For many years, the critical issue in girls’ uniform was how to present themselves in a smart fashion reflective of our society’s values. Instead of focusing on the opportunities for girls that could be promoted through their uniform choices, uniform became quite stuck in a pattern of ‘skirts for girls, trousers for boys’ and this is still the case in the majority of schools. This worked well for a time and many girls are comfortable in a traditional skirt, however the world has changed.
Following the issues raised by Everyone’s Invited, schools are re-examining their approach. The outcome is clear: modern girls want to feel confident and comfortable in the clothes they wear.
They object to the way that many traditional garments make them feel exposed and vulnerable, and particularly dislike being unable to join in with activities because of the restrictive clothes that they are wearing. The pressure group Let Clothes be Clothes has researched this area in depth, highlighting the concerns and suggesting steps forwards. Schoolblazer have worked closely with them to support their campaign.
Their research clearly showed that:
● Most girls want the choice of wearing skirts and support a gender-neutral uniform policy that provides wider choice, not less. This allows pupils to feel more comfortable, more active and crucially, less objectified. The campaign spoke to girls who sometimes felt “vulnerable” in skirts, but wanted options, rather than being made to change their behaviour in respect of the wrongful actions of someone else.
● All garments should be designed to build confidence and free movement. Restrictive skirts or garments that expose more flesh than pupils feel comfortable with should be optional.
Fundamentally, for most it was a question of choice.
Schoolblazer have also just undertaken a major research project with Youth Sport Trust to identify the drivers behind participation in sporting activity.
The results are shocking, particularly for girls in independent schools. Whilst 88% of girls enjoyed taking part in physical activity, and 92% understood the importance of an active lifestyle, just 58% were happy with the amount of physical activity they did. When asked the reasons for their shortfall in activity, 29% said “they did not feel confident” and a similar number said “they did not enjoy people watching me”.
The goal of all clothing manufacturers, across uniform or sportswear is to create garments which build confidence and allow young people to focus on their school experience – not to make the wearers lose morale or feel uncomfortable.
Schoolblazer have responded to this challenge across our whole business – tailoring and sportswear. For the majority of schools, on uniform the addition of a trouser option will suffice. A number have moved further. Sheffield High School introduced a bespoke culotte and trousers in a plaid to match the main skirt for their launch this year, whilst Charterhouse introduced a culotte for their new girls intake in 2021.
In sportswear, across our Limitless brand we are seeing more schools adopting shorts or leggings rather than the traditional skorts for girls, and our new range we have developed with Umbro is very strongly short-focused, reflecting their experience kitting out the ‘Red Roses’ RFU women’s team.
Finally, we are working hard on alternatives to summer dresses, talking to customers, following trends and working with industry experts to ensure our garments are right for the modern world, fit well and are created in the most sustainable way. It’s been more than 100 years since girls stopped riding side-saddle and started climbing trees. We think it’s time that uniform and sportswear caught up!