Those who think they will find in this exhibition a decisive argument in the debate on the return of the uniform which is driving this new school year will be disappointed. Because from the outset, this question is evacuated from the “Dressing for school” exhibition. Indeed, as co-curator Nicolas Coutant notes: “The uniform never existed in France, except for boarding high school students, in the 19th century until the 1920s and 1930s, when it was abandoned. »
The visit to the National Museum of Education, in Rouen (Seine-Maritime), will however give the opportunity to follow the evolution of lessons, changing rooms and lockers in French schools since 1860, and according to exceptional circumstances (seasons, war , confinement…) or not. On the three floors are exhibited, in a more thematic than chronological scenario, illustrations, film or advertising posters, class photos, documents, objects and student outfits from all periods. There is of course the famous blouse (compulsory for decades) whose main function was to protect against ink stains at a time when clothes were expensive and washing machines were rare. Jogging pants and the checked shirt too, which coexist with the famous jeans-sneakers-T-shirt triptych, symbol of the standardization of style of children and adolescents around the world in the era of fast-fashion and social networks .
A subject that is still current
The oldest will see again, with or without nostalgia, pointed hoods, raincoats, refectory aprons… The adoption of pants by girls from the 1960s-1970s with the generalization of diversity is also documented. Thirty years later, Skirt Day was established to affirm the right of young girls to dress as they wish, without suffering comments from their peers. The debates on the headscarf in the 1980s and on the abaya today are discussed. Just like the dress code suggested to teachers (read box below) .
The course also reminds us, always through the prism of clothing, that school is a place of learning discipline, community life and basic hygiene rules and that subjects such as sewing or knitting were taught there. This made it possible to mend clothes and therefore to “repair rather than buy”, a very fashionable leitmotif these days!