The Uniform

Some see it as a timeless classic.  Others think it’s a bit old-fashioned. Any way you look at it, it’s indisputably iconic, representing at a glance all that is Notre Dame Prep. The blue dress. The NDP uniform.

It really hasn’t changed much over the years. The hemline has inched up. The zipper moved from the front to the back. What was detachable (cuffs, collars, belts) was made permanent. The side zipper and breast pocket are gone altogether. As are the thick, wool, Adler socks (fall and spring) and blue knee-highs (winter) of yesteryear. Replaced by short, ribbed, cotton socks or blue tights. The saddle shoes still remain, however. And polished if you know what’s good for you because the rules are still strict. You alter the uniform and a detention could be in your very near future. Tamper with the uniform at your own risk.

When I attended NDP we were only allowed to wear navy, cardigan sweaters over our uniform and the dress collar had to be on the outside. Pappagallo cable knit was the fashion then. I was also there during the era of the detachable collar and cuffs. I remember many a night hand-washing them with Ivory Snowflakes in the bathroom sink and draping them over the shower rod to dry. Detachable collars and cuffs meant whiter collars and cuffs. But it also meant missing collars and cuffs and another detention. My guess is, one too many lost collars and missing cuffs led to the permanent attachment of both. Everything’s a trade off, I guess.

Then there were the rules about hair accessories.  Back then, quarter inch grosgrain ribbon in your hair was the standard. At first, it could only be navy. Eventually, the rules expanded to include wider widths, more fabrics, and just about any color. All the department stores (remember them?) had fabulous “notions” sections full of spools and spools of grosgrain, velvet, and satin ribbon in an array of colors. Kelly green was popular at the time. As was pink with white polka dots. You could buy 4 or 5 yards of multicolor ribbon for under a dollar.

Today, NDP blazers (sleeves rolled up, silk lining showing) have replaced the cable knit sweaters of the 60’s. And very wide headbands seem to be back in fashion. At least, they were a minute ago. Stay tuned. Not that long ago, those white ribbed socks were worn down below the ankle. Heck, they hardly showed above the back of the shoe (how comfortable could that have been?). Now, just a few years later, the girls pull the socks all the way up. Today, everyone wears her favorite hooded sweatshirt to and from school (never during school or, that’s right… detention). Athletic shorts under the uniform have replaced the petty pants of yesteryear. A vast improvement, in my opinion. However, you’d better not be able to see either under the dress or, well… you know. Surprisingly, nail polish is allowed but no colored t-shirt under the dress. Only white.  The name tag, introduced more than 40 years ago is still pinned front and center, but now is likely to be surrounded by an array of other pins representing membership in clubs, on sports teams, and other school associations. I don’t know when that new trend started but it looks like a lot of fun.  

The thing is, every generation takes the classic uniform and makes it her own. And that’s as it should be. It’s part of the age-old process of finding one’s voice, becoming independent, growing up. The girls are allowed just enough latitude to set themselves apart from previous generations, but not so much that the uniform and all that it represents becomes unrecognizable. And that, too, is as it should be.

The NDP uniform. A timeless classic. Signature NDP. Those who wear it say it’s quite comfortable.  All who wear it wear it with pride.

Send Bluenote your memories of the NDP uniform. What were the styles and trends when you or your daughter attended NDP? What other changes have you or she noticed over the years? Talk with your old classmates, friends, and neighbors. Share your memories in the “leave a comment” section, below (at the end of the listed tags).

12 thoughts on “The Uniform

  1. I had many uniforms. Some new and some hand-me downs from graduates. These older “seasoned” uniforms were my favorite to wear because they were broken in and the fabric was more soft and a bit lighter shade of blue due to the years of use. Even though my graduation was over 10 years ago, I still hang on to my very favorite uniforms and my saddles.

  2. One memory that sticks out is walking on the back heels of my saddle shoes. So they would almost turn into slippers and that would break them in to actually be super comfy! The shoes would be loosely tied so you could slip them on and off and put them in your locker. This would cause you to “scuff” your shoes as you walk down the hallways, a habit that may have stuck with me 😉

    1. Hey Emily, Did you get a detention for scuffed shoes? I had the same pair of saddle shoes from 8th grade all the way through 12th! Talk about broken in! Thanks for tuning in. Spread the word about Bluenote and let us know what you’re up to, Emily. Bluenote

  3. My uniform memories?! Well, it was the eighties….tretorns worn before and after school, outback red sweaters from the Limited, and blue cable knit tights. Those were the days! Now my daughter is in the 8th grade at NDP. It is fun to watch her class put their own stamp on that classic uniform!

  4. I think the reason they moved the zipper to the back is because there was a tendency to unzip the front of the uniform a bit. And if you had a detachable collar, that was not a good look. As for the belt, it seems they went missing a lot.

  5. My sister Theresa and I went through the Lower School (LS) AND the Upper School (US) at NDP. For a while we had to wear chapel berets that were navy blue and sort of looked French. I also remember sunbathing in the breezeway during free periods. We used to bring in record album covers covered in aluminum foil to intensify the sunning process on our face and neck and chest (you had to pull the front zipper down a little for that). I believe the zipper was moved to the back after this! I remember we wore off-white wool socks, which looked better with age. Sometimes we even put them in tea to make them look older faster. We wore them pulled up high in LS, but then scrunched down in US. We wore navy knee highs after Thanksgiving until Easter – folded down with a little top cuff in LS, but pulled up high in US. In LS, we used to wear OP (that would be Ocean Pacific) cord shorts under our uniforms so that we could hang upside down on the monkey bars and not worry about showing any under things. We also were supposed to have our initials hand embroidered on our gym uniform. Many girls and their moms no longer really knew how to sew so they used iron-on pre-embroidered initials. I was very proud that my Mom could really embroider my gym uniform. Yes, I too remember that Tretorns were the rage (except for Gym Meet …we all went to Kmart and bought cheap white Keds so we would all look alike and very white). As a matter of fact, I wore Tretorns all through college! The bloomers were another story. We used to take the elastic out of the bottom of them so they hung more like shorts than, well, bloomers. Oh and we all carried those little covered Bermuda bags with our initials on them. Since my Mother could sew, my sister and I had tons of different covers for our Bermuda bags. In terms of hair, French braiding became popular in US. I remember getting my hair French braided down the back and then put “up” with a white ribbon for a Loyola High School Senior prom. In terms of length of the uniform, most girls wore it right above the knee.My sister and I had MANY uniforms to choose from and yes, the older ones were the best. The team uniforms were skirts with short sleeved tops. We all used to roll the sleeves up and tie them with ribbons so that we would get a “no-line” tan on our arms while we played. Wish we had the cool colored tape that the girls use now. Oh and finally, we played lacrosse with wooden sticks! Now I am showing my age. So many years at NDP and so many GREAT memories! I love being a Mom, but I still dream of being an NDP girl! By the way, I only have boys -go figure!

  6. I love the NDP uniforms. So happy to see that they haven’t changed in the 60 years since I was at
    NDM. Nice to see that some things don’t have to change and still look new. The students look very smart in their blue and white uniforms. Keep up the good work. Joyce A Wino class of 1952

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.