Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's a plaid, plaid world (with bonus Nancy Drew)

Did you have to wear a uniform growing up?

From the time I was five until the time I was seven—so, through kindergarten, first and second grade—I went to public school: Brookshire Elementary, home of the Bulldogs. Then, the summer before I turned eight, my parents decided to enroll me in Catholic school. In fact, they decided to enroll me in the same Catholic school that my mom attended when was she was my age.

I remember the announcement being a bit tentative; it was my mother who broke the news to me, and I think she even asked me what I thought about transferring schools, which was a nice thing to do considering the decision had obviously already been made and I was, you know, eight years old. Interestingly, even though I had a group of best friends at Brookshire, I was pretty ambivalent in my reaction to the news—except for one thing.

“You'll have to wear a uniform,” my mother told me.

“You mean like Nancy Drew?” I exclaimed.

You see, in August of 1991 I was obsessed with the Nancy Drew books. I'd started reading the series earlier that summer—my collection, like my new school, had been my mother's before it was mine, and she'd kept the books in perfect condition—and was totally enamored with Nancy, her friends Bess and George, and her boyfriend Ned. And apparently in one of the books I'd recently finished, Nancy or one of her friends had worn a uniform—a detail that had amusingly and oh-so-wrongly shaped my idea of what my new school uniform would look like. I was sure it would be akin to something an airline stewardess would wear—you know, pressed navy blazer, matching pencil skirt, crisp white shirt.

What I got instead was a whole lot of plaid.

A whole lot of plaid that stuck with me for nine more years, because I ended up going to a uniform-loving Catholic high school, too.

Anyway, one of the very few good things about the itchy, pleated skirts I wore for years was that they took the guesswork—and the stress—out of picking out a new outfit each day. Every morning, without fail, I rolled grumpily out of bed at 6:30 a.m. (I'm not a morning person, in case you haven't noticed), stumbled to my closet and put on my polo shirt, my gray skirt, my white calf-height socks and my black Doc Marten Mary Janes. (We had to wear black leather shoes, too. Oh, and we got detentions for uniform violations—i.e., untucked shirts—and had to pay $5 for each. One time I had to go to Saturday School because I accidentally skipped one of these detentions, and one of my teachers began calling me Six Days, as in “she goes to school six days a week.”) (Wow, hello, tangent!). And it was kind of a relief not to have to worry about having the right kind of jeans, or whether my shirt was stylish or totally uncool.

Even these days, I tend to stick to a uniform of sorts—my typical work-and-play outfits consist of jeans (or colored pants), a blousy top and heels—and maintaining that consistency is still just as much of a relief as it was in high school. That's not to say I don't sometimes like to mix it up with a fancy shoe or a crazy print (wow, I live an exciting life, don't I?), but those are for special occasions.

Do you uniform dress, too? Or are you more adventurous than I and try to mix it up every day? Also, did you love Nancy Drew as much as I did? Which one was your favorite? I feel like we are going to have to talk more about this series in future blog posts, because I have a lot of feelings about it.

Please share!

Photo: beastandbean; effects by yours truly. Yes, I could have pulled out a photo of  me in sixth grade, all plaid-ed out, but yeah: No. 


  1. I wear an accidental uniform to work. I'm a lazy dresser so I end up in jeans, a t-shirt and a cardigan...Every. Single. Day. :)

    I'd like to dress better, but most days I just don't have it in me. One day.

    And I loved Nancy Drew. I did have a bit of a meltdown emotionally when I found out Carolyn Keene was a lot of different writers. And that there were versions of ND that seem very old fashioned to me. (I started reading the 80's era of ND first...then I went back to the originals.) I don't know why it bothered me so much, but it really did. Such a weird little kid.

    1. OK, so I JUST--like, in the process of writing this post--discovered that Carolyn Keene was not one person, but a group of people. That IS kind of bothersome!

      And too funny: I started with the original Nancy Drews and then, much later, read a couple of the 80s-era ones, and THOSE seemed really strange to me! Maybe revisiting the whole series should be a future reading project...

  2. First of all, I want to see you in the plaid! I went to Catholic school for the first few years of elementary school, and I didn't mind giving up the uniform when I switched to public school. I still ended up wearing mostly the same thing every day, except it was jeans and a t-shirt instead. Now I definitely wear mostly the same thing, especially in the winter - black/gray pants, and a sweater. Every now and then I throw on a dress, and I get all sorts of compliments because it's out of the ordinary!

    I also loved Nancy Drew and read all the books many times, although I didn't own many - just kept getting them from the library. I agree with you too - I only read the original ones, and the newer ones seemed weird to me when they started coming out.

    1. OK, OK...maybe I'll post an old photo. Or one from high school.

      And so glad you're a fellow Nancy Drew lover!

  3. I read some of the books back in the 80's, but for some reason it was Sweet Valley Twins rather than Nancy Drew that captured my attention.

    I suppose I do uniform dress, in that fall and winter consist mostly of dress pants (too cold for dresses and skirts) and spring and summer consist of dresses and skirts with bright tops. I never wear shorts or t-shirts, and rarely enjoy jeans. I always wear earrings and a necklace too (along with my wedding rings, of course.)Though I definitely like to experiment with different styles and lots of color mixing.

    1. Oh, the Wakefield twins! I liked the Sweet Valley series but never got into it the way I did with Nancy Drew. Although I did go through a period where I wanted to change my name to Lila (or name my future daughter Lila), thanks to those books.

      And yay for uniform dressing!

  4. I think most of the time I have an unconscious uniform, because I probably don't care enough about my outfits :) So it's black jumpers and navy skirts and my favourite pair of jeans. That kind of uniform. I went to a private Jewish school when I was little, and we had the same itchy, plaid-filled uniform.

    1. Yes, a favorite pair of jeans is essential to any uniform, I find. :)

      Congratulations again on your book, Hila!

  5. I LOVED LOVED Nancy Drew. And just through reading these comments found out that Carolyn Keene was a group of writers and that makes me sad.

    Can't say I have a uniform, but I tend to wear the same outfits all the time!