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History and evolution of the "school girl uniform"

The school aesthetic is steeped in history between cult movies, fashion and a spirit of rebellion

History and evolution of the school girl uniform  The school aesthetic is steeped in history between cult movies, fashion and a spirit of rebellion
Thom Browne
Thom Browne
Thom Browne

A swallow doesn’t mean spring, but a pleated miniskirt definitely means September. To start rewriting the pages of everyday work and school life, having a clear aesthetic in mind can facilitate in a fun way to go back to it. There is nothing more iconic than the schoolgirl uniform, worn by pop culture icons like Cher Horowitz and the entire cast of Gossip Girl, between old and new faces, to channel the desire to get back on track with mini skirts and chunky loafers. Common only to private schools in Italy, wearing a uniform is the rule in many European countries where pleated skirts, sweaters, white socks and loafers are a must, even outside the viral videos of Tik Tok. Created in the 1900s to smooth social differences and impose order in academic circumstances, the school uniform was boycotted, reinvented and rethought by students from all over the world to become an aesthetic symbol of adolescence and like all things related to the female universe, often also strumentalized. Let's discover how between conformism and rebellion, social disorder and punk rock that has been used in subcultures and high fashion by international designers to subvert the system, to become the clear aesthetic that today we would recognize everywhere.

 

History and evolution

Having a uniform is a functional solution, which frees you from cathartic doubts about what to wear and helps to be consistent in everyday style. Invented in the 16th century but popularized for women only in the early 1920s in the Western world, the school uniform has changed shape over and over. Always thought with the skirt, in the roaring '20 was composed of shirt with sailor-inspired collar, in the 1930-1940 decade borrowed from men's wardrobes blazer with incisions and more sartorial cuts. After World War II, the skirt edges rise, and with Christian Dior’s revolutionary New Look, the feminine uniform becomes the quintessence of the butterfly silhouette, composed of a wide long skirt that marks life. From the 60s on, the uniforms remain in vogue in private and Catholic schools, where girls had to give the most curious twists to miniskirts and socks  to express their style. A special mention goes to the chunky socks of Japanese Kogyarus, which have become a symbol of a school subculture linked to the subversion of the capitalist system demonstrated by the changes to the compulsory school uniforms. Today the school uniform is no longer mandatory, but the charm of aesthetics made up of the miniskirt and a pair of optical white socks is still a choice: on Tik Tok the hashtag #Backtoschool already counts 6.7 billion views, and the Gen-Zers perfectly embody the aesthetics in their everyday style.

 

Movies and TV shows

Anyone who was a teenager in the late 90s early 2000s is perfectly aware of being influenced by the style of high school movies and TV series. Clueless, Gossip Girl, Mean Girls, Pretty Princess, High School Musical, American Pie, Cruel Intentions and The Virgins Suicide are just some of the cult movie names that have marked the history and style of school outfits preferred by teenagers around the world. The preppy style, tied to the British and American private schools pervaded the vicissitudes of the girls in Gossip Girl, where the starched collars of Blair Waldorf made all the girls dream of a private school as cool as those of the Upper East Side. In Clueless there are no uniforms but the protagonists wear them anyway and are used as a storytelling tool to demonstrate the passing of the seasons and the advance of the school year with colors and fabrics that change. A darker vein flowed in all high schools thanks to the rise of pop-punk, at the base of which there was predominantly breaking the rules and then also distort the uniform: Buffy and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch perfectly embody the teenage-goth aesthetic also shot in the iconic Jennifer’s Body.

 

Controversies

Obviously the female uniform has been widely sexualized by the international media, both in the anime and pop music: just think of the image of the fabulous Britney Spears still underage in "Hit me Baby One More Time" or censored episodes of Japanese manga. The birth of the figures of the "Otaku" literally "superfan" but with a negative meaning that represents men obsessed with the scholastic aesthetics perfectly represents the fetishist category that has been created over the years, due to the instrumentalization of the female body. This makes that on Tik Tok, looking for hashtags #schoolgirl and #schoolgirloutfits is blocked and runs into a disclaimer of community guidelines that indicate that the term is associated with behaviors or content that violate the security rules of the platform and do not get results. However, the aesthetic is in its fashion peak and is 100% safe to wear and rock. Even top celebs and influencers like Dua Lipa, Bella Hadid and Elsa Hosk use it a lot, and newborn star Olivia Rodrigo used it to tribute 90s movies highschool fashion in her latest music video, "Sociopath".

 

On the catwalks

Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini FW2020/2021
Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini FW2020/2021
Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini FW2020/2021
Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini FW2020/2021
Versace FW 2018
Versace FW 2018
Versace FW 2018
Versace FW 2018
Dior Fall 2020
Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini FW2020/2021

It's raining colorful tartans , miniskirts, coats of arms, V-neck vest, loafers, knee-high socks, caps and eyeglasses. Schoolgirl uniform aesthetic won’t go anywhere for fashion in the near future. The golden years of adolescence are a vivid dream even for designers who have repeatedly taken the opportunity to twist the canons imposed by institutions when it comes to uniforms to give them a new and sparkling twist. The Moschino Fall/Winter 2013 catwalk screams school-uniform vibes from every single weave of yarn, Versace Fall/Winter 2018 seems to have reinvented in pop tones the wardrobe of the protagonist of Clueless, while Maria Grazia Chiuri tells a piece of her story in the Dior Fall 2020 collection with tartan blazers, pleated skirts and shirts with ties. Thom Browne with its classic elegance is perfectly in line with the scholastic aesthetic, where tailoring and identity are the prerogatives. Also Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini in its Fall/Winter 2020-2021 summarizes the emotion from school desks with a special thought for teenagers who have lived the years of school in distance teaching.

Whatever year it is about to begin to welcome it with the right look is like declaring to be ready. To channel some energy from first times, a selection of garments to recreate the schoolgirl’s canonical aesthetics, with a hint of style. Also designed for those who no longer go to school.

Weekday Check Short Pleated Skirt

Weekday Check Short Pleated Skirt

Zara Shirt with Ruffled Collar

Zara Shirt with Ruffled Collar

Awake NY Off-white and yellow tulip vest

Awake NY Off-white and yellow tulip vest

Burberry Lace-Up Oxfords

Burberry Lace-Up Oxfords

Monnki Double-Breasted Checked Blazer

Monnki Double-Breasted Checked Blazer

Comme des Garcons Navy Asymmetrical Midi-Skirt

Comme des Garcons Navy Asymmetrical Midi-Skirt

Mango V-neck Sweater Vest

Mango V-neck Sweater Vest

Monki Faux Leather Loafers

Monki Faux Leather Loafers

Maison Kitsunè Black Pleated Mini-Skirt

Maison Kitsunè Black Pleated Mini-Skirt

Mango Light Blue Shirt

Mango Light Blue Shirt

MSGM New College Hoodie

MSGM New College Hoodie

Stüssy Berenice Sweater Vest

Stüssy Berenice Sweater Vest

The Garment Boston Shirt

The Garment Boston Shirt

Vivienne Westwood Tartan Blazer

Vivienne Westwood Tartan Blazer

Weekday Poppy KNit Sweater Vest Gradient Blue

Weekday Poppy KNit Sweater Vest Gradient Blue

8 by Yoox Black Chunky Oxfords

8 by Yoox Black Chunky Oxfords

 

Thom Browne
Thom Browne
Thom Browne