My private school days in Chicago’s suburbs are not what I remember most. It is my uniform, a red-and–navy plaid jumper, that was just slightly more interesting than the pieces that I was allowed to wear. For six years, I wore the exact same outfit five days a week with ballet flats or penny loafers, only in black or navy, and a polo shirt or Oxford-style shirt. My stockings, whether black, navy or white, were not my choice. I was in sixth grade when I switched to public school. In the process, my uniform was gone and I made a career of dressing myself.
Rory Gilmore was a fellow uniform-wearer, but that was all I had for comfort throughout elementary school. Like me, the youngest Gilmore Girl wore a school uniform. It was not the custom-made versions that were spotted on the Blair Waldorfs or Serena van der Woodsens in New York City. My swollen ballet flats were too big for me to relate to the uniforms worn by the televised students. They often had colorful statement handbags and tights as well as designer belts, padded headsbands, and layers of jewelry. Even worse, I was not allowed to use nail polish or say hell.
Rory’s Chilton uniform was slightly more unique, but it gave me hope. According to my count, 2003 valedictorian had eight top choices throughout her three years at East Coast. These included a button-down shirt and two vests (one navy and one grey), three sweaters (a navy cardigan, a pullover and a pullover) as well as a blazer and a peacoat. Although six were more than me, her limited color palette and absence of eye-catching accessories were in line with my elementary-school outfit. Bottom, she wore the same blue plaid skirt that I wore if I had remained at private school beyond fifth grade. In sixth grade, the plaid jumpers were replaced by equally plaid skirts. Although her black-and white Oxford shoes might have earned her a citation in my time, they were still far from Serena’s Stuart Weitzman high-heels.
This isn’t to say I didn’t like the “uniforms” (can we really call them that?). Gossip Girl featured them. They were my favorite. I was a long-time fan of the TV series and books, so I dreamed often about wearing a loose tie and a button-down shirt. I considered carrying my books in a genuine leather shoulder bag, rather than a dweeby backpack. I also thought about accessorizing with jewel tone tights and earrings. This was not the only type of jewelry that we were allowed to wear. I was allowed to wear whatever I liked in high school (within reason, my preference for shorts was denied both by my parents and the administration). I found myself often dressing like Serena or Blair, switching between boho and prep vaances. I missed many opportunities and was not ready to embrace Rory’s subtle style.
However, in those years where I was unable to choose how I dressed, when I had no choice but give up any style autonomy despite growing interest in fashion and fantasizing about clothes that weren’t allowed, it felt like a waste. Rory’s limited sartorial choices were what kept me zipping up my jumper every morning and slipping on my loafers everyday. I found solace in her seemingly endless selection of mundane cardigans, blazers, and jackets. This was not the first time I felt this way.