I Believe in My School Uniform
I believe in penny loafers, plaid skirts, navy blue stockings and white Oxfords. I used to sigh each morning as I threw on the same school uniform every day, wishing I could wear something more comfortable to school. I never had to worry about dressing to impress in a small all-girls Catholic high school.
But two years later, I realize the respect and determination I learned by putting on my old uniform (equipped with a gold-plated nametag). I miss it now because those penny loafers and plaid skirt made me the woman I am today.
Single-sex education has been the most empowering experience of my life. I get confused looks and blank stares when I tell others I graduated with just over 100 other girls. No one understands how I survived without sitting next to boys in the cafeteria, or why I enjoyed being taught by nuns.
Some think I’m a preppy snob with rich parents, others think I’m a raging feminist. But I’m neither. I’m a confident woman who’s not afraid to speak her mind. I came to see my penny loafers and plaid skirts not only as a uniform for school, but also as a uniform for success.
I entered high school shy and timid. But after acting out scenes from Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises in front of my whole class, and running the school newspaper with a handful of other girls, not much can intimidate me. I took much more away from my education than facts and formulas. I learned what it means to be a friend. I learned what it means to be loyal and part of a team.
When a classmate’s father died my senior year, his funeral was filled with girls dressed in their uniforms. When the basketball team advanced to state championships, the stands burst with girls with faces painted purple and gold, cheering their classmates on.
That’s not to say uniforms always bonded my classmates together. They sometimes set us apart. Bullying still existed, and mean girls roamed the halls. Everyone wants to stand out in a small all-girls school. And everyone’s competing for a perfect 4.0 GPA. I’ve met some of my toughest competition in high school – girls who can build robots, girls who can beat boys from other schools in mock trial competitions, and girls who shatter records in rowing. Though that competition proved discouraging at times, it paid off.
In my uniform, I learned winning isn’t everything and that hard work and dedication are vital to achieving my goals. I never realized how unique my high school experience was until I arrived at Penn State with more than 40,000 other students and without my uniform. What could have been an overwhelming experience… wasn’t. But the time I spent in my uniform taught me confident and how to stand out in a crowd. Though flip-flops and Ugg boots have replaced my penny loafers, I bring the values I learned in my Catholic school uniform with each step I take.