Friday, August 22, 2008

Leave No Daddy Likey Reader Behind

A fashion query I received from one of my readers, in the form of a story problem from an eighth grade American standardized test:

You are a fashion blogger. One of your readers writes to you in great distress. Her parents have forced her to move to a new school and she is now a slave to a brutal dress code! Her clothes must abide by the following rules:

-Khaki, navy blue, or black slacks must be worn. Capri pants are acceptable. Knee-length shorts, skirts, or jumpers are allowed.
-Pants must be worn at the natural waist line, no sagging is allowed
-Pants must be hemmed
-No denim, fleece, spandex, or leather pants are allowed
-Pants must be twill, or cotton-twill blends

-School t-shirts are acceptable
-Polo-style shirts with three buttons, collars, and short or long sleeves are acceptable
-Shirts must be loose fitting and must cover the midriff with arms raised

No piercings, tattoos, or mohawks.

This reader can spend $120, at most, on new school clothes. She wants to look cool and unique, despite living under this soulless cotton-twill blend regime. Where do you suggest she find some cute clothes that won't get her suspended?


If I were a fashion blogger, I would tell this reader to get her hands on a pair of affordable black pants (cotton, of course!) and build some chic, rule-abiding outifts around them. Maybe these:

Black: check. Cotton-blend: check. Not too low rise: check. Flattering fit, unfrumpy cut, affordable price: triple bonus check!
Lightweight bootcut trouser, $29(!),

Once she has this classic base down, she can secure the permits to begin construction on more interesting outfits. I can't tell if polo-style shirts are required or just strongly suggested, so just to stay on the safe side, I'll assume they're required. Since her school's dictators neglected to place restrictions on shirt colors (suckahs!), she could take advantage and go for bright colors and patterns on top. This would be a cute, within regulation combo:

Fitted Polo (hopefully that's three buttons, I can't tell!), $10, Old Navy

Boyfriend Cardigan, $29.50,

If it turns out that the dictators do have rules about shirt colors, don't fret! Get a polo or tee in black or white and play with accessories to funk it up--wear a tie (hey, if the boys can, she can!), layer some necklaces, add a colorful scarf or some bracelets. Layer a colorful cardigan like the one above, or maybe a basic sweater vest like the one below, over even the most basic, boring, non rule-breaking shirt, and she's guaranteed to look great!

Rory Cardi Vest, $29.50,

Next, I would tell her to exploit the loophole in the law and flaunt some supremely badass shoes.

Darjeeling Express Flats, $34.99 (10% off if you use coupon "blog"),

Rocket Dog "Gracie," $49.99 (plus free shipping!),

Mossimo "Darby" Heels (I've heard these are mega comfy!), $24.99,

If they bust you for your crazy shoes, at least you'll go down with dignity. And check out this post if you want to play it a little safer with your footwear choices.

Another way to look good, no matter the dress code--use some of your money for a fierce haircut. Sure, mohawks aren't allowed, but they didn't say nothin' 'bout blunt cut bangs, a chic pixie cut, or a trendy bob. Rockin' hair could almost salvage a school t-shirt.

If I were a fashion blogger, I would also ask my other readers if they'd gone to schools with dress codes, and how they managed to look fabulous, cotton-twill be damned. Anyone?


Anonymous said...

You are so funny! I didn't have to wear a uniform but I think these are great tips!

Katie said...

how flexible are they with pant patterns? the fall season always brings so many menswear-inspired plaid, tweed, and pinstriped options in navys and blacks. maybe you could sneak past the fashion gestapo with some subtler pairs.

WendyB said...

I couldn't live with such wardrobe fascism. Thankfully, my parents knew better than to try that with me.

Poochie said...

Ha! I went to Catholic school for 9 year (explains a lot, huh?) and it was far more hemmed in than this. Here you get parameters to work with in. All we had was plaid, plaid, plaid or, when I switched to the high school, a lovely Smurf-blue polyester (in Miami!) jumper/dress thing.

Of course, now I have a great love for plaid, penny loafers and saddle shoes. But I say use those loopholes. At least you can argue with the administration.

But if you have nuns, watch out. There's no arguing with them. A guy in my class had a pony tail and one day a nun just snipped it off!


Anonymous said...

with the hair, maybe buy some colored extenstions, theres nothing in the rules about that!
and use fun makeup, & accesorize to death.

just remember that one rule that coco chanel abides by: take one thing off before you leave the house.

VERONICA said...

I always just broke the dress code as I pleased and brought a good book with me to detention. Just a thought.

Skylar said...

AHHHH Winona you're the greatest most splendifurous superfabulouscous blogger EVER.

those pants are so perfect, thank you for finding them!
ahhh, cute cardigan is BLINDING me with its goodness!
i think i'll marry those flats, too.

I am forever in your debt.


soilikethelike said...

i use to go to a school, with a similar dress code,
we tried to manage with cute polos, and khaki pants & spent money on flats and jewelry.

Anonymous said...

i live in australia, we had a uniform like all schools here. we just had to make do with good hair and also pushing the limits with jewellery because we were only allowed 1 set of earings, not bracelets 1 necklace with a religious charm on it and a watch. it was pretty much not fun

rose said...

Anonymous is wrong about all Aus schools having a uniform - I went to school in Albany, Western Australia, and none of the government schools there had a uniform. But then, I went to the sort of school where kids set fire to classrooms, jumped off buildings into trees to escape detention, and stole the teachers' cars....they certainly weren't going to get us into uniforms!! Oh, how we used to taunt the private school kids with their regulation school hats!

My usual schoolwear consisted of old, holey jeans, a men's velvet blazer, my mum's old band tee shirts and whatever shoes I found first that morning - anything from gumboots to dad's work boots to fuzzy slippers (seriously.) I also had cherry-red hair. Good times.

sophia said...

I wish this post had existed when I was in middle school. We had a similar uniform, except that our polo shirts could only be maroon, navy, or white. Ick! It would have been nice to have someone take me aside and tell me that there was more to life than giant baggy sweatshirts.

(Although, it was the 90s, so I'm actually not sure if there was anything more than giant baggy sweatshirts.)

shrinkykitten said...

I recommend watching Gossip girl and seeing how they mix up their uniforms. The fashions in general are pretty great, but I am particularly inspired by how they show such individuality through the uniforms.

Kim said...

Winona, Daddy Likey is a recent addition to my life and I seriously don't know how I found any joy before finding you. Funny AND smart AND practical advice? You're oft the highlight of my internet reading day.
This was an excellent post.

Katy said...

I went to a school with uniforms, only one bracelet, ring, and necklace allowed, shoes had to be navy or black as well! However, I wasn't really that into fashion at the time, so it didn't matter, but I still sympathize with you. Maybe the dress-coded person can wear huge cocktail rings! I love big rings. And, if she were feeling particularly brave, she could wear latex leggings (under a knee-length skirt of course)- it never says anything about latex, hmm? Colorful tights and interesting socks would come in handy.

Elizabeth said...

You did a great job starting her off. After awhile, she'll get ideas from how the others deal with the restrictions, and she'll be able to interpret the rules all the way to the edge of reason so that she can assert her own style identity.

la petite fashionista said...

great advice winona! you make having a uniform sound much less painful:)


Hannah said...

ugh, uniforms. we had to wear khaki pants with either an orange or baby blue polo/oxford shirt (because clearly a bunch of pimply faced middle schoolers are going to look GREAT in orange). my teensy tiny recommendation is to switch up the buttons on your polos. Since I had to wear plain ones I would snip off the basic plastic buttons and put in gold/rhinestone/military/whatever-I-found-in-the-huge-miracle-whip-jars-of-buttons-my-grandmother-gave-me ones. Small touch but made things a little more personal.

Anonymous said...

My middle school had a dress code quite similar to the one this lamentable reader faces. Of course, during middle school I was going through a major prep phase, and so I just dolled my polos up with a handful of girly jewelry.

One thing I'd ask is whether she's allowed to modify her school t-shirts. A tailored tee can lend a rebellious look to a boring uniform.

Anonymous said...

Those mod cloth flats are adorbs. Love the colors.

Winnie said...

Fun post! In the UK everyone wears uniform. Girls often pushed the limits by rolling their skirts up and wearing shirts/cardigans from Topshop instead of the Uniform shops. Thats about it! I wish our uniforms were more like the japanese ones with the cute little bow!

Blue Floppy Hat said...

UGH, I had uniforms- which suck even more than a dress code, and my school's uniform code went so far as to tell us what colour or watch straps could be (silver or black), and that we were only allowed to wear black hair accessories.

But seriously, I recommend hair accessories. Suckers cannot nab you on those, because after all, a funky hairslide is a necessity to keep hair out of your eyes! And jewellery, if you're a girl given to bijoux- a pendant, bracelet or ring can make even the dullest outfit look better. (Also, fierce footwear highly recommended, like the Rev. Lady Likey says- it can work better than everything else, so if you really want to be eyecatching somewhere, keeping it to your head and feet might be good).

Blue Floppy Hat said...

PS; What about tights? If you wear skirts (the fascists didn't lay down rules on what material and fit those could be, there are lots of shapes to play around with)- coloured/non-black tights can be a good way to liven things up come autumn. Or if you want to pay attention to what's on top, oversized men's button-down shirts can be great, wear them tucked in or out, whichever you like.

Unknown said...

I've just been shopping and picked up those last shoes! :)
We have to live in grisly uniform but we funk it up with badges that make no sense (Can't sleep - the clowns will get me!, I love your mom, and Czech it out! are all part of my personel range) and I go big on hair accesories! I put shoelaces in my hair (Yeah, I'm the only one! ;) ) and I have sopme great different ones!

Good luck!

Lauren said...

I have/LOVE the darjeeling flats. They are shoe perfection. Especially for those of us who can't wear heels (there is a subway stairs/rainy day/Brooklyn ER story to explain that one)

Don't forget a really cute bookbag. You can show a lot of personality with a fun bag or accessories to spruce up a boring uniform.

Anonymous said...

I went to a uniformed middle school and now I completely regret not making the best of it... My school had the same dress code, except with a few more thing such as only white or navy polos. if I were back in middle school, here's what I would do:

get BLOUSES. Nice, basic, pretty short-sleeved blouses in white and blue. we had to have collars.

get long sleeved button down shirts that you can roll up. You know, those amazing wear-anywhere button down shirts.

get some NICE khakis or navy pants from trendier places like Hollister or American Eagle. NEVER FROM UNIFORM STORES OR TARGET.

Buy some polos from trendier stores that have a good fit, as long as they're not too tight.

buy cute little cardigans!

That's it really. I completely regret not doing this when I was in middle school... I haven't worn a polo since. haha.

[null] said...

I'd have to say, thank goodness you're not in Malaysia. We have even stricter uniform rules here, and while I have seen private school uniforms worse (some seasick shade of green) than the generic light blue pinafore (Yes, PINAFORE) and white shirt, pinafores are still pinafores.

My way of getting around it was to become a Librarian, since we had a different uniform: Dark forest-green tailored skirt and pale green shirt.

I have seen some girls do up their pinafores nicely though... They had them tailored to fit just barely within the rules.

Hair ties for us were black, blue and white.

I guess it's a good thing I never was fashion conscious then? Even now I occasionally wish I could go back to those days when I never had to wonder what to wear. xD

Anonymous said...

Way to find the loopholes, Winona!

TheSundayBest said...

This makes my heart hurt a little. She has to wear pants? What school is this?

Also, the word verification is "grilfs" which could stand for something VERY NAUGHTY.

Laura V said...

That dress code is very similar to mine when I was in high school, lo these many years ago. It's surprising how different people can look within restrictions like that.

Nearly everybody ended up with some kind of signature. Mine was leather bracelets and dangly earrings.

Anonymous said...

Coco Chanel was talking about JEWELRY, anonymous doofus.

"Take one thing off" before you go out the door could be your panties! *ha!* The fascist dress-code doesn't say anything about underwear, oddly enough.

The reader can also wear lots of outrageous undies, right? No-one can tell what's under there.

And: I can't believe there's no SKIRTS or DRESSES! I'm in shock over that one. ~ whoa. ~
I am so happy to be an adult.
* : )

Annie said...

I agree with the comment about getting some of the trendier-fit khakis.....we were only allowed white polos and khaki pants in middle school. I spent three years wondering why my khakis looked so lame in comparison to everyone else's.

I would also suggest that this would be an awesome opportunity to rock the vintage/retro look. You can create a totally individual look with retro cardis, red lipstick, a flower behind your ear, etc.

Anonymous said...

I worked at sbucks for a while, and our dress code was just as strict, except that our colors were completely regulated and I couldn't wear cute shoes. That was the worst bit.
I compensated by wearing skirts a lot, and funking things up with awesome tights and kneesocks. I also worked on layering a lot. Wifebeaters worn over polos are awesome, and they help keep things tucked in.
Good jewelry is fun, but my favorite tweak is wild makeup. The MAC counter is your friend. :D

Anonymous said...

you do make having a uniform sounds very interesting! They have alot of outfits like the ones you are talking about at bleu clothing and the have a huge sale right now!!

Beth said...

If you're the crafty-capable type, this may be an opportunity to show off your bangin' knitting/sewing/crochet skillz! Or an awesome time to learn... even if you knit the most basic sweater ever, you'll still be pleased with yourself when you wear it. :)

Unknown said...

I wore uniform for 12 straight years (grade 1-12!) and the colors were even more restricted: white cotton shirt and black/blue pants or skirt. No jeans and no crazy shoes either!

So how did I do it? First of all, I got tailored cut clothes so they fit me better. Moreover, the fabric were awesome! If you have to go with uniform, at least make it fun and comfy. Same colored prints for your shirt is swell, take it from someone who wore uniform for 12 years.

Rachel said...

those modcloth flats are SO FREAKIN FIERCE. omg.

Anonymous said...

That's not a bad dress code. Hop onto any New England boarding school campus, with or without a dress code or uniforms, and you will find that everyone dresses like that anyways. J Crew offers a lot of really cute chinos in fun colors and they always have a good sale going on at their website. Ditto for polos and oxfords. Throw in some pearls, a ribbon belt,'re set.

And once again I'm reminded how woefully out of step my conceptions of fashion are with the rest of the world. This is what living in New England will do to you...

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