Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Some Uniform Musings

Obviously I have carried out a fair amount of research for my books over the years (well I hope it's obvious!). Quite a lot I knew already, having studied a little psychology in my time but the descriptions of the uniforms you will have encountered if you have read my stuff - not the school uniforms, those ideas developed through the pages of Janus et al - came together through the serendipitous combination of some research I carried out in the mid 1990s for my present partner - a fashion journalist - who was putting together a book on women's workwear at the time (I kid you not! … it didn’t get finished though) and the ideas of my ex-wife as regards a young lady we had staying with us for a time, way back in the 1980s (of which more another time but suffice it to say that it involved at one point a friend of my wife's, who had worked for Marks & Spencer's years before, bringing round one of her old uniform dresses for the girl to work in around the house – see pic but imagine the addition of a plastic belt and it being worn over a corsellete and full slip by a generously-breasted slightly over-plump late-teen).

It has really been the advent of my blog, though, that has been the stimulus for my expanding my research - and what a goldmine there is out there these days. And it is a seam that I have added to myself in some small way, by, for example, scanning and making available through various sources - including some I have posted here in my PicasWeb albums (see sidebar) - the historic workwear and uniform catalogues, drawings and photographs that were generously sent me by various manufacturers, companies and shops, many of whom are now sadly defunct.

On a slightly different tack, like many of you (as I understand it, from the feedback I get) I find ideas about reluctant exposure somewhat exciting - and always have, harking back to the Janus days. And on the right girl, perhaps one coming from a sheltered and pampered background, the mini kilt, socks, perhaps form fitting white blouse worn over a quarter cup platform bra - that sort of thing - I could see working quite well. But where the problem lies, to my mind, is embodied in those comments one reads about the “young madams of today”. That is where that whole approach falls down, in my eyes at least.

Yes, there was a time when it was a thrill to read that a girl might have her hem shortened as a punishment, to read that she has “the shortest skirt in the school”, that sort of thing. But as time has worn on that approach to a lesser and lesser extent seems to hold water. And as my imagination has been expanding, straining to incorporate more and more disparate ideas that I have picked up over time, even that school girl aspect in itself has become somewhat stifling and something of a straitjacket, unless it should be some private little school vouchsafed and hidden from prying eyes behind high walls.

The everyday world of a contemporary girl, some busty late teenage six-former, attending a conventional school, travelling by public transport and surrounded by her peers, is far too limiting a stage. It is a world that I think one needs to start by removing her from in the first instance. Whether she be removed to some purpose-constructed institution or whether she be isolated in some manner within the home, perhaps restricted to a very limited circle of acquaintances, it is the isolation in itself - and the freedom from interference which that ensures - that gives full rein to the disciplinarian’s imagination.

As for the young lady’s uniform; as I think I said before, my inclination is to head in the opposite direction to most writers, to go back in time, dredging up the spirit-stifling styles of yesteryear - albeit with a little embellishment and imagination – and apply them to the young miss of today (or the fairly recent past). For example I can well imagine how certain types of restrictive foundation wear could be incorporated beneath a more conventional - for its period - school uniform. The idea of the carefully-tailored, form-fitting blouse enhanced by a severely reduced waist and unnaturally elevated bustline thrusting out into the front of the open-sided bib-like bodice of a pleated-skirted gymslip - that in all other respects is an embodiment of modesty and youthful innocence – is an exciting one indeed. In a nutshell I guess the idea could be distilled as: a ridiculously childish, modest (in its way) and highly restrictive mode of dress juxtaposed with an exaggerated maturity of figure.

Actually what led me to board this train of though today was coming across this delightful little gymslip, above right. Okay so bottle-green may not be that unusual in the greater scheme of things, but is so refreshing to see something outside of the usual navy blue and demonstrating that for the young lady undergoing scholarly discipline at home or detained in some small, discreet and secure private establishment, our pallet need not be so restricted – as I have said before. Click here to read. I couldn't resist seeing how it would look on the older teenager, perhaps worn over a bottle-green and white candy striped blouse and with a suitable school tie. Okay I'll agree that it's not that well executed (I'm still on a learning curve with this photo-shop thingy - and it's been done in a hurry, I'm a little short of time today) and the 'blouse' is actually the top half of a school summer dress, but you can get the idea - see on left. I would imagine the blouse to have long sleeves terminating in stiff buttoned cuffs - while retaining the puffed shoulders of that dress of course - and while the Peter Pan collar is suitably juvenile, I can equally well imagine that a stiff high-buttoning collar might be thought to have the greater disciplinary aspect.

This is an area that to my mind has always been sadly neglected in the literature. Dress discipline, to many writers of the spanking / discipline genre, usually comes down to blatant, exhibitionist exposure, featuring over-short skirts and the like, or of course the obligatory school uniform. But the exposure thing has become somewhat blunted in light of the permissive atmosphere of today's world. School uniforms, although making something of a comeback in recent years in schools are not particularly restrictive nor detailed or strict enough in their modern incarnation - and in any case unless the young Lady in question possesses a particularly overtly mature figure or in some other way is clearly not of an age commensurate with attending school or wearing a school uniform then I think that the element of humiliation has been largely lost.

It is not the concept of school uniform per se that is at fault here but rather the fault lies in its implementation. If the girl is now more suited for university or the workplace - i.e. she is no longer need be kept on at school for legal reasons - but it is nevertheless desired that her education should continue at home, or at least that standards of academic discipline should be maintained, then, although in theory a school-type uniform would be suitably apt, there is no need to bow to the liberal and permissive standards of the day. Freed of the restrictions of any particular institution, there is no longer need to visit the local school outfitters or local department store.

Not that I would condone a visit to any of the purveyors of so-called 'adult' school uniforms that one now comes across on the 'Web' either. This is where the writing of the contributor known as ‘Judith's aunt’ comes across as so interesting - there seems little of commercial origin in her Judith's wardrobe and the overall image she must present (one that sadly we can only imagine) owes much to the lifting of that limitation. For the latest comments as regards that particular young lady click here to read.
There are plenty of dress and sewing patterns available from those bygone days, when standards were not so lackadaisical - see left - that may serve as a good template. Obviously styled for the young, with the services of a good dressmaker or seamstress (and everybody is looking for work these days) scaling up to adult sizing is a simple matter. The style on the right of the pair would make a particularly good starting point for a uniform for a young lady in her late teens or even early twenties and with a little imagination lavished on detail and embellishment a nice bespoke and well tailored little ensemble could soon be put together - one that would deter even the most rebellious teenager from wandering far outside of the confines of the home.

And that is something that I would recommend to Judith's aunt, the employment of a professional seamstress. That point about imagination, though, is crucial to the final outcome in my mind. For instance, once freed of the above-mentioned restrictions then why stick to the usual conventions at all. For example, does one have to restrict oneself to the usual pallet of navy-blue, bottle-green, slate-grey, maroon and the rest. An interesting result can be concocted by switching to soft pastels, powder pink and baby blues, but retaining the all-important school uniform styling in all other respects. Or perhaps, in place of a cardigan or blazer why not a cape - here I envisage something not unlike the district nurse’s cape of old - gabardine, fastening at the neck and open at the front and perhaps of waist length for indoor wear but always keeping ready a knee-length sibling for wear out of doors. Perhaps this latter variant, if buttoning down the front, might allow her to cover that hated uniform when outside - a privilege that must be earned and maintained by her total submission and obedience throughout the sojourn - but itself having features that make clear that it is indeed a part of a uniform of some sort. Perhaps it might sport a duplicate of the school badge that graces the gymslip she wears beneath and be edged with a ribbon trim that matches the striped ribbon bows she wears in her pigtailed hair. And on her head; at home the traditional straw boater or a bonnet in the school uniform colour, depending on taste, but outside and once dressed in her cape then perhaps a nice little pillbox hat of a colour to match the cape would be more suitable.

Then to go with that rigid discipline of dress we must have a similarly rigid discipline of behaviour. Perhaps marching drill as has been suggested by others, perhaps many hours spent nose pressed to the wall in the corner with hands-on head or sitting at a cramped desk writing lines and learning mindless childish nursery rhymes. Of course PE (physical education) sessions are a must; for which you cannot beat the traditional school leotard - it doesn't have to be black, it would be equally suitable in the overall school colour chosen for the rest of her uniform, perhaps bottle green or royal blue – or why not a pastel shade, if one has chosen to go in that direction, and why not augmented with a suitably embarrassing little tutu, come to that?

The cut and styling is another matter and here, using the traditional school leotard as a template, one can let one's imagination fly. For example, in one of his novels, Madame Vorge's Finishing School I think it was, Victor Bruno outlines an enticing sounding style; high-sided at the hips and narrowing down to little more than a fingers width or so at the rear seam, the latter pulled in tight so as to leave the buttocks free to bounce and be available for the urging of the instructor’s malacca cane or leather strap as required. Can you imagine the effect of a largish spherical wooden or plastic bead threaded on that cord-like back-seam so as to be position over her anus, as she bends and jumps in obedience to the instructor's whistle or barked command.
But even if one opts for full coverage of the buttocks the fitting can be so arranged as to make that coverage embarrassingly close, both at the front and the rear, and of course the back of the thighs are still available for the attention of the cane crop or pony whip or whatever. Then we can begin to play with ideas as regards the fabric, and all sorts of possibilities take flight, such as the incorporation of a gusset panel formed from a soft, semi-transparent polythene in an otherwise unremarkable and traditional, if rather snugly fitting, black nylon or Lycra (by far the more preferable fabric) school leotard. From a personal choice I would prefer to retain a traditional look as far as the outside of the garment is concerned but that still leaves open the possibility of having the garment lined with some other material or fabric - the possibilities for the young lady’s torment are endless. Actually the cover of Janus 93 – featured elsewhere on this site - had a nice little ensemble pictured – click here to view.

Then to control her I would like to see employed someone of the stamp of the traditional Victorian governess but very much a woman of today, a domineering figure, perhaps possessing a knowledge of manipulative psychological skills and able to bring the young lady to tears with a few well chosen words and to heel with the kiss of leather across bared buttocks. Such a woman I definitely see as being always in uniform herself and of a design intended to bolster her authority in the eyes of her charge. Here I would suggest something based on the navy blue matron’s uniforms of the 1960s, tightly belted waist with an ornate silver clasp and a strap or tawse hanging from a belt clip at her side. “Discipline depends upon the authority to compel and to restrain. This authority may, at times, have to be enforced by corrective measures, but the surest way to command total compliance is to maintain a constant discipline that allows for no exceptions or excuses and that varies only to reward exceptionally good behaviour or to punish disobedience”. I'm not sure where that came from but it's apt nevertheless as is the observation that "even a plain-faced nurse in uniform has an advantage over a handsome unprofessional woman". How true!

As for all that attention to tailoring and styling and the retention of a professional seamstress - it's yet another move away from the conventional. The bib fronted gymslip I think is a must, even if it is realised in a soft powder blue or pastel pink but there is no need to stick with the traditional look of the box pleated or knife pleated skirt for example. There was a certain argument for the skirt being properly tailored in the way that a sophisticated adult's skirt might be, panelled and closely fitted around the hips and bottom and perhaps falling to an inch or so above the knees in the outdoor version. Similarly the bodice should be open-sided and well fitted, darted were necessary to accommodate the breasts. The idea is to present her feminine curves as evidence that she cannot flinch from; that she should be like her peers, that she sees in an out of the boutiques and fashion emporium, that she should be as free-spirited as they are, have boyfriends, go on to university, but instead she is controlled, docile, walking hand-in-hand with her mistress, head bowed and cheeks burning – the finished and perfected outcome of untold hours of repeated impositions, drills, the cane and the strap.


Anonymous said...

My Aunt has decided that my failures in self-evaluation and only adequate response to my two weeks of punishments specifically imposed because of this have merited a revision of my regime. I have therefore been returned to my previous regime which I ended at the end of June with immediate effect together with some additional strictures. This means I am back in school uniform, confined to the house doing housework, hours of detention and making punishment clothing in my room. I have been asked by my Aunt to make clear to you the additional sanctions I have received above those served during the previous six month period which ended in June.
• My school knickers have been replaced by brown woollen knickers with elasticated waist and legs reaching to just above the knee and with unfinished seams. Knitted by me and worn at all times.
• Grey woollen knitted knee socks.
• Brown round necked school cardigan with yellow trim worn at all times in addition to my waistcoat and V-neck cardigan and worsted pinafore.
• Yellow woollen thumbless mitts worn at night, when going to Church and at other times when use of my hands is not required e.g. when standing in a corner with my hands on my head.
• Less frequent hygiene privileges. Knickers and socks changed once per week, shirt, pinafore and woollen night dress once a fortnight and my waistcoat and cardigans once per month. One cold shower per week, twice daily washing of hands and face.
• No supper
• Stand all morning in detention.
• Corporal punishment. Monday – 5 strokes of the cane to my bare behind, Wednesday – 4 strokes of the tawse to the palm and back of each hand, Friday – 6 strokes of the strap to my bare behind, Saturday –5 strokes of the slipper to the palm and back of each hand, Sunday – severe spanking of my bare behind with hairbrush/paddle/hand wherever possible in front of guests.
• Mouthwash twice per day with carbolic soap, tablespoon of Castor oil once per day
• One visit to the toilet only per day – I must request permission but this will not always be granted. Toilet use to be supervised.
These conditions will last for a minimum of 2 months. At this point if my behaviour has been exemplary I will either be returned to my previous new regime (i.e. cleaning) but with fewer privileges, continue this regime for a further 4 months so that I have fully repeated my initial six month punishment and demonstrated I have learnt how to behave before progressing or receive a more severe further period of punishment before any progression. My Aunt has informed me that she is considering application of more infant school conditions and greater public humiliation should this be necessary and that I will over the next 2 months prepare the necessary Gingham dresses, cardigans and other clothing to enable this as part of my current punishment if my behaviour makes this appropriate
I hope it is clear the sanctions I have been correctly made to serve for my indiscretion are harsh but as ever my Aunt is always willing to consider further suggestions. In order to ensure my attention to detail my Aunt has already told me that any misbehaviour, beyond slight academic mistakes with my work, will result in an immediate 10 strokes of the cane and imposition of a completely woollen infant school uniform on Sunday, and that the later application of sanctions will ignore this. In addition I can expect very severe steps including removal of toilet use and greater public humiliation for further transgressions of the rules.
Judith T.

Madmonkey said...

"In a nutshell I guess the idea could be distilled as: a ridiculously childish, modest (in its way) and highly restrictive mode of dress juxtaposed with an exaggerated maturity of figure."

I think this is the original attraction of the school uniform for most people. What I believe you object to is how far removed from reality some of these costumes have gotten and how flattering some have become. What is the point of dressing as a schoolgirl if the uniform doesn't appear the least bit convincing as something a real schoolgirl might have to wear?

Anonymous said...

Saw the item below in my newspaper and it set me wondering - if you were to design an outfit for the young miscreants to wear for the impending church outing, what would it be? hehe. Something shameing I expect - perhaps they should be required to attend Sunday School too, before a visit to the Vicarage for afternoon tea with the Church council where the Vicar's wife and the Chair Lady of the Women Institute dispense further punishment "to drive the lesson home"!

From The Times November 6, 2009

Young vandals forced to say sorry to Jam and Jerusalem churchSimon de Bruxelles 4 Comments
Recommend? Three teenagers who sprayed graffiti on a country church have been ordered to stand in front of a vicar and the congregation and apologise.

The 750-year-old St Peter’s Church in North Tawton, Devon, is known to millions of television viewers from the BBC comedy series Jam and Jerusalem. It is also the church where the funeral of the poet Ted Hughes took place in 1998.

However, fans of the series starring Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders would hardly have recognised it after the three teenagers sprayed dozens of smiley faces and lewd comments on gravestones, memorials and walls.

The culprits were swiftly identified as two girls, aged 14 and 15, and a 16-year-old youth. They had been due to appear at Exeter Youth Court on a joint charge of causing criminal damage to the historic church.

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Dave Brown, from the Devon Youth Offending Team, told the court that the teenagers face the “daunting” task of facing the vicar and congregation to say sorry for their actions, which caused widespread upset in the small town.

They have been given “final warnings” by Devon and Cornwall Police after agreeing to clear up the mess and make a formal apology to the congregation at the Sunday morning service on November 15.

The Rev Dr Brian Ardill, rector of St Peter’s, said that he was happy with the apology and thought the congregation would be too. He said: “They could have got a criminal record, but they are only about 15 to 16 and it will affect their chances of getting into university and other things. I had some very nice letters, which were very contrite and apologetic.

“I also had a call from the fathers of the people involved who were very embarrassed and devastated by what had happened.

“They have been quite penitent, not only in writing a letter, but to clean, put it right and apologise.”

Dr Ardill said the teenagers who caused the damage had spent six hours scrubbing the graffiti off the granite walls of the church. He said: “Hot water and a wire brush has worked really well and the walls have come up beautifully. I think the congregation feel they have done enough to show a change of heart. People are sort of accepting that it’s finished.”

Geoffrey Cox, the Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon, said: “These young people must realise that what they did was very serious. Having said that, if they have shown a real desire to make good, and I understand that they have cleaned up what they did and are genuinely remorseful, then extending them a last chance may be the right course.”

North Tawton was chosen as the location for Jam and Jerusalem in 2005 and is known to viewers as Clatterford St Mary.Many local residents were also recruited to act as extras

Anonymous said...

i think avoiding giving these children a criminal record is good, as is having them repair the damage they caused and apologising for their behaviour. there does not appear to be any element of punishment for the wrong doing they have caused. as you suggest i think that they should perform their apology dressed in a way that makes clear they are being punished such as by wearing of a simple unfashionable gown and plain shoes. attendance at Sunday school also seems appropriate and to my mind this should be followed by 3 or 4 hours of church service work for example working in the graveyard, cleaning the church, scrubbing the floors of the parish rooms. this work should be open for all to see not just as a punishment and deterrence to themselves but also to others who could be tempted to such vandalism. i would also say that this should be repeated for at least 4-6 weeks on every Sunday (church attendance, Sunday School attendance and church service work) – this is after all a punishment and must be obviously so. i would assume that their parents will be applying some more severe punishments at home for their vandalism as well.

Toyntanen said...

We must keep in mind throughout, though, that when we use the terms 'child' or 'children' on this site / blog we are using these terms as derogatory references to be thrown at young ladies in their late teens or even early twenties. I Hate to seem as if paranoid, but that is just how Britain is, these days - paranoid.

Anonymous said...

As the person who posted the times article may I apologise - you are quite correct, and I should have appreciated the point. Would you care to delete it and I shall resubmit with the ages removed - or altered? The scenario is so sweet, and factually correct, it seems a pity not to allow the opportunity to engage in some fantasy. What do you think?

Toyntanen said...

Dear Mr anon (the one that posted the newspaper article - there seem several commentators going by the same name). One: it's most gratifying to see that folk do return and follow / read the answers to comments. Two: I really don't think you need worry about reposting your contribution - after all, the story is exactly as appeared in the paper and is posted here as a form of inspiration to all those that would care to transpose the context to suite that aspect of our mutual interest dealing with the juvenile treatment of otherwise grown young women for the purposes of control and humiliation. Be that by way of the imposition of childish school uniforms, placing under the care of a strict governess or other forms of belittling treatment. Thanks for your concern and understanding, however. Cheers! Garth.

Anonymous said...

dear judith,
dear aunt,

our naughty judith walking to church with hands on head, hm, I like this idea very very much ànd yes, as someone said, very plausible in a certain small community ...

and may I suggest an alternative pose for the girl's corner time ? in fact, kneeling is more often used in my country than standing, also with
hands on head of course, fingers interlaced.
as it is more severe, you could use it for when a more severe punishment is needed.

e.g. when she walks to church with her hands on her head, she could continue her walk in church and spend the whole celebration kneeling on the cold floor at the front of the church, back to 'the audience', all the time keeping her hands on top of her head.

if used this punishment at home, if necessary, you can even make it more harsh by making her kneel on pencils, a washboard, rice, corn, beans ...
but than pay attention not to make the kneeling too long as to avoid knee damage of course.
by the way, is that the reason kneeling is hardly used in britain ??

with love,

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

As part of my new regime my Aunt is making me thank those who have made suggestions for additions to my punishment and to provide feedback on their implementation. I would therefore like to thank you for your suggestion for use of kneeling as a positional punishment. For the first time today I spent one hour kneeling on a tray of gravel in my bedroom whilst I carried out knitting of a cardigan as part of my daily uniform making activities. This was a very painful experience and my knees have been grazed by the punishment and the rubbing of the hem of my pinafore is now reminding me of this. My Aunt has informed me that this one hour daily kneeling position punishment will remain in place for the remainder of my current sentence. I would also like to inform you that during my previous punishment periods and again now I have been kneeling to pray in Church without a hassock on the cold stone floor. This punishment will of course be further enhanced by the additional daily gravel kneeling periods.
I thank you again for adding to my deserved punishment and hope that this underlines that the part of my punishment which states that any ideas from others will be added even if my behaviour is adequate is in place.