COLUMBIA— A week before the first football game of the season, a clothing rack at Elly's Couture held a single black and gold Missouri dress; in front of it hung a handwritten sign that read, "Last one!"
"We had a shipment come in a week ago and they're already gone," store manager Megan Hebeisen said. "But we have five more styles coming in the next couple of weeks so we can accommodate those who want to dress fancier."
With Missouri's inaugural game as a member of the Southeastern Conference on Saturday, some MU fans are preparing to participate in the Southern tradition of dressing up for football games.
Jackie Citero, a University of Georgia graduate student who has blogged about SEC fashion, said the tradition at Georgia includes dresses in the school's colors with heels or cowboy boots and pearls. She said men often wear button-up shirts with ties or bow ties.
"In the South, they view football as a kind of religion, so how you dress up for church is how you dress up for football," Citero said.
Spending a Sunday afternoon in front of a Singer sewing machine at Alpha Chi Omega sorority house, MU sophomore Lizzy Schoeffel and junior Emily Ray took the idea of SEC style a step further by handcrafting their own game day dresses.
"My friend was telling me how the traditions in the South are much different with the SEC," Ray said. "She was talking about how in the SEC a bunch of sorority girls would get together and make dresses."
Ray was inspired to make her own game day dress after her friend shared a picture of a homemade dress she found on the Internet.
Starting with black fabric, the girls measured, cut and sewed, creating a ruched look around the waist. By the end of the week, each finished by attaching a tank top, cut from a gold Missouri T-shirt.
The women plan to complete their black and gold sundresses with subtle accessories.
"I got ribbon to tie around the waist and make a bow in front," Schoeffel said. "I would wear wedges probably or just flats – black flats or something. I wouldn't really add too much, maybe a bow or flower in my hair."
Columbia retailers are already witnessing the long-standing Southern tradition of dressing up for games making its mark on the community.
In interviews at 11 downtown apparel and women's clothing stores, employees at nine of the stores reported an increased demand for fancier Missouri gear.
"Most people who come in shopping for game day clothes are going dressier than past years," Hebeisen said. She has been the manager of Elly's Couture since January.
She said less than two weeks before the Georgia game, "a bunch of sorority girls came in and said that their chapter president told them that they have to look nice for games. They have to dress up.”
Laura Wilson, owner of Blackberry Exchange, said her store has sold Missouri-themed clothing for years, but this season she has seen a higher demand for custom-made dresses.
"I have absolutely seen more people coming in this year looking for dresses, particularly the ones that have SEC patched in," Wilson said. "I would say, as of right now, we are probably at 25 percent more dresses than at this time last year."
When she heard about the SEC tradition of formal game day apparel, Wilson planned accordingly.
"In the past, we had Mizzou-themed window displays for a couple games, but this year for every home game there will definitely be a display," she said.
For the first time, Envy has an entire wall devoted to chic black and gold women's clothing.
"I've helped several different people that are in the box seats for games, and they're worried about what they should be wearing," store manager Lauren Ward said. "I would say one out of four people who come in are grabbing stuff geared toward SEC style as of now, and it's increasing as the first game is coming up."
Columbia men also are picking up on the "preppy Southern look," said Dave Danuser, co-owner at Binghams.
"I think it goes along with what Gary Pinkel was talking about — having to step up to the fact that we're in a different conference," Danuser said. "Students are realizing that if they want to fit in with the SEC, they need to step up their game and dress up a little more."
Sophomore John Kiburz has attended football games and said he doesn't plan to change his ways.
"Where I'm from, everyone goes to Ole Miss, and it's too formal," he said. "I think there's a place for formalities, and it's not when you're drunk at a football game."
For freshman Mark Schaller, dressing up for football games won't be a change. But he won't be wearing a button-up shirt or bow tie.
"I normally wear a Mizzou golf polo and khaki shorts," he said.
Senior Kaitlyn De Yot said going to football games is more about the interactions with people than what they're wearing.
"I'm not really familiar with the SEC, so to me, it's still just football," she said. "I just go to hang out with people."
Most students have the option of choosing their game day attire; however, members of Tiger's Lair are encouraged to wear their Tiger's Lair T-shirts. This year, the shirts feature the SEC logo on the side.
Although Jonathan Deutsch, junior and Tiger's Lair member, has heard about students following traditional SEC style, he said he would not change his attire if given the choice.
"We're not in the South or the East, we're in the middle," Deutsch said. "It's a very traditional way, and I can't see Missouri wearing bow ties and sundresses to football games."
As some MU students seize the opportunity to buy into SEC fashion, the question remains as to whether adopting the tradition will help Missouri fit in better with the new conference.
"I do think we're going to have problems," Ward said. "I think some people aren't going to want to convert over to the really fancy stuff. But I think dressing up will help us fit in. If not, when teams are visiting here and they're dressed up, we're going to feel like a visitor at our own home."