My first school uniform was smart,
a green box pleated tunic with plaited girdle,
worn over a cream blouse
with green-and-grey striped tie
a green felt pudding basin hat to top it off.

My second school, Saint Bernard’s Convent,
gave us a beautiful royal blue
pinafore dress with a plain grey shirt.
Again the tie was stripey – blue and grey,
not to show the dirt and creases.
Another unspeakable felt hat worn in winter
while in summer we had a giant straw cartwheel –
take it off out of school at your peril.
Held on with elastic under my chin
it acted as an airbrake on my bike.

Long grey socks held up with elastic garters
and later, thick and wrinkly
elephant-leg ribbed grey stockings
with suspenders attached to my Liberty Bodice
with buttons that were always breaking,
walking home clutching stocking tops
through all the other clothes
and cringing with shame.

Minchenden Grammar School around my time. there

My third school – the Grammar School –
was a little more relaxed –
grey skirts and blouses– any shape,
with green blazers and yes, you’ve guessed,
a green and grey striped tie
but, thank God, no more hat.

Long blackout bloomers for games ─
we tucked them up as high as we could,
against the rules laid down by Old Lil.
To reach the girls’ hockey pitch
we must creep red of face past boys’ football games,
trying not to be noticed but hearing the sniggers
and rude remarks about thighs and bums.
Furtive sidelong glances sought the current heartthrob.

Uniformity forced on disparate beings
was designed to promote conformity,
but we all turned out so differently
plaits and pony tails and bobs became
back-combed bouffant beehives,
elfin Hepburn cuts, DAs or pageboys.
Scrubbed faces stayed that way
or embraced the art of maquillage.
Vive la différance.

I believe garters and suspenders  have different connotations in American English – In English English a garter is a simple ring of elastic worn round a woollen sock at knee level with a cuff turned over, to hide it.  A suspender is rather more sexy:  a kind of clip fixed to the top of a stocking, with a short length of elastic sewn onto a fancy belt which Americans call a garter belt.  Thank God for the invention of tights.
Pictures borrowed from the School Websites.

at dVerse we’re having a free verse kick – memoir, life, our time, our place.

About https://vivinfrance.wordpress.com

All poetry, prose and pictures posted here, except where otherwise stated, is my own, and may only be used elsewhere with my expressed permission. Please don't be inhibited from correcting my bloopers and making suggestions: Most of what I post here is instant, ill-considered and off-the-cuff, in serious need of editing.
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28 Responses to Uniformity

  1. tialys says:

    I actually liked my grammar school uniform. It was navy blue gymslip in the first and second year then, in the third year, you were allowed to take the bib part off the gymslip. In Summer we could wear a blue and white cotton dress – any pattern, any style. Luckily the straw boater was ditched the year before I joined. Once the rebellious fourth year was reached, the waistband of the skirt was turned over and over until it barely hid our modesty and the tie was worn at a rakish angle with the hatband on our dark blue hats covered in badges. In France, they seem to find the notion of a uniform bizarre – although you could call the ubiquitous jeans and t-shirts a uniform -but when my girls were at school here it was a nightmare having to choose different clothes every day.


  2. kanzensakura says:

    Glad I had nuances of English English knowledge. My grandmother though, up until tights/panty hose, pulled up her stocking right above her knee and used garters to hold them up. I had forgotten that until this poem. I went to private school – box pleat black skirts or gray, white blouses or grey or black sweaters – a sedate visually Quaker school – but raucous academically. My home state has a high incidence of Friends and schools/colleges founded by them. Dress restrictions long gone on university level. I liked this write of yours very much. It was good to learn more of you. Have a happy and blessed Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your descriptions, Viv, especially the colors and the line about the furtive glances. Your last line caused me to smile…my sister had a picture with that quote and the image was of a baby boy and girl in an old fashioned wash basin. So cute!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the colors that run through your free verse!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bodhirose says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this, Viv. I’m amazed at the different “get ups” that you had to “conform” to during your school years. I too wondered about the girdles that you little ones had to wear and garters too but you explained what they were in “your” English. 🙂 We didn’t wear uniforms where I went to school. Mostly, back then, only private school children wore uniforms. I think more public schools are getting into it but nothing as elaborate as you describe. Enjoy your holidays, Viv!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just so enjoyed this…I could fill in the blanks with my own uniform colors. And for me, growing up anyway, garters were the English English kinds that you describe. So things have changed over here.And now, the public schools are beginning to have the kids wear uniforms–a good idea considering the horror of gangs and the inequity among families’ financial abilities.


  7. katechiconi says:

    Oh, the hats that were inflicted on us… My uniform colours went royal blue, bottle green, blue and beige and finally, navy blue, with hats that varied wildly from blue beret, green felt nonsense, stiff straw boater and royal blue skullcap. Hair was always tightly strained back in plaits until the day I rebelled and had it all cut off… and my father failed to recognise me when I got home!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. quiltify says:

    Thanks for the translation of garter to American English. Now what about girdle…I can’t picture a preschooler wearing one! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You have a good memory of those school days. Beautifully written. Sounds like you received a good education in more ways than one. :_

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Your comment at dVerse about learning free verse before formal verse, certainly is apparent in this superb rendering. It just tickles me, so much of the adolescent girl with the inexorable spirit, & rebellious tinges. Enjoy the holidays, sweet lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. May people have taken the straightforward route freely remembering. Really wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sanaa Rizvi says:

    This is such a delightful read 😀 thanks for sharing your memories 🙂
    Happy Holidays 😀


  13. Grace says:

    I am giggling at the part of : Furtive sidelong glances sought the current heartthrob.

    Enjoyed this one Viv ~ Thanks for reminding me of my horrid school uniform too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thoroughly enjoyed this. If you were caught without you school hat or tie what a problem. Detention

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ah.. somehow growing up without uniforms I see I lack in memories (but a little less in shame).. I remember that we had still close to uniform.. t-shirt, jeans and clogs… 🙂 and haircut (or lack of) just the same for boys and girls….

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Brought back memories of my own school uniforms. The only good thing about bloomers is they kept you warm, worn under uniform, on bitter cold Canadian motnings.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Misky says:

    What a lovely journey down memory lane. Thoroughly enjoyable. >

    Liked by 1 person

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