English Education: Gender


Figure 1.--Girls in England wear many of the same school garments as boys. Here the sweater and tie are common garments also worn by boys.

There are substantial similarities between boys and girls school uniforms in England. Girls have adopted many items worn by boys such as ties and blazers. We are not sure precisely why this was, but suspect it may be because there was a long tradition of boys' boarding schools in England before the first girls' school was opened. The girls' schools apparently followed the examples of the already prestigious boys' schools. Besides the blazers and ties, girls wore the same sweaters that boys wore. Girls wore different styles of headwear, including berets and brimmed hats. There were of course differences. Girls always wore different headwear than the boys. Also they wore skirts rather than trousers. Here many schools for some reason had blouses and skirts for cool weather wear and light-wight dresses for warm weather. With very few exceptions, English girls do not wear trousers to school. There are a few exceptions. We have noted a few coed prep schools where girls during the Winter were allowed to wear cord long trouswrs like the boys. During the Summer, however, they were not allowed to wear short trousers. A HBC reader writes us that "In The Daily Telegraph newspaper (June 22, 2005) today there is an article about Broadstone Middle School which has now banned girls from wearing skirts to "protect their modesty" during activity lessons such as drama and music; all girls must now wear full length trousers to all lessons, even during very hot weather!" There were also differences in hosiery. Some girls wore grey kneesocks, but white ankle and kneesocks were very common. Also footwear varied. Although both boys and girls wore school sandals, girls commonly wore strap shoes. There were also sturdy school oxfords, but they were styled somewhat differently than the boys' shoes. Hopefully some of our English readers will provide us some more information about girls' school uniform trends.

Chronology

Parents in the 18th century did not consider it necessary to educate girls. This idea began to be challenged in the 19th century, although it took some time for attitudes to change. Miss Buss and Miss Beale were leaders in girls' education. They set up a primitive system of girls' education. The idea was to emulate the best boys' schools, and this went so far as to involve wearing of collared blouses somewhat similar to men's shirts, including separate stiff collars. Girls also began wearing ties and blazers, only with shirts and dresses. Remarkably this idea was retained and is to be seen today worn by teenage girls at many many schools in England (although nowadays with semi-stiff attached collars.) The girls school uniforms worn today began to take shape in the 19th century, although girls uniforms were still quite varied. The gym slip was a major girls uniform item in the early 20th century and was popular through the 1950s. Long stockings were very common. It is still worn at quite a number of schools. Gradually after the World War II, girls uniforms became increasingly stanadedized. Girls during the winter term wear blouses and pleated skirts with the same jumpers that the boys wear. The skirts are often grey. Plaid skirts are also worn, but are not as common as in America. Hosiery is highly varied including both tights and sockx. The socks but not the tights are often white. During the summer term, brightly colored, often checked, citton dresses are worn. .

Curriculum

There have traditionally been curriculum differences between the prograam offered boys and girls. A British reader writes us, "We did woodwork at secondary school (it was all boys as you know - at primary school some classes were split, but in that case the girls did needlework whereas we did a form of technical drawing - and of course we played football or cricket while the girls played netball. We did P.E. and Art together though)."

Similarities

There are substantial similarities between boys and girls school uniforms in England. Girls at most schools wear many garments interchangeably with the boys including ties and blazers. We are not sure precisely why this was, but suspect it may be because there was a long tradition of boys' boarding schools in England before the first girls' school was opened. The girls' schools apparently followed the examples of the already prestigious boys' schools. Besides the blazers and ties, girls wore the same sweaters that boys wore. Other items such as kneesocks and sandals are also ofren the same.

Differences

Girls wore different styles of headwear, including berets and brimmed hats. There were of course differences. Girls always wore different headwear than the boys. Also they wore skirts rather than trousers.

Seasonal Trends

Here many schools for some reason had blouses and skirts for cool weather wear and light-wight dresses for warm weather.

Garments

Girls headwear is much more diverse than that worn by the boys. There is no one style worn by the girls that was as common as the peaked caps worn by the boys. One very common garment worn by the girls was the gym slip. A good example is the City Grammar School in 1938. That was a standard uniform item fir many years. With very few exceptions, English girls do not wear trousers to school. There are a few exceptions. We have noted a few coed prep schools where girls during the Winter were allowed to wear cord long trouswrs like the boys. During the Summer, however, they were not allowed to wear short trousers. A HBC reader writes us that "In The Daily Telegraph newspaper (June 22, 2005) today there is an article about Broadstone Middle School which has now banned girls from wearing skirts to "protect their modesty" during activity lessons such as drama and music; all girls must now wear full length trousers to all lessons, even during very hot weather!" There were also differences in hosiery. Some girls wore grey kneesocks, but white ankle and kneesocks were very common. We have also noted long black stockings at nmany schools, although this became less sommon after World War II. Also footwear varied. Although both boys and girls wore school sandals, girls commonly wore strap shoes. There were also sturdy school oxfords, but they were styled somewhat differently than the boys' shoes. Hopefully some of our English readers will provide us some more information about girls' school uniform trends.

Individual Schools

We have archived several girls or coed English schools in the Individual School section of HBC. One such school is the City School.

Individual Accounts

We have a few accounts about girls' uniforms at English schools. A HBC reader, Laura, tells us about her school uniforms in the 1980s-90s. She went to several different schools because her father was in the Royal Air Force. Another HBC reader, Stephen, tells us aboutv girls uniform at the comprehensive in a mining area that he and his sister attended during the 1970s.








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Created: 5:23 PM 6/21/2005
Last updated: 5:55 PM 11/22/2010