Purple gingham shirt

I came across a purple gingham shirt the other day, and bought it solely because seeing it was an amusing reminder of my elementary school uniform.

 I hadn’t thought about my childhood days in a really long time, so the shot-out-of-the-blue startled me a little.  Especially when I also realized that I have no social contact with anyone whatsoever from that era of my life, so I couldn’t call or email a soul and share, “Guess what? Remember the funny uniforms we used to wear at the ‘Scola Britannica’? I bought a shirt like it the other day!”

I found a photo online that happens to depict the variety of uniforms. I think it’s from slightly after my time – the PE T-shirt is different from what we had. 

The girls’ school uniform was prescribed in style (a sleeveless straight shift dress for K- 2nd grade, and  a sleeveless button down blouse with a inverted-box pleated skirt for 3rd through 6th graders.)  There was a patch chest pocket with the school’s logo in green for all. However, unlike most schools, there was wide latitude in the color scheme: it could be green, yellow, pink or purple . . . gingham. (Boys were lucky; they simply had white button shirts, logo pocket and khaki shorts.)

The sleeveless cut was a practical acknowledgement to the tropical climate, even though most of the facilities had air conditioning by the time I was a student.  But the gingham! Had stripes or polka dots ever been under consideration?

 And those colours –  how did they pick that palate? Pink, purple and yellow! Why not red, or blue, or black?  Did it have anything to do with the Thai tradition of associating certain colors to days of the week?

Monday – Yellow

Tuesday – Pink

Wednesday – Green

Thursday – Orange

Friday – Blue

The colors for the first three weekdays matched up with our school uniforms. But purple is Saturday’s color.

Our school colors at the time were green and white, so it made sense that green was one of the gingham options. (In fact, from 7th through 9th grade, girls graduated into a much more dignified uniform: white sleeveless button blouse, and a solid green inverted-box pleated skirt.)

Admittedly the colorful gingham was good for camouflaging stains.  And it was quite easy to spot fellow girl students after hours, even at hundred paces, because no other school had such unique and distinctive uniform. We were different from every other school with their garden-variety variations of a white blouse (with a blue or red sailor tie, perhaps) and matching red or blue pleated skirt. 

The drawback for our parents was that the uniforms had custom-made. There was no school supply store that stocked off-the-shelf gingham uniforms for only one school of hundreds in the city.  This was not as big of a deal as you might think, because back there and then, tailoring was relatively cheap.  Part of the annual back-to-school ritual was to go to the one of two fabric shops at the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 16 and get measured by their in-house seamstress, and pick out the color(s) of gingham you wanted.  Some years, I probably got hand-me-downs from older cousins who went to the same school, and in turn passed on the uniforms I had outgrown to the younger ones.

When I was attending school there, I didn’t really think much about our school uniform; it was just something that had to be worn to go to school; whether or not it was pretty or ugly or odd-looking was never an issue.  Most of us were concerned only when we considered that the crosstown rival American school had no school uniform; those students had what seemed like the most unimaginable good fortune to wear whatever they wanted to school!

I visited the school’s website to see what the current uniforms are like. Along with the inevitable strides they’ve made in technology, the uniforms have been updated. While the style and cut for younger girl students is the same as when I was there, the fabric is red, blue, or pink . . . . gingham.


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