Whether you join The Junior League in New Orleans or New York, the experience is decidedly Southern, and suspiciously reminiscent of your first foray into Greek life many years ago (we won’t tell just how many).
From your provisional class feeling exactly like your pledge class, cliques and advisors included, to balls masquerading as date parties for adults with the prerequisite blowout and new dress, your provisional year is exactly like pledging, only without a big sister—unfortunately, the dues are equally expensive.
The pearls might be bigger and the Lilly Pulitzer planners are now slightly more subdued and monogrammed, but there’s still to the shared desire to become the next president for both organizations. Whether you’re 18 or 28, this is how pledging a sorority and being a provisional member of the Junior League is a shared experience.
1. Junior League balls are exactly like date parties, only even more formal.
While a ball might bring to mind Cinderella, the reality is that it's a more expensive, slightly chicer version of a collegiate date party. Unfortunately it's not a mixer, although you could certainly attempt to make it one. But like a date party, Junior League members have to find a gentleman who wants to attend and pay the hefty price tag, without an older member setting them up. There's usually a pregame component, although Leaguers certainly don't call it that, only with white wine served instead of inexpensive vodka. Despite the minor differences, the music is the same, with “Shout” playing while people in formalwear get as low as their floor length gown from the last wedding they attended will allow.
2. There's unspoken competition to become the organization’s next president.
Of course, in sororities and in the Junior League no one is outwardly competitive (and if they are, they get called to the standards board or their provisional advisor would take them aside), but everyone hopes to gain a leadership role and stand out. Whether it’s by impressing a sorority adviser or a particularly connected provisional advisor, the hope is that one of the older members will put you on an unofficial leadership track. Hopefully, in the League, you’ll impress your fellow provisionals enough to merit the “On the Move” award.
3. The accessories are the same, only updated.
In any Southern sorority house, the accessories are all the same, only in different colors–there are pledge pins for meetings, larger pins for class (although no double flaring, of course), and a Lilly Pulitzer planner to keep track of date parties. The planners in purses at the Junior League are a tad more grown up, but they’re still monogrammed, and more than likely pink, filled with the same types of activities, including parties and philanthropy hours. But the pearl and diamond earrings are certainly a bit larger in adulthood, and there are far more engagement rings, even if you went to a “ring by spring” school.
4. Signing up for a committee is almost as stressful as matching with a big sister.
Committee sign-ups in the Junior League are almost as intense as preference night, or finding out if you were matched with the big sister of your choice. If you do receive the number one choice on your list, there’s an equal amount of jealousy from those who weren’t. In both cases, the connections you’re making are worth the stress of waiting to hear who you matched with. And it’s all much less tense than actual recruitment, which is an experience there is no match for.
5. There's a required dress code for meetings.
For weekly sorority meetings, most require business casual attire and a pin. In college business attire can roughly translate to a seersucker sundress and wedges, but it's still far dressier than the usual uniform of Nike shorts or leggings for winter weather, paired with a favorite fraternity's front pocket tee and Tory Burch. Most Junior League headquarters require a similar business casual look, although post-college that means whatever you wore to work, but not casual Friday jeans, of course. Think the bag of the moment, enormous earrings and a little black dress.
6. Philanthropy hours are required.
Both organizations are known for their commitment to volunteer work, but sometimes outsiders don’t realize just how much giving back actually goes on. And in both cases, taking a leadership role helps, so that you can get involved with the cause you care most about. In the Junior League, philanthropy hours can’t be fulfilled by attending a sisterhood event. Instead, they’re made up of weekends building playgrounds, cheering on marathon runners and developing tight-knit relationships with local organizations that need help.
7. It's important to learn the history.
In both situations, you’ll probably be quizzed on the history, from the founder’s names to the specific non-profits your chapter, or location, partners with. And in both cases, it can seem like loads of information at the time, but once you’re in the organization for longer than a few months, you realize how important it is to realize the long legacy you’re maintaining.
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8. There's a secret shared language.
Growing up, I remember listening to my mom and her friends discuss the next president, sustainers, done in a days and their committee, and only understood about half of what they were saying. When I first pledged my sorority, I genuinely believed everyone was discussing actual twins (I was surprised to learn it meant one "big sister" taking on two "little sisters” because of a particularly oversized pledge class). In both cases, the shared language helps create a similar bond--and the requirement to spend time together certainly helps.