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Posted in Uniform knickers at UK secondary schools on 2011-12-08 22:40:53

Hi Paula,

I hope that you are well, and are getting in the spirit ready for Christmas. I haven't posted for a while due to other commitments but you may remember some time ago you were saying that your mum had to wear navy knickers to school. I saw a friend of mine recently and we were talking about our school days. As I said at the time, she remembers her sister wearing the gymslip and the navy knickers beneath.

The gymslip was navy blue and fastened with two buttons just below the left shoulder. It had to be no more than four inches above the knee and my friend remembers going to the shop when her sister was being fitted for it and her having to kneel on the floor to have the distance between her knees and the bottom of the gymslip measured to make sure it was the correct length. By the end of the summer term, it was already nearly two inches shorter as her sister had grown! It was worn over a white blouse and the school tie, which had to be properly fastened, hanging correctly beneath the uniform. There was no easy way to adjust the tie once the tunic was fastened so the tunic had to be put on afterwards. A blazer completed the set, but no hat by that stage.

One of the reasons given for the compulsory wearing of navy knickers at the time was for modesty. During school assemblies, the girls had to sit cross legged on the floor so obviously dark knickers wouldn't show particularly to anyone facing the front row so reasonable modesty would be preserved. Plastic chairs which were easily stackable were introduced early in 1970 so rendering this particular reason redundant. This also stopped the tunics getting dirty from the floor. I think the only reason my friend wore navy knickers was because they were bought by her mum for her sister and not used. She didn't wear them for long.

The clothes you describe wearing on your posts sound very stylish. I tend to get most of mine from catalogues these days as the main high street stores don't seem to cater for my style of clothing. They seem to me to be aimed more at you younger ladies, or perhaps that's just my perception. Where do you get yours from? Does your mum have the same problem? I tend to go more for jumpers and blouses this time of year rather than dresses., especially when it's cold and windy like it is tonight.

Do you have any Christmas parties planned? My surgery colleagues and I are all going out for a meal two weeks tonight so it should be a good night.

All the best,


Posted in Uniform knickers at UK secondary schools on 2011-11-06 00:00:33

Hi Paula,

Hope you enjoyed North Wales! It's strange how times have changed since mine and your mum's childhood years. I had a few 'special' dresses which were worn for visiting relatives or for church occasions. I also remember in Junior School having a 'party' dress which I used to wear to school on my birthday or that of one of my friends or for the Christmas party. My favourite one the one I had when I was nine years old. It was white with large red spots and a red sash around the waist. I used to wear it with a white cardigan and it was about the only time I was allowed to go to school with my shoulder length hair down. Usually it was tied in a pony tail with a bobble.

I certainly remember the mini skirt. Although I was only a small child when they first came out, I had an older cousin who used to wear nothing else. She also styled her hair similar to Twiggy and while most of the older family members used to comment on the length (or not!) of the clothes, I used to secretly admire her. Sadly, when I was old enough to start doing my own thing, minis were passing over to midis and maxis so I don't ever remember wearing them. This may have been the reason why my school requested adjustable skirts so that normal length skirts didn't become minis as the girls grew. Your mum will probably also remember 'hot-pants' in the early seventies. These were a similar style to German lederhosen, only made from fabric and worn over a T-shirt, blouse or jumper. They didn't last long as a fashion.

I see from yours and the other girls' posts that you are all stocking and suspender belt wearers. I have also worn these since leaving school. I progressed to tights during the third year at grammar as these were optional from that year onwards and wore these through most of the rest of my school career but I used to find them hot and uncomfortable and sometimes used to get an itchy rash so would revert back to socks for a while. I wasn't the only one. When I left school and started work, I also briefly tried hold ups but without much success. They were more slide downs than hold ups and I was forever having to nip to the ladies or find a secluded spot to adjust them. I lasted about six months before a friends suggested stockings and suspenders and I never looked back. I used to think of them as my little secret. Only I knew what was under my skirt and I used to wear my hemlines long enough so that people who didn't need to know, wouldn't. I never found the belts uncomfortable to wear and have worn numerous ones over the years in various colours. Whereas my school underwear was always white, I progressed to other colours, including black as I got older.

Sadly now, in my fiftieth year, my figure is a little fuller than it used to be so I tend to wear an open girdle with suspender attachment under my clothes. They are certainly easier to put on than the corsets which our grandparents and great grandparents used to wear with all those hooks and eyes to fasten or laces to tie. I've been wearing them now for about a year and they certainly help to keep my body in shape. I work as a dental receptionist so I am on my feet quite a bit between reception and surgeries and around the reception area. I wear my own clothes, usually a skirt and blouse or other top, sometimes a dress, with a jacket or cardigan. Even though the desk is near to the door, I never feel the cold so don't wear woolly tights, or boots for that matter, either black court shoes with a inch heel, or flats. I very rarely wear trousers, certainly not for work, only around the house for doing jobs that can't easily be done in a skirt. I still have natural, chestnut coloured, shoulder length hair although there are now a few lighter threads in it.

So stick at it girls. It's not just the very old who wear them. It's all ages. You just never know who!



Posted in Uniform knickers at UK secondary schools on 2011-10-21 13:48:20

Hi Paula,

So your mum's a Jenny too. It was quite a common name in the fifties and sixties but I doubt there are many babies who are given that name these days, nor Paula, come to that. I was always 'Jennifer' to my immediate family and my school teachers and even my friends at primary school. Jenny started when I was at grammar school as there was another Jennifer in the class who despised being called Jenny so the name stuck. Now only my mum and the doctor call me Jennifer! It's always Jenny or sometimes Jen.

So your mum used to wear a gymslip. Did she find them comfortable? I know when my friend's sister wore them she found them more comfortable than a skirt and blouse when sitting in the classroom all day. Many years ago her mum had a picture of her wearing it for her first day at the school. I'll have to ask her next time I see her if she's still got it. I know there are photos somewhere of me on my first day looking very smart, with hair neatly brushed and tied back. Somewhere, there's even one of me on my very first day at Infant school. I'll have to dig them out.

The old uniform didn't include a beret when Caroline wore it but there older pictures of girls wearing straw hats with a ribbon round them instead in an old school magazine which I found. Very St Trinians!

Navy knickers seemed to have pretty well died a death at grammar school. Perhaps it was a sign of the times or maybe girls at the Junior schools were used to wearing more feminine colours that the dark colours were deemed unfashionable. Some girls at Junior school used to wear a variety of colours including bottle green on occasions. Slips were very much in evidence as well although they declined during my time at the grammar. I was always a slip wearer right up until I left school and for a long time afterwards, usually the half ones when I got older. It was just something I had been brought up with. As a child, I was rarely without one unless I was wearing an old dress or skirt around the house for playing in. I didn't wear trousers that often. However, if we went out, I always had to change into something smarter and put a slip under it even if it was only to go shopping, I always had to be presentable. I would imagine that was the same for you and your mum too.

Considering the adjustable hemline skirts could be altered two or three times during their lifetime, providing the alteration was done by a proper dressmaker, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. There was no visible crease as the skirt would be cleaned and pressed at the same time. Sometimes you could tell if an inexperienced mother had done the work but as long as the skirt looked smart the school wouldn't say anything. I don't recall anyone in my class being punished for it.

Anyway, must dash now.



Posted in Uniform knickers at UK secondary schools on 2011-10-19 21:21:30

Hi Paula,

I'm pleased you found my post interesting. Seeing as your mum and I are from the same era, perhaps it ought to be us comparing notes. As I said in the original post, a lot of the teachers were very strict about how the uniform should be worn as an untidy uniform was deemed to be a black mark not only against you, but also the school itself. Seemingly little things such as a blazer button unfastened or a sock slipping down could count against you even if you were seen by a member of staff on the bus to school or walking in the streets nearby. Whilst you wouldn't get a detention for this, you would get a verbal warning of a possible future detention if you were seen repeatedly. When I was in my first year, the girls in the sixth form wore similar clothing to that which you describe, but by the time I was in my 5th year, the school was changing into a sixth form college and sixth form girls were allowed to come to school in casual clothes.

Up until 1970, the girls had to wear a gymslip over a blouse and tie together with navy knickers, navy socks and black brogues, so I think this is why there was still an option to wear them. I can remember a few girls who did, including my best friend Alison. Her older sister Caroline started at the school in 1969 and had to wear them and it was just something her mum made them both do. There were about five girls out of thirty in my first year class who regularly wore them, by the end of the year, maybe one or two and by the middle of the second year, we were all white. About half the class wore slips during the winter term but this increased during the period when the summer dress could be worn. I don't think any of the navy knicker wearers wore the summer dress, as they would have showed through, even with the compulsory slip.

Our winter skirts were advertised with 'adjustable' hems. What this actually entailed was about three inches of material folded up under the inside of the skirt which was sewn with a simple plain stitch which could be easily unpicked, instead of the more usual overlooked stitch. When the skirt got too short, the stitching was unpicked, the hem readjusted and then sewn up again. This could be done at the children's outfitters but was also something that a talented mother could do, provided she used the right colour cotton.

I presume your mother didn't have adjustable skirts. Did her mother have to buy a new one each time she grew a bit?. That was one of the advantages of the adjustable one. My first ones lasted well into my second year by making careful adjustment. What was her uniform like compared to yours? What was the punishment for any misdemeanour e.g. slip slowing?


Posted in Uniform knickers at UK secondary schools on 2011-10-16 17:51:52

Hi, my name is Jenny. I was clearing out some old papers recently when I came across a little booklet which was sent to me when I started at grammar school back in the early seventies. It was a guide to what items 'young ladies' required in the uniform department and how they should be worn. Reading some of the messages on here brings back how strict, if not stricter, teachers were then in making sure that the rules were carried out.

My school uniform for 1st and 2nd year consisted of:

Winter - Start of Autumn term to Easter Holidays

1 blazer - single breasted, navy blue with school badge 1 school tie - blue with yellow stripe 2 grey pleated skirts - knee length with adjustable hemline 6 x light blue blouses - long sleeve 1 x navy blue puller - long sleeve, v-neck (optional) 1 x winter coat / anorak with detachable hood to completely cover entire uniform, including skirt 6 x white knee socks 1 x black lace shoes - no heels

Summer - End of Easter Holidays to end of Summer term

Long sleeved blouses may be substituted with short sleeve blouses of same colour, or blue / white knee length gingham dress.

There were only two shops which stocked the uniform, one being the Co-op. At the other, a traditional but long closed children's outfitters, you could have the badge woven onto the blazer, which a few girls did. This cost more money though. The booklet then went on to describe how the items should be worn:

Winter Uniform

Blazer without pullover - To be worn buttoned up at all times when travelling to and from school and when on school premises. May only be unbuttoned or taken off with the permission of the class teacher. Blazer with pullover - May be worn unbuttoned if preferred. May only be taken off with the permission of the class teacher. Tie - To be worn at all times. The wider part should be no more than one inch longer than the narrower part. This should be properly knotted at all times and the end tucked into the front waistband of the skirt. Blouse - To be buttoned up at all times, including the top button, and fully tucked into the waistband of the skirt. Skirt - Maximum length to cover the kneecap - minimum no more than half an inch of the top of the kneecap. When the minimum length has been reached, the hem should be adjusted as appropriate. Shoes to be clean and polished at all times.

Summer Uniform

Blazer - May be worn unbuttoned if preferred. May only be taken off with the permission of the class teacher. Tie - not required with summer blouse or dress see exception below). Compulsory if winter blouse worn. Summer Blouse - Top button may be left unbuttoned if preferred. If top button is fastened, then tie must be worn. Dress - All buttons to be fastened. Maximum length to cover the kneecap - minimum no more than half an inch of the top of the kneecap. When the minimum length has been reached, the hem should be adjusted as appropriate. Shoes to be clean and polished at all times.

The uniform should be clean, freshly laundered and presentable at all times. Any discrepancies will be punishable by detention and must be put right at the earliest opportunity.

There was even a section on what underwear you should wear beneath the uniform. White was the regulation colour especially under the top part although navy blue knickers could be worn if preferred. No other colour was permitted. You were expected to wear a vest under your blouse, or you could wear a slip if preferred. This had to be plain throughout, including the hem and with wide straps, not the ribbon variety. It also had to be no longer than 4 inches below the hem of the skirt so as to avoid 'accidents' when sitting down. It was compulsory under the summer dress as these had a tendency to show light through in certain conditions. If you wore a bra, you had to cover it with a vest or slip.

There was a mention that inspections could be held at any time and during the first few weeks at school, some of the older girls used to tease us that we would have to line up in front of the whole school and raise our skirts for inspection! Needless to say, this did not prove to be true. Inspections were occasionally done at the start of a gym lesson when we all had to stand in a line minus our uniforms, or very rarely in a private room if a misdemeanour had been spotted at any other time. Our head teacher could tell a uniform mishap from fifty yards and would be quick to tell you about it and punish you if necessary. However, she was also smart enough to realise that a malfunction could sometimes happen and seemed to carry an abundant supply of safety pins to cover blushes.

When I see some of the 'uniforms' of today and the way they are worn, it makes me wonder what standards, if any, are set in some of our schools. At least the writers here seem to have some. I wonder who else had strict uniform policies back in the sixties and seventies?