Tuesday, March 20, 2012


The picture above does not have anything to do with school, although it looks like a composite of many things I wore during my school years, though not at the same time. In the picture I didn't show the model's head, but it really was a perfectly nice picture of a perfectly nice face, but since I was going to refer to it as a stupid-looking outfit I didn't want those words connected to the person! But can you imagine ever walking down the street looking like this? Is this now the trend? I hope not, because it is truly stupid looking.

However, it got me thinking about the changes in the way school clothes have changed in each generation. I can remember as a kid looking at pictures of my mother when she was little and laughing at the clothes she wore. I'd guess my children and grandchildren would laugh at childhood pictures of my clothing, too. However, today I'm going to show you what my scrapbooks say about what we wore to school.

This is a school picture of my mom's school about 1918. She is at the left in the middle row. She was in Caldwell, Kansas, which is just above the border of Oklahoma and almost due south of Wichita. It was a one room school house and this was the entire student body. I know that four of the children, one boy and three girls, belong to her Ryland family. Their Grandfather was one of the early residents of Caldwell, Kansas, coming to town in the early 1870s and basically living there the rest of his life. You can see what kind of clothing was appropriate for wearing to school at that time. We now would look at it and think the families of these school children must not have been very well off, but the Rylands were. This is just what all the kids in Caldwell wore to school in rural Kansas in the early part of the 20th century.

Now we are going to jump down a generation. The year is 1947 and the place is Long Beach, a good-sized city in California. This is my 6th grade class at Whittier School. Our families have gotten past the Great Depression and WWII. Kids in our class, who were all drawn from the residential area surrounding our school, were required to dress appropriately, which meant for the girls dresses (or skirts and blouses) and for the boys shirts and trousers. Girls did not ever wear long pants to school. We wore them at home, but definitely not to school.

Except for a few of the more mature 6th graders, none of us ever thought of how we were going to look. Our mothers bought us our clothes and we wore what she bought. There were no trends in clothing and certainly no "designer" labels. We wore cotton dresses with belts that tied in the back, hair ribbons in our hair, and socks with our shoes.

There is a drastic change, I think, between the look of my mom's generation and my own generation when it came to school clothes. No wonder I laughed at my mother's clothes.

And I really didn't see all that much change between the kinds of things I wore when I was a kid and what my own kids wore when they were in elementary school, below.

This picture actually was taken after Sunday School one day, but it still is a good example of how the third generation, my own children, dressed for school. I'd date this about 1967 or '68. We lived in Ontario, California. I made most of the girls' clothing. I liked to sew, the girls were still in dresses, and often it was simply easier and cheaper to buy enough material to make dresses when they needed them. Neither the kids nor their friends were fussy about what they wore. Clothing just wasn't a big deal. It wasn't for me and it wasn't for them. The girls were still required to be in dresses at school and the boys in pants.

If you noticed, there is one change that has taken place: knee socks started being worn. When I was in school there wasn't such a thing as knee socks. The big difference is that synthetic materials came to clothing; for the most part it didn't affect the kids as much as it affected the amount of ironing the mothers had to do on their kids' clothes.

But for some reason, there is a mighty change between what you see in my kids' elementary school apparel and in the next generation's...as much of a change as between my mother's generation and mine. Take a look at how the well-dressed child goes to school in Los Angeles today. These are my youngest granddaughters. They have picked out their own clothing since they were old enough to walk and point. If I hadn't taken them to school many times and seen what the other kids were wearing, I would think my little grandkidlets were wearing outlandish things. (Actually, what you see below is one of the more subdued "looks.") But honestly, this is the look that is in. I am not sure there is anything inappropriate for elementary school kids to wear to school now. Shorts, leggings, pants, long skirts, short skirts, tutus...you name it, I've seen it on my granddaughter's playmates.

My, my, my. How times have changed. Yes, some of the schools have school uniforms (which actually I think is a good idea) but my little imps are good students and bright, happy children and I don't think that school uniforms would make any difference in their lives and their habits. It does make me wonder, however, just what the next generation is going to be wearing to school: space suits, maybe?


Olga said...

This is really too funny. I have to burn a bunch of pictures of me in the 50's through 90's. And then the rest of them as well! I went through the hellish time of my daughters goth phase. Now she says to take her daughter shopping because I "get" her a whole lot better.

Dee said...

I totally enjoyed your post and photo's. I am so glad I do not have to dress kids for school this day and age. My son and his wife have a hard time finding decent and appropriate clothes for my grand daughter who is going to be 11.