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Please, Don’t Put Me Back In A School Uniform

Of the many memories I have from attending Catholic school for 11 years, one of which was being required to wear a school uniform — AKA a blue and red plaid skirt and an uncomfortable button-up blouse — every single day. This fall, I’ve been seeing “school uniform fashion” all over social media, the runway, and on the streets, which is causing all of my painful uniform memories to resurface. My one wish since graduating the 8th grade is this: Please do not, by any means, put me back in a school uniform. 

The moment I left my Catholic school, I threw my uniform away and never looked back. School uniforms are straight-up awkward, confining, way too traditional, and I think they should be outlawed by the fashion police forever. My school had very conservative clothing regulations — to the point where I constantly had someone holding a ruler to my skirt to see if the length was acceptable. I was grateful when I later enrolled in a public high school and was finally able to decide what looked and felt best on my body. 

To my amazement (and utter shock), uniforms have been infiltrating fall fashion this season, from luxury brands down to your local Zara or H&M. Think Mary Janes, tennis skirts, white polos with Peter Pan collars, and matching tweed sets in plaid. Sorry, not sorry, to those who love the preppy look — but can we not make school uniforms a fashion trend? All I’ve ever wanted is to leave my Catholic school days in the past, and seeing these looks everywhere is like reliving a nightmare.

Nowadays, it’s common to see the idolization of preppy looks in modern fashion. Many looks appear to be inspired by pop culture icons like Blair Waldorf from “Gossip Girl,” Cher from “Clueless,” and Veronica Lodge from “Riverdale” — characters who define the “prep school chic” look through their flawlessly polished blouses, headbands, tights, and pearls. While I admire Blair Waldorf for her confidence, ambition, and even her preppy outfits, I draw the line when it comes to rocking the prep-school look myself — it just hits too close to home. 

Interestingly, there’s a common denominator to all of these characters: they are all extremely wealthy high school students with closets as big as my apartment. Meanwhile, when I was in private school, my weekly outfit plan consisted of the same three skirts and two polos that I rewashed and circulated throughout the week (don’t even get me started on the P.E. uniform). Why do we idolize preppy, rich characters and their fashion sense when their experiences aren’t even accurate representations of the reality of private school — which is low-key awkward and not glamorous at all?

Although “school uniform fashion” is popping up everywhere right now and makes private school look fancy, my uniform experience in school was the complete opposite of Blair Waldorf’s. It was awkward, suffocating, and straight-up not cute. Try catching the eye of your middle school crush in the exact same outfit every day — it was impossible. If anything, my experience more closely aligns with Saoirse Ronan in “Lady Bird”; I was that girl daydreaming during weekly mass about when I could take off my extremely unflattering skirt and swap it for a pair of leggings and a sweater to feel more like “me.” 

Truthfully, the only time I caught a break from school uniform fashion was on “Jeans for Jesus” day, where once a month, we got the privilege of paying a dollar to our school — AKA Jesus — to wear jeans and a Gap shirt. Despite always looking forward to casual #JeansforJesus days back then, I’m realizing now that it was yet another form of embarrassment since our Gap outfits were equally as terrible as our school uniforms. 

Apart from being ugly, uniforms are directly tied to conformity. The first uniform can be traced back to 16th Century England, and it was essentially a cloak paired with yellow stocking (yeah, not my exact idea of fashion). Over time, there was a trickle effect with these outfits, and British schools started implementing dress codes, which eventually became a symbol of the upper class. The United States followed suit with this traditional use of the school uniform, and many private and parochial schools mandated them for students, in an effort to ensure that people would focus on their studies rather than their style. So, when it comes to my old school uniform, I suppose I have England to blame.

It’s beyond me why private school uniforms are showing up on the runway. In my opinion, American prep style has only survived because of brands like J.Crew, Burberry, Dior, and Chanel, which exude the essence of old money, Ivy League, and exclusivity — vibes we should definitely leave in the past. My school uniform was one of my biggest childhood insecurities, and it suppressed my self-expression right down to the color of my socks. I will never be over the fact that my stuffy, unflattering Catholic school uniform has become the go-to for luxury fashion brands, so, don’t blame me when I say “Thank you, next,” to this trauma-inducing look.

As an ex-private school girl, I can say confidently that any fashion trend living off of my recycled plaid skirts is just not it. Not only are these outfits unflattering and uncomfortable, but they represent something much bigger. On the school days when it was cold outside and my legs were freezing in my skirts, all I wanted was to wear pants, but even that was against dress code policy. Newsflash: School uniforms don’t represent glamour and Gossip Girl like you think they do —  instead, they’re another way to uphold the binary and police people’s bodies. 

If you ever find yourself about to purchase that trendy polo and tennis skirt, think again. Do you really want to look like you are heading to school and following private school dress code rules? I think not. Personally, I’d rather not relive my Catholic school past ever again, so I’ll be sticking to my standard Doc Martens, jeans, and sweaters this fall, and I suggest you do the same. 

Hi there! I am a senior at Marymount Manhattan College, double majoring in Digital Journalism and Politics & Human Rights. I am an Editorial Intern for Her Campus and I am the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus MMM. Fun Facts: I love playing tennis and creating amateur TikToks in my free time.