Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blogging from A to Z: U is for Uniform

During the month of April last year, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge - one alphabet-themed post per day (except Sundays).  I had such a good time with it that I'm doing it again this year.  I'm loosely organized on the theme of downsizing, minimalism, and small-home living that I've learned in 14 years of living on a small boat.  I'm starting with A is for Anchoring Out, Anger-ing Out, and ending with Z is for Zout and Zwarte Peper (Dutch for salt and black pepper). Click on the A to Z logo on the lower left sidebar for links to many other bloggers participating in the challenge.

What do you think about wearing the same uniform every day? (Photo, US Naval Academy)

When I was in (public) elementary school, several of my friends were in Catholic school, and they had to wear uniforms to school every day. I thought it was weird. Still do, in fact. Being a kid or adolescent is a great time to learn to express yourself and differentiate yourself, and doing so by your fashion statements is one way. My friends all wore those dark pants/skirts and white shirts/blouses with the school's crest, and were distinguishable only by their hair color or styles, while I loved plaids and stripes, magenta, blue-green, and sapphire. Together. I distinctly remember my dad telling me that people don't dress like rainbows, before sending me back to my room to change before we went ... somewhere. I no longer remember where, but I still remember joking with him in later years about his sartorial advice.

Kids in school uniforms in India. (Photo by Byronkhyangti, licensed under Wikimedia commons, from here)

Conditions are very different for an older adult than for a school-age child. I experimented for a while in my 30s with a daily work "uniform" of blue jeans and a gray sweatshirt. I enjoyed not having to think at all about what to wear, or spend time and money shopping for it. The lack of focus on clothing was great until I was promoted and required to dress corporate. Yet now, 50+ years later than those school days, when I wear my uniform for work as a tourguide, whether it is historic sailor garb or shirt with ship's logo, I remember how simple mornings could be.  It must be something human that we take something so straightforward and artificially complicate it. I mused about what a waste of energy micro-decisions such as choosing clothing are, as part of last year's A to Z challenge. Now, I'm somewhere in between mindlessly wearing the same thing every day, and having fun with my clothing and "dressing like a rainbow."

I'm getting ready to sail on the Galeon again, and using my experience last year, as well as my experiment two years ago of dressing with 33 items for 3 months, to make my packing list. I'm not limited to 33 items this go-around but simply limited by space (I found that last time I did the clothing challenge too -- on the boat, volume matters more than number of pieces; 33 wool sweaters take up a ton more space than 33 swimsuits! For this summer cities tour I will have about as much clothing space as I do aboard our sailboat -- about the equivalent of two airline carryon bags. Making it more challenging is the additional constraint that we need to be prepared for hot summer weather as well as night watches in chilly Canadian waters. On the other hand, it's night watch, so no one cares about -- or can even see -- whether what I'm wearing matches!

= = = = = =

If you're really curious, here's my packing list:
warm jacket: navy blue with ship's logo
fleece sweatshirt: dark teal
sweater: gray wool
foul-weather rain jacket and pants
5 t-shirts with ship's logo (3 navy blue, 2 white)
4 shorts: khaki, black, blue, gray
2 stretch jeans: khaki
2 summer weight pants: khaki, off-white
3 t-shirts for off-duty: 2 short-sleeve & 1 long-sleeve
orange Hawaiian shirt (fun for BBQ nights aboard)
2 cute tops for exploring in town: pink/black/white/tan geometric print, and abstract blue rainbow criss-cross neck
nice black semi-dressy pants
long-sleeve silver sunblock shirt
2 warm turtlenecks: dark gray, light blue
Keens (closed-toe water sports shoes)
tennis shoes (black, so they can fade into the background to wear with the black pants)
wool hat, gloves, scarf, fleece long underwear
Tilley hat for sun
scrimshaw "ship's anchor" earrings with pink, blue, and diamond studs
one raggy outfit for painting in
oversize t-shirt and shorts for sleeping
other stuff:
prescription sunglasses
head lamp
energy bars
name tag
rigging knife and Leatherman
phone and universal charger for European power
notebook and blank paper
small camera
sleeping bag, sheet, pillow
decaf tea


  1. While not formal, I lean toward a work uniform of jeans and a blouse each day. Friday is casual so I pull out a t shirt. Your list sounds quite practical with enough variety. Fun and not much thinking

    1. Thanx Joanne. I loved the days when I could wear blue jeans for everything! My short list worked last year, and I have no reason to think it'll be different this time around.

  2. I do like those earrings of yours! Thanks for sharing your packing list - quite fun to read.

    Cheers - Ellen

    1. Thanx. It startled me how many comments I got on them ... perfect theme for working on a tall ship!

  3. It's surprising how little clothes we really need, and how much easier it is to have fewer choices! - Lucy

    1. Shhh, Lucy, it's a secret! Don't let the manufacturers and advertisers know!

  4. I used to be against school uniforms until I stared teaching. I'm still not a big fan for all of the reasons you mentioned but sending kids to the office for violating the dress code wasted a lot of valuable class time.



    1. Agreed, it is. But at the same time, I think one of the jobs of childhood/teenagerhood is to learn to make decisions, and sometimes fail, when the consequences are ultimately small.

  5. I have never been a fan of school uniforms and at the schools I attended and where I taught, they were absent. I loved living on a boat and in a camper with nobody I knew around. I never really cared about what I wore and this last decade, it didn't matter either. Now, on land, I am a bit more aware of my wardrobe, when I plan to leave the property.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

    1. We do spend an awful lot of energy managing -- or trying to manage -- the image we project, don't we?

  6. I went to a Catholic school, but we never had a uniform. I heard people say that uniforms are good in schools where kids from poor family backgrounds would be bullied for the way they dress, but I am not sure it works that way...
    Packing is an art form for sure! :)

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary