Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Skirting the issue...

A school in Ipswich, UK has banned skirts for girls.  They now have to wear trousers.   

It clearly has been a war on short hemlines. Teachers were found with tape measures to check the length of the skirt. Recalcitrant students were often sent home, some were required to change into a school owned skirt, others were made to unhitch the skirt to roll down the hems.  Some even suspended. 

It is a matter of discussion of course whether strict uniform rules in educational institutions  improve the standard of education.  It may not, though teachers may have more time to concentrate on their subjects ( pun intended) rather than monitor the hemline.

I guess we grew up in a world without television.  And fashion fortunately did not play an important role in the growing years of our lives .  Our parents knew children grew fast.  And our school uniforms had to last for two academic years.  We were no exception.  The first day of school had all of us in uniforms that extended at least 3 inches below the knees.  And with long john socks one could barely see  skin!  Well into the second year, the hemline would show a decrease. It then led to opening  of hems to increase the length to what was thought decent enough.   The discolouration of the exposed cloth to the concealed hem  was obvious, but no one cared.  

In my class, one of the girls started a movement by wearing the belt at the hip.  And it caught on.  I have no idea what it did to our appearance, but sure enough, I joined the gang. The low waist movement of our times?  Anyway, our teachers turned a blind eye.

My  elder one went to a popular girls college run by nuns. They  found girls just out of schools, having got  rid of the school uniform, rather unmanageable. They came dressed like Britney Spears. Not all, but a few were enough to raise their hackles. The shalwar kameez rule was enforced   It was amusing to find a senior, fierce looking Sister standing at the gate, giving students a look over as they walked in.  We would find girls hurriedly donning a jacket over their sleeveless kurtas before they turned into the lane leading to the college.  Obviously the jacket would be off as soon as they left in the evening.

But there are others who seek  attention.  For instance, the Badminton World Federation wanted to ban shorts and introduce skirts for women players.  A  feeble attempt to glamorise the sport.  The idea was dropped almost as soon as it surfaced.  Some felt, if the men wanted to watch girls in skirts they would go elsewhere and not to a game of badminton.

 Probably a Maria Sharapova or Anna Kournikova in any sport can add glamour.  What tennis players wear or what they do not are hotly discussed.   And they make the most of it.  They don designer apparel with trendy jewellery.  Even with the dress code at Wimbledon, they  still make their  fashion statement. Perhaps, the reason why officials at Wimbledon have also wanted to look their best.  The  ball girls, linesmen, umpires have their outfits designed by Ralph Lauren their official outfitter since 2006. 

While less clothing can cause a controversy, you would think it makes sense to wear more? But in some countries apparently not.  Take the case of the purdah.  There is a ban on that too.......And  the debate continues ....  

Cartoon source 


  1. Reminded me of my convent school days with the darker color hemline when the tunic got shorter.
    Here in the US, where schools don't have a dress code, students, especially girls, learn quickly that how they dress reflects on their pecking order in school. There are weak attempts to curb outrageous fashion statements but there is so much schools can do. Thankfully, for smaller classes girls are required to wear tights under their dresses and skirts.

  2. The school system in India seems to be regressing as well if one goes by uniforms. The children are being tortured in the name of keeping them covered up. I saw a school uniform there the girls wear white salwar and blue kameeze and a vest over the kameez! Like the vest in a 3 piece suit!! And shoes with socks. In a city like chennai it would be like wearing a sauna bath daily!

  3. This post took me down memory lane, Radha!

    Things were certainly simpler when we were young. I, too, remember the 'letting down' of hems, and the resulting darker 2" strip of cloth at the hemline! :)

    When my daughter was in school, the girls had to wear salwars under their skirts for PT classes.

  4. Like you said, less or more is an ongoing debate. But the restrictions at school, I was also thinking about the pun pointed out by you. Probably, it help the teachers to concentrate!

  5. While I agree with Deepa that uniforms should be consistent with the climatic conditions of the place, uniforms upto certain class is not without its merits.Beyond a level, it should be left to the students so long as the dresses worn are not distractions.How much to reveal and how much to conceal varies from place to place and country to country.Most of these relate to girls though boys coming with facial jewelry at all odd places or sleevless vests are uncommon.There need be no restraint so long the dress or the lack of it does not jar the sensibility of class mates.Why not leave it to the teachers to whom we have entrusted the children fortheir education?

  6. Very interesting subject for a post, Radha!

    I remember wearing new school uniforms during alternate years. The long skirt had a 'tuck' and it was removed during the second year and the dark patch was visible. But it was not odd since our friends also had the patches!

    I followed the same system with my sons also. The extra fold in the trousers were unfolded and then the hem also came out! My children also didn't bother!

    I am not able to believe the new system at the Ipswich school! Are we better here?

  7. I went to a school in Pune (early sixties) where our uniform was a frock, and I too remember the business of letting out hems and stuff, in the face of a stage of life where heights increased wuth great alacrity :-) ....Then we also had a thing called "divided skirts " for PE which were by definition short and above the knees. Those who didnt stay in the city area, often went home wearing those after the Games session in the evenings. I used yo wear a regular skirt over those when I left, because people would stare where I lived. By and by things changed.

    Today, my daughter wears shorts when leaving for her swimming session, and cycles there, and nobody looks at her twice. And I agonize about the length of those shorts, and arguments ensue.

    I guess history repeats....:-)

  8. and I thought it happens only in India:)

  9. @Desisoccermom - They are having spas and beauty salons for three year olds. So one can only imagine what the scene will be in a kindergarten few years hence.
    @Deepa - 3 piece in Chennai! Pity the poor children.
    @manju - Salwars were left to the discretion of the parent in our school.
    @Nona - :-)
    @KP - I guess in general students adhere to the rules, there are the few who do not that cause the problem.
    @Sandhya, Renu - It happens in India too. Who is better off, is hard to tell.
    @UK - Yes, by the time I reached high school, we had the divided skirts. As for shorts - I guess if they are long, they are now classified differently and are not referred to as shorts.

  10. Loved your last few posts- it's so good to have you back, Radha.
    Youngsters want to be fashionable, and their clothes should not make sense to the older generation. My youngest child still wears his trousers and jeans falling off his practically non-existent hips, trailing all possible roadside grime on the trouser cuffs. We have no choice but to live with it! The less of an issue it is, the easier it is to deal with.

  11. I remember how shirts would get out of their tucks and skirts become an inch higher than it is during the last period. We had boys coming in the afternoon shift. :)

    I guess the idea is to attract teachers and other pupils (pun totally intended) whom the intellectual minds fail to attract! At least thats what we geeky girls told each other, when we saw our glamorous counterparts. :)

    A valid question though, does it effect the academics in anyway! Maybe, maybe not. But I think I would have been distracted if I had a Salman or SRK showing of their six packs in school. :D


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