Updated: Jan 23
In 2013, my family and I were transplanted to the Great State of Texas. Son #2 was a Sophomore at our local high school. He conveniently forgot to bring lunch money one Friday, so I picked up his favorite CFA nuggets and headed up to the school. I walked into the school to meet him on his way to lunch. Now mind you, this was back before the school front offices were walled in like the "fish bowls" of today. Passing period was just starting and that's when I heard it. Clang, clang, clang... What is that??? The front desk receptionist looked at me and smiled at the shocked look on my face. "You're new to Texas, huh? Just stand here and watch". And that is when I saw them. The beauty and wonderous Texas tradition called the Homecoming Mum. Students were packed, shoulder to shoulder in the hallway, excitedly displaying probably one of the most over the top, quintessential Texas things I've ever seen, Homecoming Mums and Garters.
To this "uneducated Carolina girl", (don't come for me, native Texans) I thought they were wearing wreaths. I could see flowers, gorgeous bows, sparkling rhinestones, huge cowbells and feathers galore. Wow, was I ever wrong! My first exposure to Mums was definitely a life altering experience. Surely, you can't buy something like this at a store??? I had to know more!
Internet to the rescue! A quick search led me to pictures of college and high school ladies and gents wearing chrysanthemum flowers adorned with ribbons, bears, bells and bows. I learned that the earliest sightings of the Mum tradition in Texas can be traced back to the late 1930s. During homecoming, it was popular for corsages of real chrysanthemum flowers to be given to young ladies by their dates as a symbol of affection. The flowers were often adorned with just a few ribbons. But, in the 1990s, as all things do in Texas, the tradition got just a little bit bigger. Fresh chrysanthemum flowers were exchanged for faux silk type flowers, more bells, ribbons and letters made from pipe cleaners were added. Since then, the exchange of Mums and Garters have developed into a major Texas teenage Rite of Passage. It is most common to see them given as tokens of affection amongst couples and from parent to child. Groups of friends are also known to get together to make Mums to wear. They are worn to school and sometimes to the homecoming football game but, NEVER to the dance.
In the last 10 years, Mums have really started becoming more glamorous and personalized. Bears in custom clothing, wired ribbon, and glitter cardstock cutouts became popular. Recently, in addition to all of that, we're seeing more feather boas, lights and custom monograms. High-end designer ribbons are being introduced to elevate Mums to even greater heights. Professional Mum makers strive to offer their clientele the newest braids and bows to make that perfect Mum.
I believe that fashion trends and personalization will continue to drive the evolution of Homecoming Mums. The tradition's roots haven't changed but the expression of the tradition through Mums and Garters have definitely changed since its inception nearly 90 years ago. My family and I have enjoyed becoming a part of this tradition and I hope you do, too!