by Leslie Lockett
When I was in 6th grade, my English teacher was Sister Munch. She was very old, very wrinkly, and very strict. She is the reason why I can spell the word “grammar” correctly, and I am still haunted by her voice repeating, “gram-MAR” whenever I write the word. Sister Munch, and most of my other teachers at Sacred Heart, wore her habit most days. Some of the older nuns (and by old, I mean in their nineties, as Sister Munch had to be at least sixty years old) even wore the headpiece. She was definitely a little bit scary. No one wanted to incur her—or any of the other nuns’— wrath, and I think it was partially due to the habit. The fact that some of our teachers chose to wear a uniform because God told them to*, made them just that much scarier than our civilian teachers.
Cut to present day in which I am a high school teacher at a public school in Chicago. At work, I’m surrounded by highly intelligent, gorgeous young women who tower over the students in 5” high heels and artfully accessorized ensembles with pencil skirts, scarves, ruffle-y blouses, and cinched belts that highlight their hourglass figures. I have noticed that these ladies’ sophisticated style awards them a very special kind of admiration. This is not to say that the students respect them because they’re pretty, or that they look good. All of these women are incredibly talented at their jobs and could perform them well wearing a baggy sweat suit; however, in my nine years as a teacher, I’ve noticed that when you are clearly decisive about your style, you are most definitely in complete control of your classroom. When you loom over a student in high heels, they have no choice but to listen to you. You command the same kind of fear/respect that I gave the nuns when I was eleven.
This brings me to my uniform. My hope was that by capturing the dignified simplicity of the uniform and adding a touch of sophistication, Jamie and I could create a uniform for teachers that would symbolize both sternness and style. Recalling that women in science fiction films always look attractive, yet commanding, I immediately thought of the flight attendants’ uniforms from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The suit is inspired by the Space Age designs of Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges. It, of course, includes deep pockets for grading pens. And while I’ve always said that I wish teachers could just wear scrubs, I would be happy to command a room in this amazing ensemble.
*That’s what it says in the Bible, right?
Bio Leslie Lockett is a high school teacher in Chicago. She loves watching movies, playing music, and making pie. Her parakeet’s first name is Pickle.