Fall means football in Texas. Anyone who’s seen Friday Night Lights could tell you that. But fall also means Texas’s most obscure tradition: homecoming mums. Walk into any high school homecoming game, and you’ll see girls wearing them—large white chrysanthemums, bedecked with ribbons, bells, and even lights, around their necks.
Mums emerged in the 1930s as real-flower corsages, but by the ’70s, schools switched to fake florals that wouldn’t wilt. From there, in true Texas fashion, mums exploded in size, with massive flowers and heaps of ribbons and boas, costing upward of $200. “To the people who come to me, this is like their wedding dress,” professional mum-maker Elizabeth Cleaver says. “It’s like a diamond—it’s never big enough.” We chatted with Cleaver, aka Spring’s Mum Queen, who makes 500 mums a season, about these very “Texas” accessories.
Here’s what you need:
Mums typically have one to five flowers, but Cleaver’s Texas ones have about 19.
Cleaver hand-decorates each bear, adding fluffy dresses, earrings, and fake eyelashes. “We have fun with it,” she says.
The three-foot-long base includes about 30 to 60 yards of luminous ribbons. “You can’t skimp on the ribbon.”
To prep for homecoming season, Cleaver makes 25 ribbon braids a night starting each January.
The ribbons, ornaments, and trinkets represent a girl’s extracurricular activities, like drill team or yearbook.