Schoolgirl garb has a place in style

By Bethie Girmai

It’s that time of the year again. The temperature is dropping, the leaves have fallen and… It’s that time of the year again. The temperature is dropping, the leaves have fallen and Starbucks has brought back its gingerbread latte. Winter is almost in full swing and with the cold weather approaching, I thought it was time to revisit my fashion roots.

As a child, I went to Catholic school, and it made an indelible mark on my sense of fashion. I was furious when my mom forced me to transfer to a Catholic school in the third grade — I didn’t care to leave my friends behind and wasn’t looking forward to adjusting to an unfamiliar environment. But most of all, I was dreading the mandatory uniform policy.

The regulation garb consisted of a heinous navy-plaid jumper, to be worn with a polyester blend button-down shirt. To make matters worse, we were only allowed to wear simple black shoes with a heel that couldn’t extend past one inch. Even more horrifying was the length of the jumper. It hit mid-calf, which I always thought was a shame because it covered my best feature: my legs.

Despite my initial aversion to my transfer from public to Catholic school, I grew to enjoy it and took away a few life lessons. Do I follow Sister Marie’s advice to leave room for the Holy Spirit when I’m dancing with a guy? No. Am I still terrified of nuns? Absolutely.  Although many of the lessons Sister Marie tried to instill in me didn’t stick, ironically enough, the one thing I took away from my time in Catholic school was my sense of style.

After much consideration, I came to the conclusion that private school garb works fashionably well in cold weather. When I looked through my closet, I found sweater vests, blazers, skirts, polos and an endless array of oxford shirts, all reminiscent of my Catholic school days.  More than just super cute, these preppy styles have the kind of practicality that winter clothes necessitate.

Sweater vests and V-neck cardigans perfectly combine form and function. They are great for winter because they’re warm and easily dress up an outfit. Blazers are perfect for the season because they are versatile. A good blazer in a neutral color can be worn to dress up a jeans and T-shirt combo or can instantly transform an outfit from casual to business casual.

Skirts usually start to be bypassed sometime during the fall, once the temperature starts to drop, but there’s no need to neglect them. As long as the skirt is made of a heavier fabric, like wool or corduroy, and paired with tights, they’re perfectly appropriate for winter.

Finally, polo and oxford shirts are a great investment for anyone because they can be easily layered and paired with anything from dressy slacks or matchstick cords to a high-waisted skirt. The best part of a Catholic schoolgirl’s wardrobe is that all the pieces can be worn as separates.

Although preppy dress is classic, practical and fashionable, many shy away from the trend because of the stereotypes attached to it. The Catholic schoolgirl look is either synonymous with being prudish or being overtly sexual.

But there is a happy medium between the two extremes. You don’t have to channel Britney Spears circa “Baby One More Time” to rock the look. And by no means do you have to dress as if you’ve stepped out of a Ralph Lauren catalogue.

Although Catholic school garb is traditionally conservative, it doesn’t have to be. The best way to incorporate your preppy pieces with your current wardrobe without going over the top is to mix and match trends, like a button-down with an oversized necklace. As for the overly sexual schoolgirl look, you don’t have to tie your button down above the midriff to add an edge to the outfit. Simply pair a conservative article of clothing with a sexy piece, like a lacy top paired with a blazer.

Now I wear my preppy style with pride, knowing that, in many ways, it hearkens back to that awful navy jumper. So if you wore a uniform, it might be time to reconcile with your jumper-clad past and rediscover the preppy look.