Recap: Due to tznius and a white uniform blouse (part 1), I wore a sweatshirt every single day of high school. However, school rules required us to wear an official school sweater (part 2). So every day I’d get told to take my bland grey zip-up off.
It got to be habitual. I would get told to take my sweatshirt off. I would take it off. I would wait for the teacher to leave. I would put it back on.
One day, I was at the photocopier when the Deputy Headmistress came over. While some teachers eventually gave up on telling me to take off my sweatshirt, she was unrelenting. There was a school rule and her job was to enforce it.
“How many times today have you been told to take that sweatshirt off?” she demanded.
I considered. Not that many, actually. As days went, I hadn’t disobeyed that many people yet. “Only once!” I said brightly.
She didn’t see it quite the same way.
“Only once?!” she snapped. “If a teacher tells you to do something once, you do it! You don’t need to be told twice!”
I looked at her uncertainly.
She glowered at me quite certainly.
My photocopying session was obviously over for now. I took off my sweatshirt, slunk back to my classroom, and put my sweatshirt back on.
In 12th grade, everyone got a grade sweatshirt. After all: our warm, bonding years at bais Yaakov were coming to an end, and we wanted something to remember it all by. An overpriced grade sweatshirt that we’d wear for exactly one academic year was exactly what we needed.
Many schools allow their students to order cheap hoodies covered in logos and names for this purpose. But, if you recall, a bas melech doesn’t wear hoodies. And a bas melech isn’t for reading. Ergo: a bas melech gets a conservative gray knit sweater with a very small school logo where the breast pocket would go. As a special concession, the Rebbetzin permitted us to put our graduation year under the logo.
She was, incidentally, somewhat uncomfortable with the placement of the logo, but couldn’t think of anywhere else to put it.
As a result, for 12th grade I had a very nice school sweater that I could wear every day in lieu of my grey zip-up. Finally, I was in abeyance of the rules!
The Rebbetzin noticed.
She called me into her Sanctum for a chat.
“I notice that you’re wearing a school sweatshirt these days,” she opened. Why was this?
This was a subject that troubled her greatly, she explained. Every day she watched as her girls passed through the school gate, ripped off their school sweaters, and replaced them with these GAP monstrosities. It pained her to know they were walking through the streets dressed so inappropriately. She invited me to help her understand what she could do to get her students to wear school sweaters.
I may have taken that as more of an invitation than was intended. I immediately launched into my theories and ides for improving sweatshirt-wearing conditions in bais Yaakov.
I told her the school sweaters were ugly, and nobody wanted to be caught dead in them. I said that as an idea they were DOA. Instead, I suggested, there should be a sweatshirt dress code, so that everyone could wear their own (appropriate) sweatshirt to school.
I pointed out that creating a sweatshirt dress code would cause every single girl in school to go out and buy a sweater that was tznius. And the Rebbetzin could sleep better knowing that not only were her girls wearing tznius sweatshirts during school hours, but they were also wearing them after school — and even on weekends!
I sat back in my chair, confident that I’d revealed a brilliant vision to the Rebbetzin — one that would be recognized for its genius and implemented immediately.
Instead, the Rebbetzin looked nonplussed. This was more than she’d expected to hear. She thanked me for my input and sent me back to class.
To my disappointment, the dress code idea was never rolled out.
But two years later, when speeches, yemei iyun, and new school rules requiring you to be wearing a school sweatshirt within sight of the school didn’t work, they came out with a new black pullover sweater. It wasn’t ugly. The halls immediately filled with this more aesthetic option.
But I bet everyone was still wearing hoodies on the weekend.