Pants! We Want Pants!

What issue topped the agenda of the 1969 National Council session?

Pants. The membership spoke, and they wanted uniforms with pants.

Responding to waves of requests from girls, GSUSA announced that it would remain a uniformed movement and update girl uniforms. The most requested item? Pants. Active girls—not to mention their mothers—did not want to sacrifice movement for modesty. 

Official Uniform Catalog from 1963
Fashion Design, 1997-2011

Designing uniforms is a multifaceted process. The overall design needs to be visually unifying and reflect contemporary fashion without falling for passing fads that will shorten their appeal. The cut must flatter a wide range of body types, the fabric needs to be suitable for multiple climates, and the color palette needs to enhance skin tones ranging from very fair to very dark. Decorations and trims are kept to a minimum, both to keep costs down as well as to not compete with official insignia. 

Senior Uniform, 1960-1971

First up was the smallest age group—Senior Girl Scouts.  These high schoolers were still wearing the two-piece skirt suit introduced in 1960. Made out of a deep green sharkskin cotton fabric, the brightly colored uniform trim indicated the wearer’s area of concentration. Troops focused on International Friendship, for example, wore yellow ties and hat cords, Wing troops orange, and Homemaker troops turquoise. This iconic uniform, topped with an Overseas-style hat, was beloved by fans of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, but fell out of favor with the bell-bottom and suede fringe-wearing girls of the late 1960s. Girls had quickly nicknamed the suit the “Stewardess uniform,” but by now it was no longer a compliment. Besides, even the flight attendants had moved on to trendier styles. Seniors themselves had their own ideas about a uniform; they wanted pants—and mini-skirts, too.

After considering suggestions, designs, and even samples sent by girls, the National Equipment Service (NES) settled on two versions of a sleek step-in style A-line dress that buttoned up the front. For feedback, they took the uniform to the girls.

Manufacturers created samples in sizes 6 through 20 and shipped them to Rockwood National Camp and the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah. Visiting Seniors of all shapes and sizes tried on the samples and completed feedback cards. They had a definite preference for one version and one shade of green, but indicated that they wanted heavier fabric, a belt, and pants. Designers made more revisions and presented the result to the National Executive Committee for final approval. NES was still not convinced of the need for pants, but they conceded defeat on the matter. 

Senior Uniform, 1971-1980

Ultimately, the girls were rewarded with pants in the same green cotton poplin fabric, but the semi-flared legs hardly qualified as bell-bottoms. The ensemble included a soft beret made of the same fabric, a tab tie, and a formidable green leather belt that was 1.5” wide with adjustment holes running the entire length.

But the most notable feature was the dress’s hemline—or, rather, the lack of one. After endless debates among focus groups and survey responses, GSUSA gave up trying to settle on the appropriate length. The dress was sold unhemmed, with a hang-tag reading: “The Official GS Uniform with the Unofficial Hemline.” If girls wanted mini-skirted uniforms, Headquarters seemed to say, let parents deal with the matter.  Many Senior Girl Scouts were accustomed to sewing their own clothes and turned the new dress into a short tunic to be worn over the new pants. Just how many ditched the pants once out their front door is unknown. 

And to really be mod, GSUSA created a line of hippy, crunchy-granola inspired casual pieces at the same time. Can’t you just imagine Marcia Brady or Laurie Partridge in these funky frocks?

GSUSA pieces for the fashion-forward Senior Girl Scout in 1971

Nope, me either. And if you look closely at the 1973 image showing the new uniforms, that spiffy green cape is marked “SALE,” although it doesn’t come through well in the picture. Guess these duds were a dud.

The other age levels received new uniforms in 1973. Instead of a single dress, Brownies, Juniors, and Cadettes each had their choice of five or six mix-and-match pieces, that included jumpers, pants, shorts, cotton blouses, and hideous polyester double-knit turtleneck bodysuits that were hot, itchy, had a stiff plastic zipper that grabbed your hair, and featured a snap crotch that perpetually pinched your privates. 

Catalog descriptions of the new clothing reflected the lingo of the time, emphasizing choice, individuality, and liberation:

1973 Catalog Copy Introducing New Uniforms

New space-age materials meant less wrinkling and less ironing.

The new styles included several pieces for each age level, creating another point of consistency.

Each level had a tie that snapped together. No more arguments about how to tie a neckerchief or which way the ends should point. The polyester, turtleneck bodysuit was high fashion at the time, not to mention indestructible and UNCOMFORTABLE. Can clothing cause PTSD? Because if so, these bodysuits would have.

The new Cadette uniform included the very first vest, instead of a badge sash. They were made from dark green felt, and some people mistakenly think they were homemade.

This week a new collection of uniform pieces debuted. So far, they are targeted toward the older age levels.

Hopefully GSUSA will never repeat the snap-zip-bodysuit debacle of the 1970s.

©2020 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Older Girl Program is History 

One discussion at the October 2017 National Council Session acknowledged the severe lack of programs for older girls in grades 6-12.

That is old news for anyone who has led a teen troop in the past decade.

When new badges were introduced for all levels in late 2011, many teen girls (or at least those in my troop) were very disappointed. The new badges were divided by age level. Cadettes (grades 6-8) are diamond-shaped. Seniors (grades 9-10) are rectangular, while Ambassadors (11-12) are weird squares with clipped corners. Previously, the teen levels had shared the same recognitions, which was great for multi-level troops.

(Confused by all of the terms tossed around for badges? Check this old post: Badges, and Try-Its, and IPs, Oh My/)

Ambassadors were especially disappointed. While Brownies, Juniors, and Seniors, each had 26 new badges, and Cadettes (the only three-year level) had 28, Ambassadors had a paltry 11. Officially, we were told that was because Ambassadors were more focused on their Gold Award than earning badges. Unofficially, I’m yet to find any Ambassador who agrees with that statement.

Junior badges 2010

Junior badge options before 2011

 

Juniors 2011

Junior badges introduced in 2011, replacing those above

 

What were teen girls to do? The answer was visible all over the teen vests and sashes worn at the Columbus convention.

Many girls earn old badges. The rectangular badges, previously known as Interest Projects, were released in 1980. They were updated in a handbook issued in 1997, 20 years ago. Go back and re-read that sentence. Girl have resorted to earning badges issued before they were born. While some hold up well, others have hilariously outdated requirements:

Learn about the options for accessing the World Wide Web. Can you use a computer through your school, library, community center, or Girl Scout center? Is one available through a computer club business or nonprofit organization?

Exploring the Net

Many vests also are full of Council’s Own badges. These recognitions (my favorite) were developed by local councils to fill gaps in the national offerings. They were to have been discontinued in 2012.

 

Vest2 labels

Only one of these 18 badges is part of the current program. Some were issued in 1980!

 

Industrious leaders haunt eBay, Facebook, and other sites, where there literally is a black market (green market?) in discontinued badges.

I do NOT have any Council’s Owns for sale, but I do have a website that archives the images and requirements. Please assume that these badges are discontinued and do not call council shops asking about them. (I wish that instead of sending me snippy emails about people calling to purchase them, councils would take the hint and reissue them or create a similar patch program.)

Some troops make their own badges, once known as Troop’s Own, which used to be a first step in creating a Council’s Own. I created five programs for my troop and day camp units, but the patches are large and intended for the back of the vest.

Another option can be found on Facebook, where individuals and private groups such as “Artistry to Stitch About” have recreated some popular old Council’s Owns badges as well as writing some programs of their own. While the latter are made in the same shapes as official badges from GSUSA, technically they should be considered patches and go on the back of sashes and vests because they have not been approved by a council. However, that message doesn’t always reach the girl or parent doing the sewing.

Instead of launching into debates about official and unofficial, front or back, we should focus on the real issue: current badge offerings are insufficient.  While the annual “girls’ choice” badges are a great idea, they have not satisfied leaders’ and girls’ appetites for badges.

Take a look at this vest I saw in Columbus. (I went through the Hall of Experiences asking girls if I could photograph their vests.) There are 32 badges total:

  • 9 Interest Projects from the 1997-2011 series (retired)
  • 14 Council’s Owns (retired)
  • 5 Troop’s Owns
  • 4 Artistry to Stitch About

That summarizes the situation about the number of badges available. Without sales figures, I cannot gauge popularity. But this informal survey certainly suggests that current offerings are inadequate. I’ve seen Brownies and Juniors with older badges, too, but nowhere near as many as teens.

It’s time to stop talking about the need for programs designed for older girls and start actually creating them.

Don’t even get me started on the merits of colorful, embroidered badges versus dull, soulless silk-screened badges. Gag, barf, spit.

©2017 Ann Robertson

Laundry Day with the Girl Scouts

It’s laundry day at the Robertson household. No, I’m not going to tackle that teeming basket of ironing, I’m going to look at Girl Scout laundry badges!

The first handbook, How Girls Can Help Their Country included the Laundress badge. Girls had to:

laundress 1917

Laundress, 1917

  1. Know how to wash and iron a garment, clear starch, and how to do up a blouse.

  2. Press a skirt and coat.

  3. Know how to use soap and starch, how to soften hard water, and how to use a wringer.

 

2016-08-04 09.35.57

After 1938, laundry-related skills were incorporated into other badges, such as Housekeeper. Intermediate Girl Scouts of the 1940s had to learn how to remove a variety of stains (milk, coffee, ink, rust, etc.) and :

 

Assist in a weekly laundering by gathering and assorting the clothes and linens, by washing and ironing some articles with your mother’s permission, and by assorting and putting away the clean laundry.

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Since the 1980s, badges involving clothing have focused more on design and cost than care and cleaning.

One thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find in my Rockwood research is how nice campers managed to look, especially while touring Washington, DC. Whether in a tent or lodge, girls managed to keep their white uniform blouses clean and crisp.

Ironing

Girl Scouts ironing at Skyview Lodge, Rockwood (NHPC)

 

 

Personally, I really like this laundry spoof badge I found on Etsy.  Who knows what all those laundry symbols mean? laundry badge

If anyone would like to do my ironing, I’ll gladly buy one for you!

©2016 Ann Robertson

Sharing Girl Scout Ways

GSWay_AmbThe Nations Capital Archives & History Program Center has been open for six months now. We offer workshops to help girls earn their Girl Scout Way badges on the third Saturday and Sunday of each month. Registration is through the Council event calendar.

Girls watch “The Golden Eaglet,” learn the history of our council, and examine vintage uniforms and badges. They also do a scavenger hunt through the 1963 handbooks and try some activities from older badges.

One troop just sent me a delightful thank you note, and their leader included a few photos. Enjoy!

Watching_Eaglet

Watching “The Golden Eaglet” in October 2015 (photo by Sarah Barz).

 

Ann_Jenn

Ambassador Jenn, an archives aide, watches as I model my own vest (photo by Sarah Barz).

IMG_2730

Sandy Alexander teaches Council history.

IMG_2745

Don’t forget classic songs and games! Susan Ducey teaches Strut Miss Lizzie (above).

Ann_GS_Ways

Trying out an old badge requirement (photo by Sarah Barz).

IMG_2781

Group shot! Each workshop ends with a group photo. We immediately print it out, paste it into our guest book, and each girl signs before she leaves.

IMG_2414 2

Badges, and Try-Its, and IPs, Oh My

When is a badge not a badge? When it’s a Try-It, an IP, IPA, or IPP.

Just_BadgesFor decades, a Girl Scout badge was just a badge, but starting in 1980, GSUSA got creative…and confusing.

While Girl Scouts have always earned badges, from 1980 to 2011 the term “badge” was reserved for just the Junior program.

With the roll-out of the Worlds to Explore program in 1980, Cadettes and Seniors now earned rectangular Interest Project Patches (IPPs). The 1979 Let’s Make It Happen handbook had already given a preview of the IP program with 22 available. The 1983 Supplement to Let’s Make it Happen added 10 more IPs, followed by another 29 in the 1987 book, Cadette and Senior Interest Projects.

Worlds to Explore divided activities into five “worlds.” Badges and Interest Projects had colored borders indicating to which world they belonged: Purple: Arts, Yellow: Out of Doors, Blue: People, Orange: Today and Tomorrow; Red: Well-Being

Dabbler Interest Projects: (l-r) Arts, Out-of-Doors, People, Today and Tomorrow, Well-Being

Dabbler Interest Projects: (l-r) Arts, Out-of-Doors, People, Today and Tomorrow, Well-Being

Food Raiser (1980-1991), Communication Arts (1980-1991), Photography (1990-2001), and Food, Fibers, and Farming (1990-2001).

Food Raiser (1980-1991), Communication Arts (1980-1991), Photography (1990-2001), and Food, Fibers, and Farming (1990-2001).

Seventy-six Junior badges in the Worlds format were introduced in the 1980 book, Girl Scout Badges and Signs. Aside from the much more colorful images and edges, many of the designs were familiar, little changed from the Junior badges introduced in 1963.  Some Junior badges had tan backgrounds; these were more “advanced” and could be earned by younger Cadettes. Nine group-oriented badges were included in the 1986 Junior Girl Scout Handbook; known as “handbook badges,” these had dark blue borders and white backgrounds.

Nine "handbook badges" introduced in 1986.

Nine “handbook badges” introduced in 1986.

Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors had the option to earn a “Dabbler” badge in each world that sampled activities from several awards in that category. These Dabbler badges/IPs featured the logo of each world. A Brownie preparing to bridge to Juniors could also work toward a Dabbler badge.

Try-Its, the first national program for Brownies, were introduced in 1986. Each Try-It had six activities; girls had to “try” at least four of them to earn the recognition. The program was an immediate hit and quickly grew beyond the original 15. The first Try-Its were part of the Worlds to Explore era and had colored borders, but they did not have Dabblers.

Space Explorer (1989-1999 orange; 1999-2011 brown) and Girl Scout Ways (1986-1998 blue; 1999-2011 brown).

Space Explorer (1989-1999 orange; 1999-2011 brown) and Girl Scout Ways (1986-1998 blue; 1999-2011 brown).

As the Worlds to Explore program phased out in the late 1990s, IPs became formally Interest Project Awards (IPAs) but the old abbreviation stuck. IPs switched to royal blue borders in the 1997 Interest Projects for Girls 11-17. Some old IPs were given new names or revised designs at the time, while 38 new IPs were added and the Dabblers dropped.

Juniors badges were also updated as the Worlds came to an end (that sounds rather dire, doesn’t it?). As inventory dwindled, badges were produced with dark green borders. Sometimes you can find Junior Dabbler badges with green borders:

"Transition" Junior Dabbler badges.

“Transition” Junior Dabbler badges.

Try-Its switched to brown borders in 1999.

In a moment of apparent insanity, GSUSA introduced a whole new program for Cadettes and Seniors in 2002. With Studio 2B, badges were out and girls earned charms for bracelets. That whole story will have to wait for another post.

Gold 4Bs Charm

Gold 4Bs Charm

With the new Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) format introduced in 2011, the “Interest Project” name was retired in favor of “badges.” New badge shapes were introduced for Cadettes (diamonds), Seniors (rectangles), and Ambassadors (clipped squares.) The “Try-It” name was also retired. Brownies still earned triangle-shaped recognitions, but now they are known as “badges.”

Badge_Shapes

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

New Exhibit: 50 Years, 4 Levels, 1 Program

New Exhibit: 50 Years, 4 Levels, 1 Program

In September 1963, Girl Scouts changed from a three-level program to a four-level structure. The Intermediate program was divided into Juniors (grades 4–6) and Cadettes (grades 7–9). The restructuring was accompanied by the release of new handbooks for each level, as well as new badges, uniforms, and awards.

The Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee has created a new exhibit to mark the 50th anniversary of that exciting program. Items are on display in the lobby of the Council headquarters at 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW.  How many items do you recognize?

The October 1963 issue of Leader magazine kicked off the new program.

The October 1963 issue of Leader magazine kicked off the new program.

The new handbooks went on sale on September 9, 1963, and books purchased that first week came with a special commemorative bookplate.

The new handbooks went on sale on September 9, 1963, and books purchased that first week came with a special commemorative bookplate.

New badges were introduced for the Juniors and Cadettes.

New badges were introduced for the Juniors and Cadettes.

Virginia Walton (left) and Bonnie Johnson checked to make sure the badge sash was correct.

Committee members Virginia Walton (left) and Bonnie Johnson check to make sure the badge sash is correct.

The first Cadette uniform was a variation on the alternate Intermediate uniform.

The first Cadette uniform was a variation on the alternate Intermediate uniform.

The new yellow-bordered Cadette badges were sewn on sashes  beneath the Junior/Intermediate badges.

The new yellow-bordered Cadette badges were sewn on sashes beneath the Junior/Intermediate badges.

New insignia included the Sign of the Arrow and Sign of the Star for Juniors and new interest patches for Seniors.

New insignia included the Sign of the Arrow and Sign of the Star for Juniors and new interest patches for Seniors.

Cadettes had their very own logo!

Cadettes had their very own logo!

The handbooks, badges, and awards combined to create a framework of progression. One program, built on one foundation, would be adapted to four ages levels.

That foundation contained six basic elements, which are still followed 50 years later:

  • Dedication to the Promise and Laws,
  • Commitment to service,
  • Belief in girl-leader planning through the patrol system,
  • Participation as citizens in a democracy,
  • Hopes for international friendship, and
  • Concern for health and safety.

Text and Photos © 2013 Ann Robertson

Metal Arts and Graphic Arts: Two Elusive Cadette Badges

IMG_0233Jackpot!

That recent “lot of assorted Cadette badges” that I bought on eBay contained both a Metal Arts and a Graphic Arts, the two least popular badges from 1963 to 1980.

These gold-edged badges debuted in 1963, when the Intermediate level was split in Juniors and Cadettes. They originally sold for 30 cents each; I paid about 77 cents each for this lot, not bad at all.

According to the Degenhardt and Kirsch Girl Scout Collector’s Guide (2nd ed.), only 56,270 Metal Arts and 70,205 Graphic Arts were sold.  Those figures are pretty paltry,  considering that Social Dancer sold over 1 million, followed closely by 876,644 First Aid.

With a snow storm predicted and cabin fever setting in early, I took a closer look at the numbers for the Cadette series.

The five most popular were:IMG_0238

  1. Social Dancer
  2. First Aid
  3. Good Grooming
  4. Child Care
  5. Hostess

and the five least popular were:IMG_0234

  1. Star
  2. Science
  3. Reporter
  4. Graphic Arts
  5. Metal Arts

Then I took the plunge and entered all of this series into Excel and came up with a spiffy chart ranking all of the Cadette badges:

Cadette 1963 chart 3

I only earned six of these myself (Conservation, Clerk, Sports, Stamp Collector, Photography, and First Aid to Animals), as the World to Explore program began when I was a Cadette.

Some of them, like Stamp Collector, seem rather quaint now, but others taught skills that are still valuable today.  First Aid to Animals has some connection to the new Animal Helpers. Night Owl shows the Intermediate version of the Star badge, while Book Artist references Clerk.

I like how many of the new badge packets have “More to Explore” or “Page from the Past” sidebars that show links to older badges, but I wish more of the old designs had been retained.  Girls always get excited when they find one of “their” badges on their mother’s — or grandmother’s — old sash.

What badges would you like to see revived?