My daughter recently made her first endeavor into public speaking, delivering an essay to a small group about her feelings regarding school uniforms. Among other concerns, she passionately argued that uniforms are uncomfortable and that the requirement robs children of a valuable opportunity to express their creativity and individuality.
I tend to appreciate school uniforms as a parent, but at the same time I feel quite a bit of sympathy for unhappily uniformed kids and would have loathed them myself had they been required in the ancient days when I was in school. I especially relate to Kaya’s complaints that uniforms cramp her style, and much like my daughter and countless other young girls, I took great pleasure in expressing myself through my fashion choices.
She reminds me a lot of myself at her age, with her hats and scarves and tights and all the wacky outfits she puts together. Fortunately she ended up with a better sense of style than her mother, as she always manages to look cute and quirky in her intricate ensembles.
I was more the weird, awkward kid who insisted on making my own clothes out of old bed sheets and a mail-order BeDazzler, and turning my hand-me-down discount store jeans into woefully misguided replicas of designer jeans by adding bows and ankle zippers and “fancy” stitching. I thought I looked awesome. Society disagreed.
What was so great about that age was that I was still so blissfully unselfconscious and unafraid to be absolutely myself. I thought my wacky creations looked fantastic and it didn’t really matter much to me if others disagreed. I was so comfortable with my style that when I altered my 75-year-old grandmother’s housedress into a crudely designed sun dress by chopping at it with scissors and adding ribbons to cinch it around my 10-year-old body, I actually assumed the kids were laughing at something going on behind me when I sashayed into the classroom.
My daughter has been dressing herself since she was a toddler and unless we’re going somewhere pretty important, I never tell her what to wear. I’m glad my own mother did the same for me. I would occasionally notice a look of bemused concern when I emerged from my bedroom in something hideous, but she rarely said a thing.
These days I see kids all the time going out on the town in crazy outfits or even costumes. Personally, I think it’s fabulous. With the exception of certain situations that require a more subdued decorum, I say let them do their thing. Life will eventually beat the quirky out of them, and if not, all the better.
Kaya says she can’t wait until she’s a grownup so no one will ever judge her for her fashion choices (ha!) or treat her like a child by forcing her to wear a uniform. Scott and I were very proud of her passionate arguments, but we couldn’t help raising an eyebrow and glancing down at the uniform he wears five days a week. We suggested that perhaps most of us wear uniforms, at least in some regards.
She acknowledged she does see a lot of adults in work uniforms, but has considered possibly becoming a lawyer like her mom so she will be respected as a professional woman and can wear anything she wants. It seems she’s on the right track, as it’s well known most of us got into the legal profession for the fashion.
Like most female attorneys my age, and particularly my fellow blondes, I was inspired to attend law school after viewing the esteemed film “Legally Blonde.” I’d previously considered a more feminine career, like perhaps making sandwiches. I’d always assumed law school involved lots of reading and logical analysis — you know, guy stuff — but Reese Witherspoon taught me it could also be about cute outfits and cute boys. I’m in!
I’m kidding, of course, but it does surprise me sometimes how much attention is given to female attorneys’ attire. Just a couple weeks ago there was some Internet buzz over a snarky memo from Loyola Law School reminding female students to avoid cleavage and stilettos at their upcoming summer internships. The memo was perceived as condescending and unnecessary by some, since most women intelligent enough to make it to law school presumably know how to appropriately dress themselves.
This came on the heels of a major international law firm, Clifford Chance, sending a five-page memo of “presentation tips” to their female associates in the U.S. In addition to warning their female attorneys to wear a suit to court rather than a “party outfit,” avoid showing cleavage, and make sure they sit so that no one can see up their skirt, they also urged them to stop giggling, squirming and speaking as if they were in, like, “a high school cafeteria.” “Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe,” the professional memo advised.
So, we should emulate the sultry actress known for provocatively draping herself across the top of a vice president’s piano and NOT the sultry actress known for provocatively draping herself across a president. Got it.
A New York University professor advised female law students to wear skirts and dresses, which are more appealing to men and will be rewarded in the male-dominated field. She also advised the ladies to wear makeup to appear more competent and to wear heels up to 3.5 inches tall. Flats are to be avoided except in emergencies as they are the “least powerful footwear you can wear.”
I’m sure none of this is meant to imply that a female’s professional “power” doesn’t come from her intelligence and competence. Everyone knows the female anatomy is structured in such a way that our brains are better stimulated when we walk around on 3-inch spikes.
Sigh! Enjoy those khakis and polo shirts while you can, Kaya. The uniforms only get more confusing as you go.