Women’s corner

Prom dress rugby

Women’s rugby team defeats alumni, except no one was keeping score.

Carrie Golus, AB’91, AM’93 | @carriegolus

Prom dress rugby has been a tradition at UChicago for “at least a decade,” says Chloe Pfeiffer, Class of 2017, incoming captain of the women’s rugby team. “No one my age seems to know.” Prom dress rugby games are not just a UChicago thing, she says, but are played at many colleges and universities with women’s rugby teams.

Players don’t wear their actual prom dresses. The gowns—chosen on the basis of ugliness and difficulty of playing rugby in—come from thrift stores and are passed down from year to year, if they’re not destroyed in the game. Pfeiffer played this year’s match in a black and white pantsuit: “Like a jumper, all one thing,” she says. “It had been worn by at least three other girls before me.”

What’s it like to play rugby in a formal gown? “It’s easy to get tackled, because people can grab onto you. Or someone will go down and their dress will cover the ball,” Pfeiffer says. “It’s also really hot.”

For two years running, prom dress rugby has been a students vs. alumni game scheduled during Alumni Weekend. There weren’t enough alumni for a team this year, so rookie players filled out the alumni side. “I have no idea what the score was. I don’t think we were keeping score,” Pfeiffer says, but the student team “definitely won.” The referee, a volunteer from the men’s rugby team, wore a scarlet minidress.


Rugby, which originated at the all-male Rugby School in Warwickshire in the 19th century, can also be played by women in semiformal attire. (All photography by Jeremy Lawson)