Akin to the disheartening flutter that comes with the stripping of tinsel and pine as Christmas festivities are unceremoniously wrapped up with less charm and cheer than a yuletide package, is the sinking feeling that accompanies the emergence of glossy-back to school ads.
The creeping dread that 30 seconds of beaming students flashing sparkly sneakers and unnaturally crisp jeans on the TV provokes is an automatic response embedded in our childhood psyche after our first taste of firefly freedom comes to a close. Interrupting the sacred morning ritual of cartoons and Cap’n Crunch, these disillusioning advertisements cruelly reminded us of our looming fate, a dark, jarring reminder in the guise of cheery middleschoolers skipping through brightly tiled halls to the backdrop of an enthusiastic amateur marching band.
Yet as we began to accept our future, and slowly retire the tired haze of summer, we hesitantly embraced the fantasy of bright-red cartoon school houses with shining bells signaling the commencement of reading, writing, and red and yellow leaves. We realized that maybe we too could experience this retail rebirth. That perhaps a new sweater was all we needed to get the guy, get the grade, and get the coveted seat at the cool table in the cafeteria. Maybe a new outfit was all it took to walk through the doors anew.
Our classmates would see that the summer had changed us. That we were chicer and more worldly, somehow magically transformed through the experience of tennis camps and family road trips. Our wardrobe metamorphosis would reflect the profound transformation that we had undergone while away from the confines of quizzes and monitored bathroom breaks. Armed with the confidence of a cool cardigan, even a new classroom would become a place of possibility.
I too became swept up in the promise. “It’s still summer outside,” my ever-practical parents would protest each year. The southern summer lingered, and they saw no need to stock up on sweaters and corduroys. Yet I longed for the unparalleled joys of starched blouses, unworn wools, and still-stiff denim. The scent of newness that lingered and the reverie of renewal. Pleading paired with childhood growth spurts (a now long-forgotten phenomenon) helped my case, as I gleefully dragged my parents through the mall.
While the naive hopes of school dances and classroom crushes have long been left behind, fall’s promising transitional period still inspires an era of change and renewal. Without the ceremony of strolling the malls for hours the weekend before school commences, back-to-school dressing can still inspire.
The early fall is the perfect time to reinstate the classic unofficial school uniform back into your wardrobe: denim, corduroys, schoolgirl plaid, classic sneaks, cozy cardis, and crisp collars all in deep, muted tones.