School Uniform

 School Uniform

A Doll in School Uniform

schoolgirl doll on step

Few things evoke as many memories of schooldays as the dreaded school uniform.

I therefore decided to reproduce mine on yet another of my prototype dolls. 

I carefully created replica clothes with as many details as possible on this smaller scale. When she was finished just the sight of her brought back not only memories, but also emotions from those times.

I always thought I'd remembered my schooldays but this doll triggered some which had been forgotten... little facts that brought the bigger memories to life.

I went to an all-girls grammar school during the early half of the 1960s.

This doll wears a replica of my school uniform - the winter version. We had a different outfit during the summer.

Did anyone ever love their school uniform?

In those days most teenage girls detested their school uniform.

During those years when a girl really wanted to look cool, school uniform was the last thing we wanted to be seen wearing.

Everyday life was a constant battle to put our own stamp on what we were forced to wear. Some of the amendments we managed to get away with. Others were blacklisted by school staff and had to be abandoned or punishment was forthcoming.

In retrospect I think a fascinating PhD thesis could come out of a study of the social and psychological influence of school uniform on teenage girls. 

The modifications we got away with

1. The Pleated Skirt

schoolgirl doll standingWinter outdoor uniform with blazer and beret

The doll wears a pleated navy blue skirt - gym slips were phased out during my first two years there thank goodness. A plain A-line skirt was an option and would have probably looked much smarter - but we didn't do "smart". Pleated skirts were fashionable at the time so, since they were allowed, we chose them. 

A pleated skirt wasn’t the best for school, however, because after a day of sitting down the pleats tended to disappear at the back, leaving a nasty bulge just where a teenage girl least wanted one. I recall many hours at the ironing board attempting to get those pleats to stay in and failing miserably.

2. Satchels

schoolgirl doll's satchelSatchel with shortened strap for on the shoulder carrying

Satchels were another item that had to be adapted. We were only permitted to take books to and fro in either a proper leather satchel or briefcase. The school said that anything less tended to damage textbooks which were school property. So satchels had the treatment.

Rather than wear them long hanging from the shoulder, or even on the back in the case of those with two arm straps, the long strap was shortened and the excess knotted. The loaded satchel was then carried high on one shoulder, much as a handbag often is nowadays. To wear a satchel crossbody in secondary school was a sign of someone who had no style whatsoever!

3. The Green Beret

By far the our greatest achievement in modifications to uniform involved the emerald green beret. These had to be worn during the winter months en route to and from school.

Schoolgirl doll in beret with satchelBeret worn wrap around the head style

Each Autumn new girls were easily identifiable by the stalk in the top - something which quickly got removed either by the owner or someone else as a rite of passage. Therefore most of us ended up with a small hole in the middle. But a small hole wasn’t the only punishment meted out to the poor garments. We knew that being wool they’d shrink. So we would wash them in boiling water. Even then they remained, to us, too conspicuous for comfort.

Why, you may ask, did we wear them? Because we didn’t dare not to.

There were no school buses so journeys to and from school had to be made on public transport. If anyone was spotted on such a journey minus their beret they were reported. Lurking prefects were easily spotted. Far more lethal were certain members of the public who seemed to take delight in phoning the school.

Punishment was not only detention but also having your name read out in assembly by the headmistress - mega embarrassing.

This was the era of bouffant hairstyles and back-combing. Many of us adopted a way of wearing the dreaded beret that - we thought - was more cool. In retrospect now it probably looked ridiculous… but teenage fashion is always a bit suspect in many ways. 

This method involved wrapping the beret round the back of the head and securing it with hair grips. From the front the whole thing was obscured by the back-combed section of hair. I suspect the teachers didn’t really approve but this seemed to be one battle they just didn't have the energy for.

What amazed me during the making of this doll, however, was the number of extra memories it brought back - little things that I had previously forgotten. Seeing her in her uniform also triggers some of the emotion from schooldays, both the good and the bad. These recollections are far more vivid than the ones that come just from thinking alone. It seems that there are many things that we don’t realise we’ve forgotten… until something reminds us.

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