University of Exeter Press

A Cultural History of School Uniform

    • 232 Pages

    the first comprehensive study of school uniform development in Britain

    The Journal of Dress History

    What's a djibbah, how long has the old school tie been around and do yellow petticoats really repel vermin? How have social and educational changes affected the appearance of schoolchildren? This book will provide answers to these questions and more, in an engaging foray into 500 years of British school uniform history from the charity schools of the sixteenth century through the Victorian public schools to the present day.

    In this cross-disciplinary work, Kate Stephenson presents the first comprehensive academic study of school uniform development in Britain as well as offering an analysis of the social and institutional contexts in which this development occurred. With recent debates around the cost, necessity and religious implications of school uniform and its (re)introduction and increasingly formal appearance in many schools, this book is a timely reminder that modern ideas associated with school uniform are the result of a long history of communicating (and disguising) identity.

    The history of school uniforms in Britain is inextricable from its history of gender, class and identity, as this book ably demonstrates. The wide-reaching study fills a significant gap in scholarship by exploring the ways educational institutions dressed young people, and how developments in uniforms embodied and envisaged ideas about their personhood.

    Hilary Davidson, The University of Sydney

    A fascinating social history of the school uniform which sheds light on many facets of British history from the seventeenth century to the present.

    Jon Lawrence, Professor of Modern British History, University of Exeter

    What a refreshing and fascinating narrative, charting its way through the under-researched territory of school uniforms from the earliest examples in 16thc charity schools to the modern day phenomena. Uniform is often the earliest memory of codified dress that we carry and it is a timely and absorbing exploration of this neglected topic.

    Dr Kate Strasdin, Senior Lecturer, Cultural Studies, Fashion and Textiles Institute, Falmouth University

    Kate Stephenson offers the first comprehensive study of school uniform development in Britain, and as such offers the reader a reminder that the modern ideas associated with school uniform are the result of a long history of communicating identity akin to the consumption of clothing in a wider sense. As such, this publication would be of interest to anyone with an interest in the development of school uniform and the wider social, cultural, and historical context in which it existed/exists.

    The Journal of Dress History

    A fresh take on issues of class and gender in education through the lens of that most iconic feature of English education: the school uniform…This excellent book will be of interest to most historians of education. 

    Tuva Skjelbred Nodeland
    Nordic Journal of Educational History

    ...timely and necessary.

    Clare Rose
    Textile History

    Kate Stephenson does a great job of bringing the topic of school uniforms to life while tracing their 500-year history. There is no book to compare this with, which shows how original and useful it is.

    Rachel Shanks
    Education in the North

    ...a highly readable and engaging book that will appeal to both a scholarly and a wider audience.

    Stephanie Spencer
    Journal of the History of Education Society

    Kate Stephenson's book constitutes a rich and thorough analysis of the history of school uniform in English schools.

    Ines Dussel
    British Journal of Educational Studies

    ...this book provides us with rich information on the history of the British school uniform and gives the reader an overview of how authorities and educational institutions regulated school uniforms in order to demonstrate their ideal image of pupils.

    Ami Kobayashi
    Paedagogica Historica

    This valuable study will be useful to anyone with an interest in the history of clothing and design as well as those working on the history of childhood and education studies.

    Rosie Kennedy, Cultural and Social History, The Journal of the Social History Society

    List of Illustrations
    List of Abbreviations
    Be Keen!

    1. The Charity Schools 1552–1900
    Early School Clothing
    Christ’s Hospital
    Other Charity Schools
    Traditional Appearances
    Viewing Charity Children

    2. The Public Schools 1800–1939
    Sport and the Introduction of Uniform Clothing
    Creation of the Public School Ethos
    Uniform Design
    Collective Identity
    Harrow—A Case Study

    3. Public Schools for Girls 1850–1939
    Early Girls’ Schools and the Feminine Ideal
    Sportswear and Uniform
    Day Uniforms
    Formality and Conformity

    4. Education for All 1860–1939
    Middle-Class Secondary Education
    Elementary Education for the Working Classes
    Mixed Classes in Secondary Education

    5. Fashion and Fancy Dress 1939–Present
    Dressing Up


    Kate Stephenson is a cultural historian who has diverse research interests within the fields of dress and social history. She is an Edinburgh-based freelancer working in heritage and public engagement.

      • 232 Pages
      • 21 Black & white illustrations