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Photo: Crystal Harris

In the last decade, collegiate and high school women’s prom dress rugby has spread across the nation. With teams like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Saint Joseph Academy and the University of California at Berkeley (UCLA) acting as hosts, games usually involve women playing while decked out in their fancy feathers and furs Prom Night best. Some games serve as fundraisers for charitable causes; others are held to gain publicity and attract more women to the sport- but all of them involve a lot of fabric and a lot of fun.

There is no particular format with games found in either 7’s or 15’s. The experience can consist of a single game or tournament. Dress styles and lengths can vary, but the team is inclusive of those who wish to wear dapper menswear.

Lock Haven University’s Women Rugby Club Treasurer, Makenzie McNulty, said, “Rugby is a tough game and you should never underestimate your opponents just because they're wearing a bright pink poofy dress. But if you plan on playing in a dress, I would recommend a shorter one so that you can run easier and there's not as much that the other team can rip off…a lot of the dresses are left on the field in pieces.”

The gowns’ lack of sturdiness has led organizations like the Bryn Mawr-Haverford Women’s Rugby Club to think twice about letting students participate in such events. During the late 2000’s, the bi-college club, a combination of players from both Bryn Mawr and Haverford College, played in local area prom dress matches. These included Drexel University Women's Rugby Club's annual Prom Dress tournament. Yet their participation came to a halt in 2010 when the administration of Bryn Mawr’s Athletics Department expressed concern about students playing under such conditions. As a compromise, the team now takes part in an annual unsanctioned scrimmage against alumnae.

“I really enjoy playing rugby in a dress, it adds an extra element of whimsy and sometimes hilarity to a game I already love. That being said, some of the same parts of prom dress rugby that can be incredibly entertaining (like having to hold up your dress when you run in order to avoid tripping) obviously have a certain element of danger to them,” explained the Captain of the Bryn Mawr-Haverford Club, Taryn Traughber. “[The scrimmage] allows us to have the added fun of playing in dresses with limited risk of injury given that the forum is competitively neutral, and we are playing among friends.”

MIT always hosts a tournament the last weekend of April and averages about ten club participants. In addition to providing a trophy for the winning team, smaller trophies are given out for: Best Dressed Player, Best Dressed Coach, Cutest Couple, Most Wrecked Dress and more.

Christi Dawydiak, MIT’s Women’s Rugby Football Club President explains, “The fact that we’re in dresses definitely changes the game a little. Scrums can be more difficult. Tackling can be a lot easier because you can just grab onto people’s dresses and they can get completely ripped off- it’s a lot of fun. Sometimes coaches will get dressed up. Last year we had four referees come and two of them wore tuxedos. A coach brought a panda suit which one of our referees very quickly borrowed. So it’s kind of like a free for all!”

MIT Women Rugby Football Club always welcomes new clubs to come and join them in their annual spring prom dress tournament. Spring 2015 will be their 8th tournament and they would love to welcome new participants to reach out via [email protected].