WWD has been covering the college scene for decades now. On Dec. 15, 1923, the paper covered the student fashion designs at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts (now the School of the Art Institute of Chicago), which included tea gowns and period black taffeta frocks. On July 13, 1937, it reported on the apparel budget for incoming freshmen: $400. Then in the summer of 1969, a reporter headed to the University of Michigan, where the first all-night Vietnam “Teach-In” was held four years prior, to discuss “pills, pot and politics” with students. (Sample quote from senior Rob Scott: “I’m afraid of becoming typically middle class. Affluence has put us into a position where we can frown on the depression psychosis of our parents.”)
Fast-forward to May 1, 2003. That’s when the paper published its first College Issue, which surveyed and ranked the nation’s most fashionable universities. “WWD Takes the fashion temperature at campuses across the land,” the paper wrote. “Our reading? Hot.” The paper sent reporters to more than 60 schools and compiled a list of the top 10 stylish establishments — New York University, perhaps unsurprisingly, lead the pack. “It’s even been possible to swap lecture notes with a bona fide supermodel,” wrote the paper’s New York correspondent. “Christy Turlington graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy.” Second place went to Howard University in Washington — “every Tuesday, freshman are required to wear suits; anything deemed too extreme or trendy, from stilettos to turned-up collars, is frowned upon” — while Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where sorority house Kappa Kappa Gamma was known as Kappa Kappa Gucci, nabbed the bronze.
As for the students’ number-one fashion icon? That prize went to Gwyneth Paltrow. “She’s a cliché only in that everyone would say she’s their fashion icon,” wrote Boston College sophomore Jessie Rosen. “It’s like saying ‘Jackie O’ for my generation.” Other nominees included Jennifer Lopez, Audrey Hepburn, Gwen Stefani and, for one coed, “mom.”