Cole Haan shoe addict. Kate Spade bag collector. Banana Republic devotee.

I have been a clothes horse all my life. Like many women, I use clothing to express my state of mind. Some things have stuck with me since childhood – you can never go wrong with a classic penny loafer or a cable knit sweater. Some trends blessedly went away liked pegged pants, which were simply unfortunate on my already 5’9” seventh-grade body. Some have come back around again, but, honestly, I just can’t bring myself to relive Flashdance, no matter how cute the Donna Karan cashmere blend leggings look on the model.

Even as a poor graduate student I focused on trendy accessories, smart shoes, and elegant bags at great prices to help me develop my professional ethos. Former graduate faculty mentors still stop me at academic conferences to catch up…and to find out how many pairs of kitten heels I brought on the trip this time.

But that’s just part of the story my closet tells. The piece of clothing that I think seems to say the most about me, about how I feel, what I love and who I am, is my T-shirts – especially my Sigma Kappa T-shirts. I wasn’t one of the girls who gave her bid day and event shirts away at Senior Wills; I just couldn’t seem to let them go. I’ve been a Sigma Kappa for almost half my life now, and I’ve accrued even more shirts since graduation.

If you look at my ragtag collection of T-shirts now, you can see the bigger story of where I found myself as a collegian, where I’ve been in my life travels, and even where I am right now as an advisor, professor, and alumna. The sizes range from requisite late-90s XLs (Why, exactly, did we think it was cool to wear our shirts three sizes too big back then? Anyone?) to today’s slimmer American Apparel silhouettes, and they showcase every color of the spectrum, from white to pink to neon green. The tees represent different Sigma Kappa chapters around the country – my home chapter Alpha Sigma, chapters that I advise like Kappa Zeta or chapters that friends advise like Gamma Phi, and from alumnae groups where I found friends each time I moved to pursue a job or a degree. I have a shirt to fit every mood, shirts to remind me of every phase of my adult life and of the sisters I befriended along the way.

I feel more me when I wear a Sigma Kappa shirt.

Isn’t that the way it should be? Is it that way for you, or did you give all your shirts away at Wills? Do you have your first Bid Day shirt? I still have mine, although it’s so tissue thin I’m afraid it won’t survive the next trip through the dryer. I think my chapter sisters will agree that it’s still quite possibly the coolest shirt ever created (but maybe that’s just my violet-tinted glasses). I’ll tell you about it sometime.

Other shirts have their own stories: the shirt that made a cameo in a friend’s Facebook picture of her new baby, which then led half of our chapter to post on the status of our own shirts; the Kappa Zeta shirt that arrived in my mailbox months before I got to campus from a sister who would become a mentor as I stepped into my first faculty position; the shirt that “got away” that I wish I hadn’t lost (seriously, where IS my Calvin Klein panda shirt?!)

I’ll show you all of those shirts. Well, except the Calvin Klein panda shirt. You’ll just have to trust me on that one. And I hope you’ll tell us about your bid day shirt, or your favorite formal shirt, or the shirt that Nationals probably wouldn’t let us make, let alone wear in public, today. Let’s get those shirts out of the closet one more time and see what they have to tell us about ourselves.

What do your T-shirts say about you or how you Live Sigma Kappa?


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16 Responses to My Life in T-Shirts

  1. ashley nance says:

    I still wear one of my favorite red SK Last Blast t-shirts from May 24, 1993! When other Theta Xi sisters see it they are amazed I still have it. It carries me back to fun carefree days of my life in Auburn. I even have my SK jersey, and hopefully will get to pass it to my daughter one day. Thanks for making me smile as I thought some of my favorite SK memories. ~ashley nance

  2. Laramie Wright says:

    This article sums up exactly how I feel. I love my SK tshirts. I had a quilt made from some of them, the hardest part was choosing which ones to put on it.
    I remember friends making fun of me for just how many shirts I had. To me, every single shirt was a memory. For some reason a tshirt simply brings the memory back to me much better than any photo could.

  3. Vicki Cangelosi says:

    I love all 100+ t-shirts!!! Great blog!!

  4. Rebecca Pope-Ruark says:

    Ashley and Laramie – glad to hear I’m not the only one out there! The shirts give me comfort and remind me who I am, who my sisters are, and what I value on days when I need that reminder or even on days when I know I’m living those values. Ashley – glad I could make you smile on this very important Sigma Kappa day! Laramie – I don’t know if I could part with enough shirts to make a quilt, but I aspire to that one day! :)

  5. Katy Pyron says:

    Recently, my mom decided to empty a storage unit she has kept for the last decade or so. I am more than 200 miles away, so as she was sorting through “keep”, “donate”, and “trash” items, we chatted on the phone. There was a bag full of t-shirts that she asked about and I instantly said to keep them. A couple of weeks ago, we went to see them during fall break and my bag of shirts was waiting for me–my bid day shirt, dinner dance shirts, regional conference shirt, and several shirts “personalized” by my sisters. I was giddy and misty all at the same time!!! A favorite?? Rush ’98–Oh the places you’ll go! And, wow, have we ever!

  6. Anne Boodheshwar says:

    Loved the article…I would say my favorite would be my first sweatshirt with my letters on it. I remember how proud I was the first time I got to wear those letters! I will still pull it out to hang about in, being that it is huge,bought back when we all thought the bigger the better… is still so comfy. I even have a picture of me pregnant with my first daughter in it…hmmm maybe they will be her favorite letters too!

  7. Michelle Fleer says:

    As a new chapter trying to find it’s way, my chapter didn’t have a single shirt (that I recall) during my collegiate membership. I’ve acquired many as an alumna volunteer and specific ones remind me of a certain member, event or (horrors!) an exceptionally not-so-fun time chaperoning a social event. I facilitate workshops for Sigma Kappa collegians and give away t-shirts (diplomatically, pulling names out of a hat) and they are always thrilled to get a shirt from another chapter. I even had a collegian who hoped for 2 years to have her name drawn, which never happened, and she asked for one at the end of the workshop. I was so happy I could accommodate her and it was humbling that a shirt meant so much to her.

  8. Patty Jones-Arnold says:

    I too love collecting T-shirts. I had several that I willed during Senior wills, but I also gave some to my niece who pledged my chapter about 8 years ago. The only two remaining in my collection were my pledge class T and a Sigma Chi Derby Days T. Now I wish that I had them back. My daughter pledged this fall and went active last Saturday. She kept asking if I had any T’s stashed in the basement. However, the chapter now is awash in T-shirts and she received about 50 from her Big. Lucky me! She let me choose several and now I proudly wear my Sig Kap T’s out and about. A few weeks ago a woman stopped me in Target and asked if I was a Sig Kap and told me she was too. She made me do the hand shake right there in Target! Hilarious!

  9. Alisa Jordan Alisa Jordan says:

    One of my (secret) favorite things about being a chapter adviser was the t-shirts I’d get for helping out with an event! This also reminds me to dig out my old ones from my parents’ basement. I hope I still have my “Sigma Kappa- Sisterhood with a Kick” one!

  10. Courtney Hannah says:

    I want to make mine into a quilt at some point because I don’t get to wear all of them as often as I would like, but I always find myself curled up on my couch in a certain purple fleece blanket. What better way to remember all the fun and literal warmth Sigma Kappa can bring!

  11. Jessica Reddick Gatlin Jessica Reddick says:

    I recently had (most of) my shirts made into a queen-size quilt… I was shocked at how many I had sitting in storage. I wore several in a rotation and pretty much forgot about the rest until I was cleaning out a closet. The quilt is gorgeous and I just love remembering different events every time I look at it. :)

  12. Morgan Blue says:

    Great blog, Rebecca! I think that the next time our chapter (and this goes for all chapters) has a casual get together, we should all sport our favorite function t-shirt. How fun!

  13. Kelsey Weightman says:

    Rebecca I am a fellow Alpha Sigma alum and I couldn’t let my t-shirts go at senior wills either! There was no way I was giving up my bid-day hoodie, it meant way to much to be able to finally sport Sigma Kappa gear after recruitment. I also plan on making my tees into a quilt, I bought one every single time the chapter decided to order shirts, they will make a great big keepsake blanket some day. For now, as a recent alum, I still enjoy wearing them, after all some are practically new! I loved this post, each one definitely serves as a memory. So glad to know that I’m not the only one!

  14. Kelli says:

    I had an extensive collection of Sigma Kappa t-shirts from all kinds of events arranged by our Theta Nu (Baylor University) chapter in the early 90’s. But, having moved to a cooler climate (Finland!) several years ago, I simply don’t have the opportunity to wear t-shirts very often anymore. So, I asked a dear old friend of mine – who also happens to be a great crafter – to make a quilt from all the t-shirts. It’s still “a work in progress”, but I can hardly wait to use my Sigma Kappa t-shirt quilt to warm myself both inside and out with the great memories of my collegiate days! P.S. Of course I did keep my Sigma Kappa “jersey”, which I was thrilled to wear at one of our bi-annual Alzheimer’s Memory Walk with my AWESOME European Alumnae Chapter sisters!

  15. Dana Reinertson says:

    Even after giving away a couple shirts at Senior Wills I still have a drawer full of them! And I mostly gave away random duplicates because I couldn’t bear to part with them. I still wear mine often, especially at Sigma Kappa get-togethers!

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