They all had to wear identical uniforms to school, in every grade.

 

A brown dress and black apron for the girls. A khaki shirt, navy-blue pants, and navy-blue jacket for the boys. There were two or three styles of girls' uniform to pick from. But they all looked relatively the same – the endless mix of brown and black. On holidays, the girls wore white aprons and the boys wore white shirts.

 

The girls had to sew a white collar onto their brown dress. The collar served as a symbol of tidiness, modesty, and purity. White fabric only. And always within specific measurement parameters. The freedom of choice was circumscribed by those parameters and the color white. It could be lace, it could be silk, it could be cotton, it could be a mix; the edges could be square, or they could be round. Those were the options.

She liked to have options.  This was a tiny window to squeeze a small bit of her individuality. Her mother taught her how to sew the collars onto the uniform, which she diligently did every Sunday since the age of seven. The stitching patterns changed with years. They were very tidy and neat at first. But she grew impatient with that system over time. It got reflected in the stitches – they became an uneven staccato.

 

She barely remembers any of the uniform dresses she wore. She does remember the details of every collar she sewed onto them.