For eight years of my life, I went to school dressed in a uniform. Polo shirts in shades of light blue and white paired with a navy and forest green tartan so thick it would have better served as a tablecloth. Hair was required to be natural colors, and you couldn’t wear makeup of any kind.
For a time, I resented having to dress exactly the same as my classmates. I felt my individuality and creativity were constrained by the wool and polyester I was required to wear five days of the week. It wasn’t until much later that I came to appreciate it for allowing me to develop my personality and let it shine without all the bells and whistles.
While I conformed to my dress code, I sought ways to convey a sense of self. To stand out while standing in, as you will. Not unlike the leading ladies of “Gossip Girl,” who considered their high school’s blazers a blank canvas for self-expression.
No matter where we are in life, we all have a uniform of some kind. For some, it can be what we traditionally perceive as a uniform — the slacks, button-up and utility belt of a police officer or the monogrammed shirt and baseball cap of a food service worker. However, a uniform is whatever we wear to perform a task effectively and communicate the role we fill.
An athlete puts on his or her best pair of running shoes to move fast around the track. A mechanic often is found sporting coveralls to avoid the dirt and grime.
We all follow a dress code at home, work and church. Dress codes are important, but it’s OK to put your personal touch on it. Whether you’re headed back to school or serving ice cream at a local eatery, find small ways to stay true to you.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. While you might have rules limiting the color or be required to wear your hair up, our tresses often are one of the areas we are most free to express our individuality while fitting into a dress code. Practice intricate top-knots or try your hands at fishtail braids.
A bit of sparkle goes a long way. A pair of stud earrings or some shimmer on the eyelids give a subtle boost to even the most demure looks. Get a manicure that’s both professional and your favorite color.
It’s in the details. Not everything needs to be obvious. Sometimes, we can find contentment in the secrets we keep. I rock a pair of funky socks emblazoned with sushi under my suede
thigh-high boots and my chunky sweaters hide lacey undergarments that make me feel confident no matter the situation.
Olivia Viktora is a copy editor for the Telegraph Herald.