms by comparison, in some cases, requires full-length gowns with matching more formal hairstyles for the girls. The boys in comparison wear tuxedos.
Homecoming Dresses & Fashion
The Homecoming dance is the first dance of the year, so you can just imagine the excitement of teenagers for this affair. It is a prelude to the bigger and more formal prom, but no less important as it also functions as an alumni Homecoming. Realistically, it can be a cause of joy or a cause for concern. Well-adjusted teens who belong to groups will find it effortless to anticipate, prepare, and enjoy the night itself. But for others, just thinking about it could prove to be nerve-wracking. Fortunately, it has become acceptable to be dateless and this has made the prospect of the approaching event less daunting for many. Still, anyone would want to put their best foot forward by looking their best. Peer pressure can be horrible, and the pressure to conform or of gaining approval should not take a toll on you. There is a time to be with friends and do or agree on the same things together, but bringing your individual fashion style to the fore for this event is something that should make you feel good about yourself.
As previously mentioned, a Homecoming dance is more informal than the traditional prom. Still, schools differ in their practices with regard to the attire they require. Below are the types of attire that may be indicated in the dress code:
1.) Casual – This category in the dress code does not necessarily mean jeans and a shirt is allowed. Usually, short casual dresses for the girls are the norm, paired with heels or dressy sandals. For the boys, it could be shirts with collars and khakis. This type of casual may also be referred to as "business casual". However, the school may also allow normal causal clothes like shirts and shorts paired with sneakers but never slippers or flip-flops. This black, simple dress is a popular attraction for homecoming because of the horizontal strip accents throughout the body while still being able to wear a fun heel for completion of the look.
2.) Semi-formal – This category involves short semi-formal dresses and heels for the girls, and suits for the boys. There is definitely a party flair in the styles for this level, although still keeping to the semi-formal and not fully formal since the attire is still a dress and not a gown. This slip beaded dress gives off a more chic, dressed up look.
3.) Formal - There are Homecoming dances that do require a formal dress code. In this case, girls are expected to wear floor-length formal evening gowns with matching hairstyles and accessories. It is tuxedos for the boys naturally with matching formal leather shoes as well. The floor-length gown, as shown below, allows a more classic quality wear for the piece itself.
Dress Code Rules
In addition to the level of formality in attires, schools may have specific rules connected to the dress code. More conservative schools may indicate a minimum skirt or dress length such as six inches above the knee. Still, others may want it to be longer or below the point of the girl’s fingertip where her arm is resting by her side. Other rules may indicate opposition to low-cut designs or other designs that the school deems fit to disallow. Because of these limitations, someone who has been invited to another school’s Homecoming dance should always make it a point to verify the dress code rules to avoid embarrassment.
Other Examples of Restricted Outfits
In any type of attire, styles can range from conservative all the way to daring and inappropriate. Following are more examples of limitations that school boards expect participants to observe and follow:
- No front or back low-cut styles
- No plunging necklines
- No slits higher acceptable standards
- No bare tummies
- No style with cut-out design in any part of the dress
- No baggy or loose pants for boys
- No jeans for boys
Tips on Choosing the Right Outfit
A great look takes a lot more than just the dress itself. It is the complete look resulting from the whole ensemble which includes the bag or clutch, the shoes, accessories, the hairstyle and also nail color. Sometimes it’s difficult to put together everything from your head all the way to the tips of your toes. When this happens, try to focus on one thing at a time. If you have a specific part of your wardrobe that you would really want to use for your ensemble, start with that. It can be a bag or a pair of shoes; it does not necessarily have to be the dress itself. Work your way up from this angle, that is to say, look for a dress that would match the shoes. In no time, you will be able to put together a great look that you will feel at home with and be confident about.
Considering your date’s outfit can help you choose your own. Although it is true that your individual style is something to be proud of, it won’t help much if you each look like you are coming from opposite directions. Eyes will be on you as a couple, so it would be great if your look as a couple can appear unified without sacrificing your individuality.
There was a time when Homecoming dresses looked all the same. Gowns were usually ball gowns which meant large or balloon skirts and overall stiff styles. Colors were usually dainty or girly as well. Fortunately, those days are done and over with. If a girl’s personality fits the bill, by all means, those types of gowns are still suitable for the occasion. However, there are far more choices that are just as acceptable and fashionable. Figure-hugging gowns that are minimalist in style are just as great and stylish for such occasions. They are, unfortunately, not good for everyone as certain types of figures require special or specific types of gowns. Following are some more common body types with corresponding fashion methods to downplay figure imperfections and accentuate figure qualities:
- A Frame – This body type is heavy on the hips and thighs, but smaller on the waist and breasts. The best way to draw attention away from the hips and thighs is by accentuating the shoulder area to make them appear wider and achieve a more even or balanced body.
- V Frame – This body type is broad on the shoulders and possibly breasts, small on the hips and thighs. The best way to dress this type of figure is to not make the shoulders appear wider but narrower or softer if possible. The hips and thighs should appear wider which can be achieved with a fuller skirt and a heavier material.
- 8 Frame – Like the number 8, this body type is usually full on the breasts and hips, with a tiny waist. The best style for this figure is a flowing simple dress or gown that hugs the waist to accentuate the sexy curves of this figure type.
- Oval Frame – Height is short to average, heavy on the breasts, legs are thin, and tend to gain weight in the middle part of the body. The best style for this figure is to draw away attention from the waist. A-symmetrical cuts are best plus one-shoulder styles.
High school and college memories are the stuff great and lasting memories are made of. The friends made in this period of one’s life are the ones that make the most impact and imprint. It’s good to make a good impression at the Homecoming events, for others as much as for oneself. Make it count.