It is not good form to wear jewellery in the day time: ‘School fashion’

During the last academic year old Paulinas were invited to donate their items of school uniform to the archive. We had very little in the way of clothing, so were delighted when odd shaped packages began arriving in the post, full of treasures charting the history of fashion at St Paul’s Girls’ School. Additions to our collection include a Daniel Neale navy cardigan from 1960s, a school swimsuit and a navy blue lacrosse tunic.

Paulinas have always had a quirky sense of style and an interest in fashion. For those wanting to pursue a career in the industry, advice on becoming a fashion drawer was offered in the December 1938 edition of Paulina. With a stern and realistic tone, the advice warns that flattery from family members isn’t enough to get a top job and that obtaining ‘a responsible post in Fleet Street or Kensington’ requires far more than ‘one or two sketches of their mother’s new set of musquash.’

Although St. Paul’s has never had a strict or complete school uniform the statement requires many qualifications. Likewise, whilst it is true that St. Paul’s has had a liberal and relaxed attitude towards dress, digging through the archives, revealed that clear guidelines have always been in place. Miss Gray gave strict instructions that girls must, ‘put on your gloves before you leave school’ and ‘wear gloves until you get to school’. Miss Strudwick carried on in the same vein and Miss Osborn tried to strike the right balance commenting that whilst, ‘rigid uniformity is undesirable… variation indoors provides a happy result, provided that discretion is shown.’

The significant differences in fashion during the 1960s, which saw skirt lengths get shorter and boots get taller, also marked a time of change at St. Paul’s. In 1964 girls carried out a survey to decide whether or not to carry on wearing their school hat and the full report of the uniform survey is given in the 1964 Jubilee Paulina. It concluded that ‘away from school only half the girls wore the hat when supposed to: the main objections were to the principle of wearing a hat and to its shape and style.’ (p.33) Nearly three-quarters of those asked thought that introducing a ‘full uniform’ would be ‘retrogressive’ and the majority concluded it was ‘cheaper and simpler to buy ordinary clothes.’  The regulation coat was officially abolished in 1974 under Mrs Brigstocke and an increasingly individual approach to style has been encouraged ever since.

We have enjoyed displaying the uniform items during outreach activities and they have proved to be a light-hearted addition to our MIV induction sessions. Two items, in particular, always receive a gasp of horror when they are shown to girls in MIV; the infamous games sack and matching knickers!  A very big thank you to all of our alumnae who have taken the time to donate their much loved items to the archive.