You Must Remember This: miniskirts


In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now heaven knows…. Cole Porter certainly had it right, particularly if you look at the changes in school attire over the years. To quote Porter again, “Well, did you evah?”

Growing up at the beach, having a horse, my non-school garb was casual to the max – jeans or shorts and a T-shirt. School, however, was another wardrobe altogether. The gender lines were strictly observed, which meant girls wore dresses in elementary school. I can remember each September going shopping with my mother, often to Rankin’s in Santa Ana, where I would be provided with several new dresses, usually plaid, and a new pair of shoes. The footwear was some version of an oxford, worn with ankle socks, and had to be broken in. The first two weeks of school were an agony of blisters and bandages.

In junior high, the gender divide remained, but for us girls dresses were relegated to party wear. Our outfits were skirts, blouses and sweaters. The skirts were midcalf and were either very straight or very voluminous. Those styles continued into high school with the only difference being the skirts now had to be black or navy and the blouse white, except on colored blouse day when we could go wild with the color. No matter how bright the blouse, the top button was always decorously fastened.

I thought clothing would be a lot freer when I got to college where, I understood, they didn’t have dress codes, at least not like the ones we had at Harbor. To this day I don’t know what the general standard at UCSB might have been at that period because I made the mistake of pledging a sorority. It was to please my mother. She had not gone to college, not uncommon among women of her age, and she had this view of college life centering around sororities and fraternities and assumed I would rush. To please her I did, but the sorority experience was a failure, and why? Because of the wardrobe. Here I was expecting all sorts of new freedom, but once inducted I was informed that any time I was on campus, which meant all the time since I lived in a campus dorm, I would not only always wear a skirt, I would always wear nylons. To wear a skirt every minute of the day was bad enough, but nylons? If I’d known ahead of time, I never would have pledged, but there was a bigger problem. My surfboard was in my dorm room. The only way I could go surfing – the reason I was at UCSB – was to ride my bike towing my gremmie cart and board across campus. I just couldn’t picture myself doing that in skirt and nylons, particularly after I’d come out of the water.  After several trips to the beach in sensible shorts and tees, the sorority and I agreed to an amicable divorce.

I’m pretty sure sororities don’t have dress codes like that anymore, and for sure schools in general don’t. I see what my granddaughter and her friends wear to school, and I can only imagine the reaction if any of us had showed up in similar outfits in those long-ago days. We would have been in the vice principal’s office about 30 seconds after arriving on campus. Certainly, the clothing is far less decorous, but as far as it affecting actual school decorum or academic performance? My dressed-down grandchildren have been a lot more serious about their academics than I ever was in my mandated attire.


Nancy Gardner, former Mayor of Newport Beach, long-time resident and daughter of Judge Robert Gardner, is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.