School Uniforms: A Morning Savior or Crushing Individuality?
When we lived in NY, my daughters attended a non-uniform school with a very casual dress code. Which meant each morning we got to mull over questions like… Are leggings considered pants or more like tights? Do you need to wear a skirt over leggings? If no skirt, how long does the shirt need to be covering the leggings? Is this shirt too short? Is this shirt too tight? Is this a school outfit or glorified pajamas?
It was very exhausting.
I tried to make rules. For example, I told my girls: No leggings alone. You must wear a skirt over leggings. But they wore me down with their daily pleadings and I eventually let them wear leggings with long shirts (as long as the shirts covered their tushes).
But even that didn’t always work because sometimes a shirt was right on the line of appropriate or inappropriate or I’m not really sure and the only thing I know is that WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE FOR SCHOOL.
So I was quite relieved when we moved to Florida and my daughters started at a school which required uniforms.
They could choose from five different collared shirts… in white, pink, blue, red or blue stripes. And it had to be paired with navy or khaki bottoms (skirt or pants).
And it was GLORIOUS.
No more school clothing debates. No more attending school in outfits that were borderline sleepwear. No more worrying about what brand of clothing other girls were wearing. There was just…
Misery! Wait, what?
My younger school-aged daughter (now 8) actually doesn’t mind wearing a school uniform. She wears her uniform every day without a complaint. But my oldest daughter (now 10) can’t stand uniforms. How would she put it exactly? That it crushes her creative spirit and denies her happiness. She often wears a shirt under her uniform shirt so as soon as school is out, she can remove her collared shirt and be free.
I do get her point. I hate being told what to wear. I still shudder back to days when I had to wear blazers and pantyhose to work. I just felt so uncomfortable. So not me. I love putting on an outfit now that looks good and feels like me. I think for many of us – when we like what we are wearing, we feel better in our own skin.
But I also understand the benefit of school uniforms. It creates a respectful atmosphere for learning. It removes a lot of the peer pressure to wear certain clothing brands. It can even speed up the getting dressed process during those precious morning minutes.
But I no longer view uniforms as this magical solution to all tween fashion issues. School uniforms certainly work for some. (There are kids who even wear their uniforms on the weekend!) And uniforms don’t work for others – like my creative free spirit child who makes eclectic fashion choices and sews her own clothes. A simple school dress code would have been a far better fit for her.
But I tell my daughter… sometimes in life you just have to follow the rules. And, at least she isn’t wearing pantyhose.