"The uniform was an important item, not merely as an attraction, as it undoubtedly was to the girls, but because under it all differences of social standing were hidden and forgotten."
Lessons from the Varsity of Life
Chapter X. The Boy Scouts & Girl Guides
We've heard great stories about positive things that have happened when a Girl Scout or Girl Scout leader has worn her uniform. We need to collect these stories so we can show all Girl Scouts and their leaders what a positive influence we can be on others when we wear our uniforms. If you have a story you want to share, send it to the Alamitos-Marina Service Unit.
This page was originally compiled by Charlotte M, who collected quite a few outstanding stories. We all owe her a debt of gratitude for the work she did and for coming up with the idea for the page in the first place! And thank you to all of you who contributed...
What attracted me to Girl Scouts to start with? The uniform of course! Scouts would wear their uniforms to school and I wanted to be like them. I wanted to find out what they were doing. My first uniform was a hand me down. I can remember trying to figure out with my mother the right placement of the all the numbers and learning what everything meant. Exciting and meaningful. Our troop always wore uniforms to events and people seemed to respect us and we respected ourselves. WE were a new troop just beginning -- we were Lilies of the Valley. That was like our flag and we stuck together. I remember flag ceremonies in which white gloves wear worn, you just knew you were part of something bigger than yourself! When I became a cadette the uniform design was changing. I wanted that new uniform (the one with the vest) but you know I always missed my old uniform the one with the sash. As young women discover who they are and what they represent, I hope they wear their uniforms and show the world they are something big -- they are a Girl Scout!
Here's my story:
A couple of years ago I was preparing to fly to Kathmandu, Nepal by myself. Part of my purpose for going had to do with Girl Scouts, so I decided to wear my uniform. Another purpose for my trip was to participate in a YMCA medical camp up in the mountains, about 24 miles from Mt. Everest. With me I took 3 duffle bags full of drugs that had been donated for the medical camp.
After a somewhat grueling 24-hour trip with a 10-hour layover in Pakistan I arrived in Kathmandu. As I stood in the line at customs I began to worry about whether or not I would have any trouble getting my duffle bags through. As I stood there I noticed that the woman standing next to me kept looking at me out of the corner of her eye. Finally I looked right at her and said "Girl Scouts." "Oh," she said, "I'm a Girl Scout, too."
It turns out she was a Pakistani Girl Scout trainer on her way to a "regional" training conference in Nepal. She gave me her business card, I gave her a box of Thin Mints (I had carried a case as part of my carry-0n), and she whisked me through customs so quickly that no one even glanced at my luggage.
Obviously, the moral of the story is that this happened because I was wearing my uniform.
A couple of years ago Jac, Karen & I went to the Utah Adult Girl Scout Conference. All 3 of us wore our Adult Uniforms, (shirt & pants.) I was the only one with the Adult Baseball cap. It seemed that Jac & I were searched at all the air ports, coming & going. Karen got searched once. I even got to sit down while the people waved the wond over the bottom of my shoes. They joked with us, asked questions about scouting & told us a little about their scouting years.
Next summer we take some girls to England to Pax. Of course we told the girls they must wear their uniforms coming & going. Our ED has told us NO for safety reasons because of 9-11. The girls thought this meant they could leave the uniforms at home. WRONG. We still need the uniforms for Pax & some tours. I WILL BRING THAT BASEBALL CAP WITH ME.
We found that being in uniforms gives you special treatment which could include discounts and/or jumping to the head of the line. One leader tells about the time her troop was in line at the WHITE HOUSE, waiting for their turn to get in. A guard was walking down the line, looking the visitors over and came to this troop. He made them get out of line & follow him. They wondered what they did wrong. This troop of girl scouts in uniform was able to go to the head of the line, with no waiting, etc.
On Scout Days at the Bucks, our council was responsible for the flag ceremony. My daughter & I were going. Council knew me & put me in charge of the girls doing the Flag Ceremony that Day. My very tall & large daughter had just bridged & national had just changed the cadette uniforms to blue. The first year national changes uniforms, THEY NEVER MAKE THEM LARGE ENOUGH for big girls like my daughter. I had to go to the Milwaukee council which had a couple of new uniforms on display, my council did not have any new uniforms (too new) & take pictures of the blue uniform skirt, go to Joanne's for a close pattern, and the material to make my daughters uniform for the flag ceremony. We had permission to get a man's heather t-shirt (because that came big enough) & sewed the girl scout emblem on it. I had days to do this in. My daughter who is 23 still talks about doing the Flag ceremony for the Milwaukee Bucks in full uniform that I was crazy enough to make for her.
We try to encourage the uniforms as much as possible. Yes, the girls act better, get respect, are easier to find, etc. The reasons for wearing the girls scout uniform far outweigh the disadvantages.
In my humble opinion, uniforms are only optional when certain constraints, such as being in prison or belonging to a religion with strict dress requirements makes wearing a uniform impossible. Dire poverty might also be a constraint in some areas, but I think the uniform is important enough that it is worth seeking sponsorships in order to get them.
In my service unit, there is very little pressure to have the girls in uniform, and the leaders seem to go out of their way to avoid events where they would be necessary or even desirable. This year, I decided to put my foot down. I told the parents that uniforms were mandatory, told them exactly what pieces I wanted them to have, gave them a deadline, and told them I would find sponsorships if they needed financial assistance with the uniforms. One might suppose that with over a dozen girls, none of them ever having been required to wear a uniform before, I might have heard some complaints. I didn't hear a squeak. When we did our first parade of the year last month, of the dozen or so GS troops in the parade, we were the only ones clearly recognizable as Girl Scouts and the ones that the spectators waved and clapped for. Some of the other troops had sashes or vests over street clothes, but we were a solid mass of green and white, and we got the recognition that a good-looking troop gets.
This past weekend we were tasked with another visibility event, to hand out participant ribbons to runners in the local Breast Cancer Awareness 5K. There was another group there as well, in matching t-shirts, doing the same task. The runners consistently ignored them and came straight to us.
I'm seeing a lot more pride and enthusiasm in my troop now. They love it when people come up to them and ask them about their badges and sashes, and they are even warming up to the idea of wearing their uniforms to school.
I think others have already covered the point that girls in uniforms sell more cookies, and that uniforms help a group bond more closely. I can't help but feel that being uniformed is as essential to the true GS experience as being out-of-doors.
My two troops marched in the Memorial Day Parade. My Juniors, when they bridged up, sat down and with my encouragement chose a single Class A uniform from the many styles offered. They chose a simple white shirt and the jade shorts and the vest. When we asked the parents we made sure that they all knew if any had trouble purchasing the uniform, I had sponsors to assist them. My new Cadette troop wears their blue vest, a white or light gray shirt, and a pair of blue shorts (jean shorts are okay since the vest is long enough that it covers it anyway pretty much). The idea is to get them to dress alike. I wore my cream short sleeved uniform top and a pair of khaki shorts. My co-leader wore a t-shirt embroidered with Girl Scouts across the front. The other Girl Scouts in the parade wore whatever they had; their was no unity in their troops. Some had uniforms, some wore sashes or vests - some wore shorts and halters.
It was interesting to watch the boys march too. All had their shirt and scarf. The packs had their banners with over thirty years of ribbons flying in the breeze. Each patrol or den had a banner with more ribbons. They were an impressive sight. As the main group of girls passed by, people would spare them a glance - some would clap - you would hear an occasional "Who are they?" from the crowd. We were at the end of the line of Girl Scouts and when we came by you heard "There's the Girl Scouts!" and clapping. There were about 20 of my two troops there. But when the boys came by (over a hundred) all in uniform with their banner proudly fluttering the the breeze you would hear a lot more clapping and the "Wow! Look at that banner!". Mostly what we heard was recognition. The lay person in the crowd saw those boys in their uniform - pretty much the same uniform that they have seen in paintings and ads since the early 1900's - and recognized them. They never recognized the girls until we appeared, as a unit, wearing the same uniform and we weren't even carrying a flag!
So there you are - one small experience in wearing a uniform. Over all there were more girls than boys marching in that Memorial Day Parade but all those people saw were those boys wearing their uniforms. And I'll bet if you asked any of those people who they saw everyone of them would remember those boys, but the girls? I don't know, maybe.
I have a troop of Cadettes and we just went on a trip to Pennsylvania. We were going for 4 days and 3 nights. We were camping overnight at a state park, but we were really only sleeping there. We were doing lots and lots of sightseeing in the Lancaster and Hershey areas.
The girls in my troop don't necessarily like their uniforms - they are at that age when they don't necessarily want people to know they are Girl Scouts. They were shocked when I required two official Cadette Girl Scout T-shirts and the official Cadette Girl Scout baseball style cap. They were told they could wear any kind of blue shorts with the shirts. They were told we would bring handwashing supplies and we would wash out our shirts each night and hang them up. They would be wearing their official shirts everyday. NO EXCEPTIONS!
The girls made a lot of noise - what if they saw someone they knew - (we were going to Pennsylvania - we live in Virginia - not likely I said) "Oh my gosh, the uniform!!!!"
None of the parents complained. I gave them plenty of notice and none of them are terribly strapped for funds. In one family things are tight, but she paid for her entire trip with her cookie earnings - so she only had to buy the two shirts and the hat - nothing else.
The morning of the trip they all dutifully showed up in uniform t-shirt and hat (my co-leader and myself included - we did the cream colored t-shirts and the leaders baseball style caps). They all wore them every day. They learned how to wash their clothes by hand at night and hang them on a line, too. I was surprised that so many didn't really know how to do this.
Funny thing happened on that trip - Several times we were given extra discounts, at Hershey Park someone came up and gave us an extra entrance ticket, many people commented pleasantly about us being there. The girls LOOKED GREAT! When we went to the dinner theatre they wore their t-shirts and any solid colored skirt they had. It didn't have to be the GS skirt. They looked great.
By the end of the trip I think they were feeling much better about wearing their uniforms. There weren't any complaints at that point. They acknowledged that we had saved some money and gotten some extra special treatment because of the uniform. At the Amazing Maize Maze they got to speak on the loudspeaker to everyone that was there. They thought that was cool and it wouldn't have happened if they hadn't been in uniform.
So, all in all, I am now a true convert to the uniform cause. Next year we are all going to wear the uniform t-shirt to every meeting and camping trip and event. I know they all have them, and the t-shirt isn't that expensive. They can save their vests for formal occassions - ceremonies and GS Sunday and stuff like that. They get dirty if you wear them camping. Now, I don't profess to have the answers for anyone else. But, for our troop - we are wearing the uniform t-shirt and hat.
In May of 1999 I was on my way to our council's annual meeting, which was being held about 40 minutes from my house. I had on my uniform, cream striped bouse and hunter green shorts. I was running a little late and was a little heavy footed on the gas and about the time I realized that I was going a little too fast I saw the State Trooper. I didn't even let him get down off the hill he was sitting on and was stopped and my license out waiting. After he checked via radio, he came back and was talking to me, and he kept taking note of what I had on. I am very short and my shoulder seatbelt comes right across my GS pin tab, so the trooper couldn't see it, but knew something was there. He finally asked me if I was wearing some type of uniform. I told him yes, Girl Scout, showed him the pins, and that I was on my way to our annual meeting. He closed his citation book, handed me my license and told me to slow down. When I got to the meeting the ones waiting for me thought something might have happened. When I told them the story, they all cracked up laughing, and this year I made sure that I was not going that fast on the way to the meeting! Again, wearing the uniform came in handy!
OK...another "hot" button here... uniforms for Wider Ops. When my daughter went on hers I practically had to force her to wear the whole uniform on the flight there. But it is required in our council...and as far as I know it is required by GSUSA. She also went to Fair Winds Council and had to leave at about 1 a.m. in order to arrive there at about 11 a.m. She had to change planes twice.... once in St. Paul and again in Detroit. Due to unforeseen circumstances there was some travel problems in St. Paul and her connecting flight was canceled. This left her to scramble to take care of things to get to Detroit to make the next connection to Traverse City. At 5 a.m. I got a frantic call from her in St. Paul about canceled flights, and everything else. She was crying very hard and I felt utterly helpless sitting in my bedroom in Washington state with a 13 year old in Minnesota with travel problems. After I calmed her down and asked her everything I found out that because she was in uniform the airline personnel had bent over backwards and had already helped her through everything. I was just the last chain in the link and her release valve. She had calmly talked to them, told them what her problem was and the connections she needed to make and why. After everything had been taken care of she had simply called me for a shoulder to cry on and reassurances that she was OK. But the uniform saga doesn't end there. In Detroit she quickly found quite a few other girls that were making connections to Traverse City and her layover there was a lot of fun.... because she found others in uniform. There was also a girl that approached their merry group and announced that she was glad to finally find Girl Scouts to talk to because she was also going to Traverse City and it had been a long, lonely, and scary flight for her up to that point. You guessed it.... she wasn't in uniform!
When my daughter returned home from her WO she only wore her blouse and vest.... but it was enough again to help her. Once again she had problems in St. Paul.... this time they had changed gates on her and by the time she got to the wrong gate her plane was loaded and just about to back away. She ran as fast as her long legs would carry her and the airline personnel stopped the plane and reopened the doors just to let the Girl Scout make her connections. Do you think they would have done this for a 13 year old in blue jeans and a t-shirt? We can only guess... but I like to think that the uniform helped!
This past summer I took 14 girls to England. When we started planning I pulled out the official paperwork from GSUSA that stated that they would have to travel in uniform both going and coming. I listened to groans, moans and complaints from the girls and their parents. Some of the biggest complainers were daughters of Leaders and former leaders and their parents themselves. But I wouldn't budge! For months I drilled it into them how important that uniform was going to be. I heard every gripe in the book.... cost, style, usefulness, etc. It didn't matter. If they were going with us they had to have a minimum of 2 uniforms... and better if they had 3. We were going to wear them A LOT! Clear up until the week before we left I had a couple of hold-outs.... but finally everyone was in compliance.
The day we went to the airport we looked SHARP! And then some other Girl Scouts that were going on the same plane as us but from another part of our council showed up in only partial uniform. You should have heard my girls talk! At first they grumbled about why did they have to wear uniforms if those other girls didn't. Then it turned to how tacky they looked and how good we looked. And then they were embarrassed by how tacky the other girls looked. When we made our next connection in Vancouver BC we joined up with 2 other groups from our council going to the same place as us. One group was relieved to see us walk off the plane to join them in the terminal. It seems one of their groups had also read what GSUSA had written and took it to heart and the other group wasn't in uniform of any kind! The first group's girls had been complaining to their leaders about the uniforms and when we walked off in full uniform their leaders were finally justified. There we were...4 groups of Girl Scouts in Canada. The 2 largest groups in full uniform, the 3rd one in partial uniform, and the 4th one looking like every other passenger waiting in the terminal.
In England there were some people at the airport to meet one of the groups to take them to homestay. The rest of us weren't going to homestay quite yet. They almost missed the group they were looking for...because it was the one and only group of us NOT IN UNIFORM! I realized what was going on and told them (they stopped us to ask if we were the group they were looking for) what the people they were looking for were wearing...and it wasn't uniforms. Without that info they would have had a hard time finding them. The uniforms also helped throughout London. We would be in line for something and if we were wearing uniforms we would quite often get group discounts or kept together or some other preferential treatment. On the few occasions I allowed the girls to go in whatever they wanted to wear we were treated like every other tourist in the crowd. It didn't take long for the girls to realize the added benefits of the uniform.
When we came home 2 and 1/2 weeks later it was the same 4 groups again. Once again the anti-uniform group was incognito..."for comfort". Those of us in uniform breezed through customs. Guess who didn't?!
The mail arrived and there it was - a personal invitation to an International Encampment in Durham, England. This is 1992 and "Harmony '93" was...next year, oh, my! Only one year to get a group together and fundraise - it would take $2,000 per person - not including passports, health exams, uniforms (yuck...) and backpacks that make it though airport luggage conveyor belts.
Well, we did it - and when letters were written to businesses and civic clubs for help (with promises of giving programs upon our return), the list of needs included that not-too-comfortable and ugly uniform. (Who wore skirts anymore, anyway...)
But...we had no trouble with customs; people went out of their way to help us find our train connections from the airport - a group of punk kids (complete with orange spiked hair) pointed and smiled - friendly not laughing at us - and let us pass first through the turnstiles. We thought it was politeness offered to us Americans in a foreign country - but they were looking at our uniforms.
Camp was great, home hospitality was fun and exciting, then came the last two days in London before heading back home. The first thing we did was put uniforms in the washers at Pax Lodge and rest. There were no dryers, so all our stuff had to air dry. The next day happened to be a day that the Changing of the Guard was to take place. We joined the hundreds gathered at the gates of Buckingham Palace - excited along with the rest of the crowds and cheering when the various parades of guard companies passed by. But once inside the gates, we couldn't see anything, just hear the music. Frustrated, some of us just raised our cameras over our heads, it would be weeks later when we could "see" what happened. Next stop was the Guide Shop just around the corner, when we learned that had we had our uniforms on, we could have been admitted through those gold-guilded gates!
Funny thing....the uniforms don't look quite so bad when you're on the outside looking in...
I'm really bad at doing things at the last moment such as making swaps for a Wider Op. Here I am, at 3:30 AM on the day I need to leave for Georgia with only 20 SWAPS made, needing to make 100 and out of googly eyes. So we stop by the fabric store on the way to the airport, to buy eyes. But it was 9:50 and the store doesn't open until 10:00. So my mom and I wandered outside, with me wearing my Girl Scout uniform. They noticed us and said we could come in after explaining about the Wider Op SWAPS. So we ran around getting eyes and still managed to catch an 11:40 flight. How many places would let in a 17 year old girl before they open at a fabric store? Probably none, if I wasn't in uniform!
Way back in 1971, I was a planner and participant in "Plantation Jubilee of the Arts," hosted by my council, Carolina Low Country GSC. I was in the Film Study Group. We made a movie of our experiences at the WO, and included "local color" scenes that involved going into downtown Charleston, SC to film. One shot was of the sun rising alongside the steeple of St. Michael's Church, at The Four Corners of Law in Charleston. I knew I would only get ONE CHANCE at this, so I laid my (then quite skinny) self, in FULL DRESS UNIFORM (including white gloves, hat,and TIGHT skirt) up the steps of the US Post Office across Meeting Street from St. Michael's, and began filming. Since I am a Charlestonian, I was actually recognised by some of the other locals, who were on their way to work! They smiled, waved, and were amused and cheered by the sight!
Then, after the WO, I was part of the group that put our International participants on their planes to go home. One of the Italian Guides had had such a good time here that she wished aloud she could hijack her plane & make it stay. Out of EVERYWHERE came police, sherrif's deputies, FBI, Federal Marshals, and even USAF AP's! (Remember - this was the '70's, when hijackings were all too common!) Since she was in an almost recognizable uniform, and in a group of about 15 girls who were all in uniform, it was not much of a problem. Had we all been in our "uniform" jeans, tees, and sneakers, we probably all would have been arrested!
Well, I did it. I was afraid, ambivalent, and worried about it, but I did it anyway: I went to my 30th high school reunion last weekend. And it was wonderful, much to my total shock and amazement and, apparently, that of all of my classmates -- we ALL had a rough time in H.S., though, of course, we all thought we were the only one. Sound familiar?
But, a funny thing happened: they had enlarged copies of all the group class pictures from 7th grade up. In each and every one, there was Susan (Sue at the time) in her Girl Scout uniform! First, the Cadette one (and there were a few others wearing theirs too -- or covering it up with a sweater....) and then the Senior one (the brownie troop I led met right after school and there wasn't time to change on the way). Everyone, of course, knew that. And NO ONE else would have worn their uniform to school.... NOT cool for sure! I was mortified at the memory.
But, in pointing that out to my 16-yr old daughter, Anna Rachel, who insisted on accompanying me (ostensibly to see if anyone else brought their "hot sons" -- but then she went around asking if my classmates had any "dirt on my mom"!), a friend said how much she had admired the fact that I had the courage to do that. And that she wished that she had stuck with Scouting. And then, my old math teacher, Mr. Gast, said, as soon as he saw me, "Of course I remember you. You always used to wear your Girl Scout uniform to school! That was terrific!"
Incredible. It took 30 years to feel good about the fact that I wore my uniform to school. But it sure made me feel great to hear that (in retrospect at least) it was not so awful as I had feared! (And I am most glad that Anna Rachel heard that -- though she dropped out of Scouting a couple of years ago.)
I'm a Troop Leader in a very large troop, we have 12 Asst. Leaders and 35+ Scouts, Brownies, Juniors, & Cadettes, and if you can believe it we all have Uniforms. We recycle all the Uniforms or we'll get some new ones. We just felt that when we first started this troop that we wanted to be easily recognizable to the public and proud to have a Uniform on at all of our outings & events. When we go to a place with a lot of people it's so great to be able to see the Uniforms, it helps us as leaders to keep a close eye on the girls. When you see that Uniform heading in the wrong direction you can quickly respond. Plus, the people around will always respond by asking us which Council are you from, how long have you been in GS, Can you sing us a song, what things have you done in Scouts. It's a great feeling to hear passers by say "Hey, Mom those girls are Girl Scouts! Look at them!" Then the Mom usually asks a bunch of questions about Scouts. The girls never feel that they are uncomfortable in the Uniforms, they love to wear them. At the Meetings we also wear them, and when the girls check-in, they get checked off for wearing the Uniform. 1-star if they only have part on or 2-stars if they wear the whole thing. If they all don't walk in with it on they usually have it in there backpack and change into it within 5 min. It has helped with a booklet that we use, it lists things like; attendance, check-in, behavior, events, fundraisers, camp, be a reader goals, cookies, thinking day,fundraisers, service projects, and a list of all there scout friends. I designed this and it wouldn't be hard to create, have the girls make it themselves. They use this throughout the year. It's just wonderful. At the end of the year they take it home. We take a total of the stickers collected and take the top 5 kids out to some fun thing that they decided on, in the beginning of the year. Last year our troop sold 2nd in the Nation on Cookies and you must know those uniforms had a lot to do with it, sometimes they need help with getting the patches, badges, or try-its on so appoint someone, get them on they make the Uniform.
Wearing the uniform to all Scouting events should not be taken lightly. We as adults need to set an example to wear ours. Girls should be aware that proper uniform should be required in order to receive any kind of award. Leaders should be wearing uniforms to all Scouting events including trainings, both indoor and out. This really is not difficult. I was recently an a Canadian Guiding event in Toronto. Every girl and adult member of the organization was in uniform, be it formal or not. I am proud to be in the organization, and wear my uniforms proudly.
I get a big kick out of hearing that the older girls don't like the Cadette/Senior Uniform. I joke that I would have killed to be able to wear something besides green! The only green I owned was my Scout uniform. Back in the '60s there was only 1 uniform per level. I thought the Senior suit was stupid looking. But you know, I still have a picture of me in it. I think girls look sharp in uniforms. They are called uniforms because they make everyone look uniform. I was embarrassed last year at our annual meeting when girls receiving their Gold Awards weren't in uniform. Some wore vests over other clothes, but some didn't even have a vest on!
The leader of our 4th grade Junior troop is starting to require them to wear their vest to meetings. But she doesn't wear GS clothes. I try to wear a GS t-shirt or the striped blouse I bought (but not the pants or skirt). You should have heard the grumblings from the girls! But they had been warned by newsletter, and they all got their vests out of their backpacks and put them on.
When I was a Girl Scout, we met after school, so we wore our uniforms to school that day. It became hard to do that in Jr. High, but my mom was the leader, so I could never "forget" there were scouts that day. In Seniors we met at night, so it wasn't an issue. Now I work at a university and it took me 2 years of being a leader to decide that I should wear a GS shirt on meeting days. I still mostly wear the t-shirts, and actually, those are more recognizable than the blouses.
When we went on a troop trip last year, they were told they had to bring certain GS t-shirts (like cookie t-shirts) and wear them on certain days. It really helped. Not only could we keep track of them, but other people got a kick out of watching us go through the crowds.
This year, my girls have realized the fun of being in uniform. We had held two different fund-raisers this year, hoping to make enough money to go to Savannah. I informed the girls we would need to be in uniform in order to go on this special trip. They decided they'd like to purchase the uniform pieces using the money from our fundraiser. We already had the vests, but went ahead and purchased the stretch pants and t-shirt, and as their leader, I gave them either the headband or the scrunchy for their hair. Approximately 24 hours after I had purchased the uniform components, I received a call from our council. It seems they needed a troop to be present for the announcement of the new WNBA team in our city and were requesting our presence! Not only were we able to be at this special press conference (where the girls were able to meet a former GS who is now a WNBA team member), but we've been asked to be on television for our cookie kickoff. We've been in print in our council's leader publication, as well as our council annual newsletter. Now the girls want to know "when we'll be on TV again" as well as "who gets to be in the newsletter."
Uniforms!!! No, it doesn't make a Girl Scout. However, I have been in Scouting long enough to tell you that when worn the girls act differently and are treated differently by the public. Don't tell me that this piece of clothing that is worn once a week and sometimes more for a period of at least one year to as many as three (more by adults) costs too much. The cost is no more than other clothing worn for a shorter period of time. If you truly live in an area where uniforms are "too expensive" then start a uniform cupboard to hand down used uniforms. When I had a Cadette troop we met in the evening and so they did not have to wear their uniforms to school (yes, they would have died!) but not one girl came to our meeting without her uniform on. This leader always wore hers and still does at all GS functions, training, and meetings. In fact so does my grown daughter who is also a leader now. We as adults need to show people who we are and be PROUD of what we are.
My story is very old, 45 years to be exact. I became a leader in 1963, before that I was a helper in several Brownie troops, but in 1963 my council asked me to go and learn about this "new" level, called Juniors. When I returned home I decided to become a real leader. I was given a list of girls and the name of a lady who was also interested in leadership. But because our dates did not meet up we decided to make two troops. Our school was being added to so we decided to wait to do our investiture till the gym/meeting room was ready. Christmas came and my family gave me my uniform as well as my daughters. Since I had one I wore it to our meetings and one by one my girls showed up with theirs. When the gym was ready we planned our investiture with the other troop. At the meeting the other troop went up on stage and only one girl wore a uniform, a hand-me-down. The leader had no uniform. When our turn came we went up and every girl had on her uniform. I wore mine and my new assistant had one on as well. Everyone commented on how nice we all looked. That was many years ago and I still have a uniform, not that one, but a current one. I do not go to give training or to a GS event without one if at all possible, and that includes National Conventions, Council meetings and when ever GS needs me.
I am a Brownie leader in a small town where the girl scouts have not had a tradition of wearing uniforms. Last year some parents asked about getting uniforms and we were able to make it affordable for everyone thanks to a generous donation from the Sons of the American Legion here. When our troop marched in full uniforms for our local Memorial Day parade, so many community members were inspired to see the spirit of pride the girls had. The girls decided they wanted to wear the uniforms to school on days we would meet, and now other troops are becoming inspired to wear the uniforms too. Our troop has doubled in size and membership has exploded in our town this year.
I really believe that the uniforms are a statement that is positive and wonderful. It does help some girls to understand that they are a part of a world-wide movement with very clear values. The girls really do feel responsible to live the law and promise even more consciously while in uniform. I agree with the others who have expressed the value of wearing uniforms. It is worthwhile to find a way to help make uniforms more affordable to the girls.
Some of my Brownies went together to the Vermont Quilt Festival this year to take sewing lessons and we wore the uniforms. It's true. There really are alot of girl scout alumns who are warmed by seeing the girls in their uniforms and who extend a healthy dose of respect to the girls. This creates a deeper awareness in the girls of the privilege of scouting. I believe this enriches their whole experience and helps to motivate the girls even more toward community service, etc.
We are bridging to junior scouting this year and the girls are already excited to be getting new uniforms. We decided that at the end of this year we will offer our uniform shirts to a younger troop since we will have worn them for only a year and those were a gift from the Sons of the American Legion. In this way we can be "sisters" to the younger Brownies.(In fact three of my girls have sisters in a younger troop.) Uniforms are really a positive asset. While they are not required for membership in my troop, the girls would not be without them. It has made a wonderful difference in our troop.
I do think that Girl Scouting will explode in popularity in the next few years, thanks to all of you dedicated troop leaders. Knowing that they can work together to serve God and their country in a way that makes a practical difference in their community will empower this beautiful young generation of girls. Thank you for all you are doing.
I am one of those that wear a vest. It is made from the adult green uniform material and the cadette/senior vest pattern. I wear it with the official cotton blend blouse. The only thing on it is my tab with World Assoc. pin, leader pin, and GS pin. I wear it with whatever pants or shorts that I can fit in that day. The reason I wear it is so the girls, school, and other adults can identify me quickly. I also think it encourages the girls to wear their vest or sash. I don't think it takes away anything from the girls and they like it because they can spot me quickly in a crowd. Just yesterday I had a teacher say, "Hey, there is a Girl Scout leader! I bet she can help us." (They needed to jump start a car.) It is good public relations and a lot more practical, less hot, and doesn't cost much. I like to wear something that I can move around in.
I was on a Wider Op in Atlanta in 1990. There were 70 of us from around the country attending this event for 2 weeks. The first day there, we were all handed an itinerary listing where we were going to be going and when, and what we were to wear: our event uniform (a t-shirt with the logo on it and a pair of blue shorts) or our GS Dress Uniform. We all dreaded the days for the dress uniform, it was so hot! But one day...we were touring downtown Atlanta and we went to the state capitol to look around. Well, lo and behold, the gubernatorial election was that year and guess who was running? Andrew Young, who was one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s aides and advisors, among other great achievements. Guess who was giving a campaign speech while we were at the state capitol? Yup. Guess who barged into the state capitol behind all the reporters and TV cameras? 70 Cadette and Senior Girl Scouts in Full Dress Uniform. Can you say photo op? The next day there was a picture on the front page of the major area newspapers with Andrew Young surrounded by Girl Scout blue, and on TV, too. Wouldn't have happened if we'd been wearing our event uniform. I'll never forget it.
Our Scout Troop has just bridged to Juniors. We have always required the girls wear their vests as their uniform whenever we go on trips. The troop is well travelled and the vests are pretty full; many of the girls' patches overlapped entering their third year as Brownies. The girls are proud of all the attention that they get whenever they go anywhere. All the leaders in our troop also wear vests to identify them with the troop. When we travel in a public area, one of the leaders always follows the troop at about a 100 yard distance to make sure that none of the girls fall behind. Since I am the leader, I normally get to lead the group; however I got the privilege of following our group on a recent outing. I was amazed at the response the girls got when walking through a heavily populated public park! I would estimate that least 80% of the people who I passed were discussing the girls who had just passed before me. Many were recalling stories from their Girl Scout days, and several commented that they were happy to see that Girl Scouts were still around. Several even stopped me to tell me how pleased they were to see the girls out enjoying ourselves. We had a great day - the girls had fun, and Scouting got a lot of good PR - who could ask for more?
I was at our council leader awards (and Gold) thing too...it was so nice to see most of the girls in their uniform getting their Gold Award. Our council will let the girls borrow uniforms if they need them and cannot afford them, so there really is no reason not to be IN UNIFORM...I myself have a REAL problem with a SENIOR GS who is not in uniform but is up there accepting a scholarship check: "I'll take your money but I won't be identified as a Girl Scout!" Yeah, the uniforms are dorky, but it is THE UNIFORM and I honestly don't know WHAT an alternative would be!!!! (Besides...I am pretty sure the clothing they have on is at least as expensive as the GS uniform...) Also leaders who did not EVEN have their GS pins on...(which is all National "requires" to be IN uniform) What a shame!
My oldest daughter, Rachael was doing a cookie booth this year, to help sell out the extra cookies from my Field Office (I'm a Council Staffer). She, like most young girls of her age, wanted only to wear her vest to the booth (it was HOT!). Unfortunately (but fortunately) for her, her mother is a big stickler on "wear the uniform", be proud of your organization and what it represents, "you never know" what will happen. Just as we were closing the well visited booth, a young gentleman walks up to her, begins a conversation about being an "older girl" and what music she likes....well to make a long story short, he asked her to bring a friend to the radio station where he worked and do a show, talk about their experiences, but mostly have fun! They did the show, enjoyed most, learning that its not all wonderful to be a disc jockey. I truly don't believe this young man would have come up with the idea, nor went any further than a passing thought, had she not been in full uniform. He stopped and took that chance to open up a whole new world to a girl who was selling cookies.
Courtesy Nancy R:
Sakakawea - May-August, 1988 - Unknown
It is not that I expected to look like the cover of VOGUE, or even like I belonged on the front of the LEADER magazine. After all, my shirt collar rolls up just like yours does and the pockets in my skirt gap like everyone else's. Besides, wearing green does the same thing for my complexion as a six-day stint of food poisoning.
So, when I hauled my Girl Scout uniform out of the closet the other day and clutched it across my waist in front of the mirror, I was only trying to see if it came somewhere near fitting. "I don't have to get a new one, do I?"
But, something strange happened. In the mirror of my mind, I caught sight of another uniform - my first one. It was cotton and when you looked closely, some the fibers were dark green and some were white. It had long full sleeves for the badges to come and a yellow tie that I could tie to perfection. But, I had an awful time getting my gold trefoil pin with the eagle on it to sit right in the middle of the knot. As I primped for my investiture, I anxiously asked my mother, "Where do I look while I'm making my Promise?" (I had realized that I would be facing my buxom troop leader and that her buxomness would be at about my eye level.) "Look directly at her Girl Scout pin," my mother said. And, I did.
In those days I never asked, "Why a uniform?" In the fifth grade in a new city, it was terribly important to look like everyone else. Or at least like your best friend. My hand-me-down clothes from my sister proclaimed daily my non-hip status. I might as well have worn a sign board. On Tuesday though, I wore my Girl Scout uniform!
On Tuesday, I belonged. My teacher loved it. I always felt that she treated her uniformed pupils with a little extra respect. We got to do the favorite jobs like leading the girls' line down the stairs for recess. Once that year, when I was in uniform, I gave someone my seat on a bus. I didn't usually do that, but somehow I was embarrassed not to. All around me there were looks of approval that kept me glowing all the way home.
And now, I wear this "grown-up" suit. I never thought about it before but the reasons for wearing it haven't changed entirely. A uniform announces, in one quick green flutter, where I belong on a number of important questions. It says, "I believe in 'God and country'." It says, "You can ask me directions without fear of a rude answer." It says, "You can trust me." The people I pass on the street can't recite the Promise and Law, but they know that Girl Scouting is somewhere over on the positive side of things. Sometimes, they smile and say, "I was a Girl Scout," and I can hear in their voices that it's a happy memory for them. Putting on a Girl Scout uniform is putting on belonging.
A uniform doesn't let you get away with anything. Little thoughtless acts that used to sneak past under a cloak of anonymity now are caught in the spotlight. "Aren't Girl Scouts supposed to be polite?" I imagine I hear a fellow shopper muttering as I push the revolving door a bit too briskly. When you wear a uniform you wear your "colors" like a team jogging out onto the playing field. You know that while you wear them, what you do, you do as part of the team. Putting on a Girl Scout uniform is putting on responsibility.
Then there was my first adult uniform with insignia buttons on the wide lapels. It came with all sorts of surprises - cases of cookies where the couch used to be, lessons in tent pitching, and late suppers when I had to wait at the church for the last Brownie to be picked up. When I invested my first Juniors, I remember looking eagerly into their eyes to see if they were feeling the magic I felt when I was their age. Realizing why I was a troop leader at all - putting on a Girl Scout uniform is putting on a commitment to tomorrow.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Our Cabana from Oklahoma City, OK, USA. I was traveling alone, intending to meet people in Houston. Nothing was said about wearing my uniform, but I did because I'm proud to be a Girl Scout and I want everyone to know it.
Oklahoma City is not a hub for airline flights but Dallas/Ft. Worth is and I had a short layover there. DFW is a large airport and I am an adventureous woman. In no time I was exploring. As I wandered, I noticed a little girl, about three who had a very worried look on her face. I glanced about looking for parents, but no one seemed to be paying much attention. I tried to approach her but she'd been well trained and I was a "stranger!" Still, I couldn't let her stay by herself so I followed her.
The airport was busy and it was easy to catch the eye of an employee. I explained hurriedly about the child and the staff person went to make an announcement as I continued to follow the youngster. Soon the loudspeakers were blaring their message as I gently urged the child toward a security checkpoint. Sure enough there were her parents, frantic and thankful. When the little girl was questioned, it became clear that she thought I was a police person - a stranger, but probably okay, and that was why she hadn't been screaming.
My uniform made it easier to help this little girl, allowing the airport personnel to identify and trust me with her safety while the parents were found. I was glad that I had been able to help.
Well, everybody knows I'm a uniform advocate... (maniac? ;-) I think everyone ought to have a uniform and wear it when appropriate, and I *require* my girls to... not difficult for me, because we do sooo much and people always remark about how sharp they all look in uniform. However, I will share my darling daughter's revolt... :-)
Our council Gold and Silver ceremony was last Sunday - 51 Gold awardees and 109 Silver... it was great! There were wall-to-wall blue uniforms, probably more than in years past it seemed. And those not in uniform did have their vests or sashes over their clothes. There were a whole lot of leaders *not* in uniform, though... some that I *know* have uniforms. I was really surprised by that!
Here's the revolt - Laura *really* doesn't like her skirt with the uniform... she's okay with the shorts and vest, etc. - but the skirt rides up and is really unflattering to her. She knew, however, that the skirt would be the more dressy option (with hose, heels, etc. for such a big event). But we are big into the GS vintage stuff :-) and she *adores* the 60's Senior uniform... so that is what she wore to the ceremony.
I actually wanted her to wear her own uniform with all her recognitions, etc. but she said she didn't care about that, getting Gold was proof enough of her work. And even though we have two of these uniforms, she chose to borrow a very dear friend's uniform. It was soooo neat for her to be wearing the uniform of a dedicated GS volunteer who grew up in this council. This friend has watched Laura grow up in Girl Scouting and was one of her guests for the ceremony, so it was truly very special.
Three years ago my family traveled to Spain to visit relatives during the February school vacation. Our flight went from the US to London to Madrid, so we decided to stay and see London for three days. Our best value for sleeping arrangements was to stay at Pax Lodge, the WAGGGS world center in London. Since our flight arrived in London at 8AM, we couldn't check in to Pax Lodge yet, so we checked our bags at Victoria Station and walked a few blocks to see Buckingham Palace and the British Girl Guide Center and Museum on Buckingham Palace road. My daughter and I were wearing our pins, so we checked in at the office to introduce ourselves and to see if there were any tickets available for the BIG Thinking Day ceremony the next morning at Westminster Abbey. The woman at the desk was decked out in the fanciest uniform I ever saw. I removed my parka so she could see my pin and she immediately smiled, called someone from a back office and we walked out with tickets for the whole family. (Later we found out that some people wait years for a ticket to this ceremony!)
The next day at the ceremony we all wore our US Girl Scout uniforms, even my husband had his GS tie and pins. Everyone swarmed over us to see our US uniforms and we checked out the uniforms from England, Australia, Ireland and from all over Europe. Little old ladies who had been Girl Guides stopped to take photos with us. Since my daughter had on her Junior uniform, many girls stopped her to swap pins and badges (luckily she had brought a zip-loc baggie full!) Some girls literally pulled their pins off to swap with her, and one girl pulled out her pocket knife to cut off a badge from her sash to swap. This would never have happened if we hadn't been wearing our very recognizable US Girl Scout uniforms. We'll never forget the ceremony, and we'll never forget meeting all those Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from all over the globe. We even met Betty Clay, Baden-Powell's daughter, who stayed in the room next to us at Pax Lodge. She came over to sit next to us at breakfast just because we were wearing US uniforms in a room full of British uniforms.
I did have one time where I was really proud that I had on my uniform, only the shirt and pin, but it was enough. It also helped that my Brownie had her uniform on, also. We met at the school immediately after school and one of my special needs children didn't show up. She's the type of child who could have easily been talked into leaving with a stranger, so I was concerned. I had to trace her movements and find her, and since I was wearing my uniform and identified myself as her Brownie Girl Scout leader and the person responsible for her, I received a lot of help and was treated with the same respect and courtesy as her parent. The uniform may not be important to my girls, but I know that it will help me in any emergency. I'm happy to see you promoting adults wearing uniforms.
One thing I have required with all of my girls is that they must wear vests on outings, or they don't go. I regard this as a safety issue. I also wear my uniform. A few years back we had an emergency and one of the Brownies was separated from the group. No one questioned my "right" to take this very upset girl into my custody and quickly put me in touch with the adults who were temporarily caring for her. She was wearing her vest and I was in uniform -- everyone realized that we were supposed to be together.
I was a Girl Scout from 4th grade until 9th grade. My mother kept my uniform from Juniors and my vest from Cadettes. Every year when it is time for the girls to talk about the beginning of Girl Scouts and Girl Scout history... they want me to bring my uniform and old books into the meeting. I am so glad mom and I saved the uniform.
My daughter is now a first year Junior and we are a busy troop. I now officially have the "real" adult uniform top and pants. I have had a denim vest with fun patches on back and training patches on front for a few years now, but I figured that if I ask the girls to wear uniforms, why am I not wearing one?
Last weekend my troop met up with a troop from another council for cave exploring, camping and waterslide fun. Well, we all piled into 2 vans once we got together and tried to head for the caverns we were to explore. One problem...we were supposed to take a highway that would take us north. When we saw the highway sign it didn't say the direction, but right behind it was a sign stating that Portland (Oregon) was accessed by this exit. Well, we got on it thinking we were going the right way, only to see immediately that it was the highway going south! We knew we'd have to drive at least 30 miles to get turned around and were on a time constraint, so the driver (she'll remain nameless, I'm just glad it wasn't me) quickly did a u-turn and tried to get back onto the original road, only to discover that she was now entering the road at an exit. Oops. Next we had to cross 3 lanes to get to the correct exit in time (luckily there wasn't much traffic) and as we made the turn off the correct exit...you guessed it...we saw flashing lights in the rear-view mirror. To make matters worse, this was Memorial Day weekend, so of course the police officer assumed the worst. As she made her way to the van we turned down the GS music a little bit. The driver explained to the officer that we were really lost, only to be told "Either that or REALLY drunk!" She then looked into the van and saw 6 sweet faces of Junior Girl Scouts (who wrote about this experience in their journals that night) and a leader with a GS t-shirt on, and heard the Girl Scout music playing. She didn't even ask for license or registration, but instead proceeded to give us directions to the caverns! I couldn't believe it! This officer must have been a Girl Scout herself to give us such a break, but I know it was the GS shirt and music that saved us from a ticket.
I don't have a story about directly wearing my Girl Scout Leader shirt but I am also a Cub Scout Leader and I was out wearing my khaki shirt getting some supplies for a den meeting and I was stopped and asked when the Girl Scouts were selling cookies and could I please make sure some one came by her business to sell them cookies. Luckly I'm also a Girl Scout Leader and my daughter is going to sell cookies at the business tomorrow. I've had more people ask me in my BSA uniform how to get their girls into Girl Scouts than I can count! Uniforms, no matter which one, can make a difference!!
There have been instances where girls [on Wider Ops] needed to change flights or fly home earlier than originally scheduled because of family emergencies or whatever. The airline people seem to bend over backwards to help these girls in uniform get to their destination and help them with whatever they need, simply because they are in uniform. I don't remember all the stories now--because I wasn't involved with them--but I know our girls have benefitted from the kindness of strangers because of the uniform.
The summer of 1998 I took 2 Girl Scouts and my son, a Boy Scout to an International Scout Camp in England. While traveling and in uniform I had several people ask me about my uniform or make statements or ask if we were Scouts. It opened up for conversations and I got to share about Scouts. While at the camp, every night (8) we were there I had Scouts from around the world come by and ask to talk to the Girl Scouts from America! We felt like royalty there, not that we were treated any better, but because they were interested in our Scouting ways. I shared about our program with several leaders and Scouts from different countries. One thing that they all liked were our badges/patches, they thought that ours were the best!!
The last two months of school for the 1998-99 year, my Junior/Cadette troop began meeting with a Brownie and Junior troop. The first meeting we attended my daughter and I wore our vests to the meeting. All the little Brownies came running over to see us and asked, "What's that???" pointing at our vests. My daughter and I answered, "Our badges or patches." They were so excited at what we told them we had done to earn those patches and they asked can we get those too! We told them yes, the patches they could earn at events and activities, but the badges (IPP's) they would have to wait until they were Cadettes. Several said they couldn't wait! My daughter smiled with pride as those little girls adored her, they were looking up to her. After several meetings, one of the Junior girls said she couldn't wait to get into our troop. So Cadettes and Seniors keep wearing those uniforms, you encourage those little girls to be just like you! By the way, all those Brownies wear their vests to the meetings.
I would say always wear the uniform if you are traveling away. I have been on a couple of trips abroad and wore the uniform both times (yes, I am an oldie!!) and I have had several interesting conversations with other people connected with guiding around the world. And on a family holiday to Mexico I was wearing a silver guide medallion on a chain as a piece of jewelry. This was spotted by a lady in the loo's at Mexico airport and she turned out to be a member of the Our Cabana committee.
The moral? Always wear even just a miniature pin and you will meet some amazing folk.
The two memories that I treasure most from travelling in uniform are the elderly gentleman whom I met on a train travelling to our training centre in the New Forest. He asked about the uniform and when he found out I was a Guide he told me all about his time as a Scout in the 1920's/1930's and how he had met Baden Powell. It was really interesting and I think we both benefited from the experience. I doubt we would have had a conversation but for his spotting the uniform.
The second happened on my last international trip. I was on an evening flight and when the steward came around with wine for dinner I asked for a glass. He looked at me and said in all seriousness, "I am sorry you have to be 18 to drink". Well, I just burst out laughing and the poor man must have thought I was demented. When I had recovered I thanked him profusely and said that as I was going to be 30 in a couple of months I am sure it would be OK. The poor man was so embarrassed, he just assumed that as I was in uniform I was still a youth member. He apologized every time he saw me during the flight and ended up giving me a bottle of champagne as I was getting off the plane to say sorry.
So there you have it Ladies and Gents, the secret of appearing young, a Guide/Girl Scout Uniform!!
A couple of years ago, one of my Cadettes organized a Safety Night for her church's preschool. It was her Silver Award Project. (She's now a Senior ready to begin her Gold.) Since it was at night, families were invited. After everything was over, she said one of the things she remembered most was how interested everyone was in her uniform!! They had seen so few 'big' girls in uniform, or even still in GS!!
Karen L on traveling to a Wider Op/Destinations event:
"My older daughter had to change planes in Chicago last year on her way to a wider op. I was worried, as it was her first time flying alone. I shouldn't have. She said because she was wearing her uniform she had someone coming up to her every 10 feet asking if she needed help. Many of them told her that they were former girl scouts themselves.
"When she arrived at her gate, she quickly discovered two other girls (also in uniform) who were part of her group. They spent their hour layover getting acquainted and arrived at camp already friends.
"Make sure your daughter wears her uniform! It was a battle at first, but now she is a believer."
If you have a story to tell about wearing your uniform, send it to the Alamitos-Marina Service Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.