Overcoming the Unbearable Uniformity of Uniforms
As someone who attended Catholic schools all her life, I’m quite familiar with the daunting prospect of wearing the same outfit every day: the uniform. How dull, how drab, how very boring – trust me, I know. And it’s not just school kids who suffer from this fashion epidemic. Workers at fast food places (I worked at Dairy Queen, personally), department stores, restaurants, the military, etc. all must adhere to constricting uniform standards. However, wearing a uniform is not the end of the world as we know it. Different loopholes can be taken advantage of with expressive accessories (except, perhaps, with the military uniforms; they’re a bit rigid).
Shoes are a great example: my faded old chucks have been with me through every cold ice cream splash and sticky candied puddle encountered at DQ. And a handful of stylish flats and variously patterned knee-high socks got me through middle school and high school. Working from the bottom up, patterned pantyhose and tights (nothing too risqué, of course) were a great mode of expression, as well. Then belts, bracelets, necklaces, and other light bling can also accompany you through a uniform phase.
My other favorite accessory was the utilization of different hair styles. Although I’ve had very short hair for the past few years (picture an Emma Watson double – we’d be best friends, I know it), I can still respect an elegant ponytail or perfectly messy bun. For myself, I like to mix it up with head bands, ribbons, or pins (sometimes decorated with flowers or feathers). For schools, backpacks are also a great way to express your style since so many different types exist and they can be fully accessorized (with pins, key chains, etc. – but don’t over-do it). Since some institutions are more or less strict with their uniform rules, its best to test the waters cautiously and do nothing to warrant a dress code induced detention (of which I had plenty), or work suspension.
Some uniforms also offer a bit of variety themselves: for example, my high school uniform included three different kinds of shirts, a skirt, shorts, and pants, as well as sweaters and sweater vests. I remember trying to spruce up the uniform by wearing a skinny black tie (guys could wear ties, so why couldn’t I?) with my white oxford and pleated skirt. I got away with it for three days, and then a little pink detention slip from a sour-faced mustachioed dean greeted me in homeroom. I didn’t even get a warning! Fie on you, Dean Crab Apple Supreme.
Clothes are a medium of expression, and while uniforms stunt the creativity of an outfit, they don’t have to be fully constraining. The amenities that can be made within the limits placed upon the dress code can be extraordinarily expressive, as each individual deals with limitations differently. Whether it be a light amount of jewelry or a head full of feathers, any uniform can be transformed into a fashion statement. Uniformity can always be conquered with a little bit of ingenuity and fashion finesse.
Written By: Mary B.