Jul 09, 2020

Catholic school blues


My clothes were already picked out for me and lying on my bed. I brushed my teeth and my mom braided my hair into two pigtails, as I ate breakfast.

My school clothes have been pre-selected for me since I was 5 years old. This was for one reason and for one reason only. I had few options.

I could wear a white polo shirt with a blue plaid skirt or even a gray skirt. I could wear tennis shoes or black, dress flats, and if I was really feeling bold, I could wear a matching blue plaid headband.

For 12 years, I attended Catholic schools, and I blame my parents, solely, for putting me into a box of plaid, blues and grays and for not being able to have my own fashion sense.

My father attended Catholic schools all his life until college in his hometown of San Diego. He and my mother felt that Catholic schools gave children a better education. I agree.

Catholic schools do give children a better education, but a lack of wardrobe.

Is that an even sacrifice? I had to sacrifice my individuality to comply with the school’s dress code.

I would stand in my driveway and look at my neighbors go to school in the latest fashion trends: flared jeans, screen T-shirts and pea coats.

I wanted to wear whatever I chose, but I would stand, upset, wearing a plaid skirt, high socks and a blue sweatshirt with the words “Holy Rosary” written in large white letters.

From kindergarten to eighth grade I was in this box.

When I graduated from eighth grade my parents and I had to decide which high school I would attend.

“I want to go to a public high school,” I told my mother. She laughed — not because I asked, but because it was never going to happen.

My parents were strict, but they were not cruel enough to not give me choices. I had two choices between two Catholic high schools. After a couple weeks, I decided that I would attend Carondelet High School, an all-girls school with a neighboring all-boys Catholic high school.

I saw it as the beginning of the end, but I did have more options than before.

I had five different colored polos instead of two. Five different colored sweatshirts and two uniform skirts that had to hang two inches past my fingertips when my hands were at my side.

Yes, it was definitely the beginning of the end.

But, with this fashion obstacle, I saw completely new opportunities. I had to be different, but the nuns saw me as difficult. I would often get into trouble for my skirt being too short, but I blamed it on my long legs. To set myself apart from the other girls, I took the uniform and made it mine.

I would wear flashy earrings and bracelets, bright headbands or scarves and even bright leggings or tights. When I felt bold, I would wear my blue plaid skirt with a red polo, just to look different.

I did not want to look like the other girls at my high school, but because of the uniform, there was a 100 percent chance that 30 other girls were wearing the same outfit.

But, there were those 10 days a year where I was free. Those were the days I truly felt free.

I lived for free-dress days.

I could wear whatever I wanted, as long as it was within the school’s guidelines for free dress attire, but still I felt free. When I came to Fresno State I didn’t know how people who went to public school did it.

Picking an outfit for every school day is a chore. I get frustrated now trying to pick an outfit for my 8 o’clock class and still be on time. In the back of my mind I am thankful for my school uniform in high school.

Then I wake up and remember why I burned that blue plaid skirt. It gave me no personality.

I see clothes as a person’s personality. Bright colors, stripes, flowers and polka dots. I live as if everyday is a fashion show, because I never want to be put into a box of predictability.

I feel that because I am open to new things, anything can happen and therefore anything will.

One of my favorite quotes is from a famous fashion designer named Yves Saint Laurent. He once said, “Fashions fade, but style is forever.”

I like to stand out in style, maybe because I could not in high school. With clothing I can make a statement of unpredictability. I love it.

When you see me with a yellow and green striped shirt with blue tennis shoes remember that I am just trying not to be put into a box again.

My clothes are my outlet and unpredictable because life is, too.

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