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School Uniforms

The historical origins of school uniforms are to be found in 16th Century England, when uniforms were first instituted at a charity schools for poor children, in part to recognise them and also because it was easier and cheaper then to buy standardised clothes.

It was not until the nineteenth Century that the great English public schools began using uniforms. School uniforms have been less common in the rest of Europe, where for many years they became associated with children from ealthy families attending exclusive private schools. There are a lot of documents suggesting that school uniforms were worn in the nineteenth century in other European countries, but there are few information on these uniforms and how widely they were worn. Many of them were based on military styles.

A photo of 'Athena' high school students in the national-day parade. Athens, Greece, 1952. Courtesy Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation.

In Greece, the school’s costume codes were primarily dictated by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, through a series of circular decrees sent to all public schools as internal measures of civil organization. Even before War World II, and until the 1970s, the individual boards of Greek high schools held frequent sessions to further discuss these decrees and formulate decisions on the costume and social behaviour of the students.
During this period, school uniforms for female pupils consisted mainly of plain cotton pinafore, while boys were obligated to wear a hat called pilikion, characterized by blue color and an emblem of a owl. Similar to a Police Cap and worn even outside school, it was the most important boys’ school garment for many years.
Elementary school children, both boys and girls, wore smocks for many years as a national requirement, although actual enforcement varied. The smocks were mostly blue with wide white collars.

Dark blue felt cocked cap banded with blue ribbon with embroidered "Κιλκίς" (Kilkis) and two Greek flags. Two bands with free edges at one side with embroidered emblems. Cotton fabric lining and brown leather sweatband. Tripolis, Greece, twentieth century. Courtesy Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation, all rights reserved.

The costume code rules were more rigorous in private schools from the 1950s onwards: the school uniform became a sign of severity and status. The colours were usually blue and white. The white detachable collar was another indispensable component of the school dress, which was not mass produced, but sewn at students’ home. Girls in public schools, on the other hand, wore black uniforms. Every students wore the emblem of their institute in a form of a cockade or as embroidery.

The school uniforms, seen as emblems of modesty, virtue and external equality among pupils by the past generations, has been abolished from public schools in Greece since 1982. However, even after the fall of the dictatorship similar decrees were issued by the Ministry and addressed to the female students, who were invited to adopt ‘non eccentric hairstyles and use of blue knee lenght uniforms with a white collar’.
During the late 1970s, famous fashion designer Yannis Tseklenis created special school uniforms designs for the more affluent students.

The pictures in this post belong to the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation. Discover the entire selection on the Europeana Fashion Pinterest page and browse more images on the Europeana Fashion portal.

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