I went to a girl’s school. I wore a uniform. For 13 years.
It was, as far as uniforms go, flattering enough and easy to wear. Forest green kilt and socks, crisp white shirt, forest green tie with a gold and white stripe, black lace-up oxfords.
Today, I can say that it was nice. It still is nice. But at the time, it was of course quite unpopular to like one’s uniform.
The parents, though, sang its praises.
We were frequently reminded that the beauty of a school uniform is that you don’t have to worry about what to wear in the morning – and that the daily fashion shows are all but obliterated.
From my experience, I would agree with the first statement, but slightly less-so with the second. There was always a way to change things just enough to stand out and to try to best each other. Though there were strict regulations about everything, from the acceptable colours for hair accessories to acceptable types of jewellery, each of us still managed to make the uniform our own. Some wore non-regulation white shirts, the most popular dared to wear dazzling boxers hidden under their kilts (in place of the demure and modest school-issue forest green bloomers).
For the most part, I preferred to blend in. I wore the boxers because it just wasn’t cool to wear bloomers, but I didn’t go overboard. I wore the kilt just above my knee, not six inches above it, not below it, because that was the rule but – more importantly – because it just looked better that way on me. I wore a few pins on my tie because it wasn’t cool not to. But they didn’t stand out. I wore simple, classic jewellery and hair accessories. Nothing expensive, nothing flashy.
I aimed to please, but not to stand out.
The bigger drawback of the uniform for me was that wearing one five out of seven days dulled my brain in the style-department. So much so that it took me a long time to figure out how to put an outfit together on the days I didn’t wear a uniform.
It wasn’t till I started university, a blank slate, that I had an opportunity to develop my own style.
I went through a lot of trial and error as I tried to make the fads of the day my own.
First, I aimed for the Nirvana groupie look. I wore $5 combat boots from the Army Surplus Store with short, funky, second-hand dresses. I ripped a grey sweater and wore it over a white t-shirt with my holey jeans. I tried to dye my dark hair fluorescent pink.
I moved from grunge to hippie, buying cheap silk patterned dresses at the market and layering beads and strings of bells over turtlenecks in the winter months.
By the time I discovered Celtic Studies and the Celtic Society a few years later, I was leaning more towards Celtic Goth: Docs, a black hooded cloak I bought in Ireland, velvet.
I finally toned it down when I graduated and moved to Ireland. I discovered how to pair slightly dressy t-shirts with jeans or preppy yet unique skirts. I would breeze through a trendy store and find all the “different” pieces they had tucked away in the corners.
Trendy, smart but uniquely me.
I think today I am still the same.
At work, I dress nicely, I accessorize, I wear high heels.
Away from work, I live in my jeans, but I wear colourful J Crew t-shirts and patterned scarves.
I have grown into my own style.
I can put together an outfit.
I’ve created my own uniform.