A toga party is a type of costume party with a Roman or Greek theme and in which male and female attendees are expected to wear a toga, or a semblance thereof, normally made from a bed sheet, and sandals. At toga parties, the costumes, party games and other entertainment often follow a Roman or Greek theme. Toga parties held by college or university students are associated with keg parties and excessive drinking.
The earliest known college "toga parties" took place in the early 1950s. Toga parties are recorded, for example, in the yearbooks for Theta Delta Chi (1952) and the University of Michigan's Acacia fraternity (1953). Another early college student toga party took place in 1953, when Pomona College students wore togas and ivy wreaths, and brought their dorm mattresses to freshman Mark Neuman's home on Hillcrest Avenue in nearby Flintridge.
For the eight decades before such Greek-themed parties became known as "toga parties" in the 1950s, similar parties, generally called "bed sheet and pillow slip" parties (or simply, "pillow slip" parties), in which attendees wrapped themselves in sheets and pillow cases, were regularly held by fraternal orders (like the Masons, Odd Fellows and Elks), civic organizations and church groups. In 1882, the Terpsichore Society of the Ohio State University held a "pillow slip party" which may arguably be considered the first-ever college "toga party".
The Guinness World Record for the largest toga party is 3,700 participants. The event, organized by the University of Queensland Union and the Queensland University of Technology Student Guild, was held on 24 February 2012 at Riverstage in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
In popular culture
Toga parties were depicted in the 1978 film National Lampoon's Animal House, which propelled the ritual into a widespread and enduring practice. Chris Miller, who was one of the writers of Animal House, attended Dartmouth College where the toga party was a popular costume event at major fraternity parties (such as Winter Carnival and Green Key Weekend) during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
A toga party was also briefly described in Tom Wolfe's 1968 story "The Pump House Gang", although somewhat different from the version in the film. Another example of a toga party is shown in the first episode of season four of the television series Greek.
- The Shield (Theta Delta Chi). 69 (2): 63. 1952 https://books.google.com/books?id=-AHPAAAAMAAJ&q=%22toga+party%22&dq=%22toga+party%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjq_smF7ufQAhWm0FQKHfJTAx84ChDoAQg8MAU. Missing or empty
- The Triad (Acacia). 47 (3): 96. 1953 https://books.google.com/books?id=McbmAAAAMAAJ&q=%22toga+party%22&dq=%22toga+party%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjq_smF7ufQAhWm0FQKHfJTAx84ChDoAQgzMAM. Missing or empty
- "What to Wear to a Toga Party". Innovate US. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
- Jensen Brown, Peter. "Fraternal Orders, Fraternities, Bed Sheets and Pillow Cases - Wrapping Up the History of the "Toga Party"". Early Sports 'n' Pop-Culture History Blog. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
- Makio. Columbus, Ohio: Fraternities of the Ohio State University. 1886. p. 79.
- Guinness World Records: Largest Toga Party
- "FDR Birthday". FDR Presidential Library and Museum.
- Mount, Harry. Carpe Diem: Put a Little Latin in Your Life. New York: Hyperion, 2007.