Spotlight on Senior Girl Scouts

How do we keep Senior Girl Scouts from dropping out? That question has topped meeting agendas since the Senior age level was created in 1938. (Ambassador Girl Scouts didn’t exist until 2008!)

Senior Girl Scouts take center stage in the current display at the Nation’s Capital council headquarters, with a look at older-girl programming over the years.

Exhibit of Senior Girl Scout memorabilia
Full view of display

The Senior Story

Early Girl Scout troops  had just one program level, which included girls 10–17  years old.  Soon their younger sisters wanted to join, and high-school aged girls wanted new, age-appropriate activities.

Senior Girl Scout membership pin 1938
Senior pin, 1938

In 1938 three separate age levels were created: Brownie, Intermediate, and Senior. Each level had a unique uniform, handbook, and program.  Seniors did not earn badges; instead, they focused on other recognitions, including ones for specific types of service.

Senior Girl Scouts also had their own membership pin, designed to look like the popular sorority pins of the 1930s and 1940s.

Senior Service Scouts

Senior Girl Scout Service Scout emblems
Senior Service Scout emblems

During World War II, many girls aged 15-18 became “Senior Service Scouts,” a new civil defense-oriented program that emphasized skills for the home front, providing child care, transportation, communication, shelter, clothing, and food in emergency situations.

The Senior Service Scouts wore a special red patch on their regular uniform and a dark green hat with the bright red S-trefoil emblem.

In the post-war era, Senior Girl Scout troops concentrated on a particular field that often exposed them to career possibilities. Over a dozen program areas were introduced before 1970.

Mariner Girl Scouts

  • Two Senior Girl Scouts in sailboat
  • Senior Girl Scout sailors
  • Senior Girl Scout mariner uniform options
  • Senior Girl Scout mermaids

The Mariner program was by far the most popular of these older-girl groups, particularly given the number of waterways in the Washington DC region. Mariners were easily recognizable in their striking blue nautical-style uniforms. Members expanded their swimming and camping skills with lessons in sailing and “seamanship” during the school year to prepare for a two-week sailing trip in the summer. Before the national program launched in 1934, individual troops across the country had created their own variations, including “Sea Scouts” and, in Birmingham, Alabama, “Mermaids.”

Wing Girl Scouts

Wing Scouting grew rapidly, although it never eclipsed Mariners, perhaps because they did not have a distinctive uniform of their own. Wing Scouts spent their meetings learning about aeronautics. Most of their time was ground-based instructions, but many troops managed to spend a few hours in the air, even if it was aboard a commercial flight. Washington-based Troop 492, a Wing troop comprised of African-American girls, was featured in the news several times. 

  • Three Senior Girl Scouts examine airplane wing
  • 1946 Senior Girl Scout Wing Pin
  • Senior Girl Scout Wing Scouts
  • Senior Girl Scouts reading map
  • Senior Girl Scout in air traffic control center

Mounted Troops

Senior Girl Scout uniforms
Brownie, Mariner, and Equestrian, 1958

Mounted Troops rode horses. During the 1950s, the largest Mounted Troop on the east coast was Fairfax Troop 40. Troop members rode the Appalachian Trail during summer 1954.

Senior troops could focus on specific interests, including sailing, horseback riding, hiking, international friendship, the arts, and more. Girl uniforms indicated their troop’s concentration.

Hospital Aides

The Girl Scout Hospital Aide program had been developed in 1942 in response to the drop in civilian health care workers. Girls wore green pinafores and their duties were similar to the better known Candy Striper programs that began two years later. Without the additional equipment needed for Mariner and Wing programs, many troops opted to work in hospitals, providing hundreds of hours of service. The program proved so popular, that the national organization had to issue strict guidelines for volunteer training, orientation, and assignments. Specifically, Girl Scouts could not be assigned to work in adult wards. Instead, they were to work with children; assemble, decorate, and deliver food trays; sew gowns and dressings; and clerical work.

Senior Girl Scout hospital aide
Typical uniform worn by Hospital Aides (Vintage Girl Scout Online Museum)
Senior Girl Scout hospital aide patch
Hospital Aide patch from 1945 (Vintage Girl Scout Online Museum)

Other Aide Programs

Similar Aide programs followed in the coming years, including Farm, Child Care, Library, Museum, Occupational Therapy, Office, Program, and Ranger. (Personally, I was an office aide at my council office during high school. That’s not me in the photo!)

  • Senior Girl Scout Library Aide
  • Senior Girl Scout farm aide
  • 1963 Senior Girl Scout Aide Bars
  • Senior Girl Scout Office Aide
  • Senior Girl Scout childcare aide
  • 1975 November 1

By 1980, the From Dreams to Reality program replaced the service bars.

  • Senior Girl Scout program options
  • Senior Girl Scout uniform options
  • Senior Girl Scout uniforms
  • Senior Girl Scout program options


GSUSA began to update uniforms for all age levels in 1970, starting with Seniors.  These high schoolers were still wearing the two-piece skirt suit introduced in 1960. Girls had quickly nicknamed the suit the “Stewardess uniform,” but the flight attendants had already 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, GSUSA opted for a loose A-line dress that buttoned up the front. The options included pants and a distinctive belt.

Senior Girl Scout uniforms
Senior Uniform for the 1970s

The most notable feature of the uniform dress was the 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.  Since many Senior Girl Scouts were accustomed to sewing their own clothes, they easily turned the new dress into a short tunic (or mini-skirt) to be worn over the new pants. Just how many ditched the pants once out their front door is unknown. 

For more about these programs, see the marvelous Vintage Girl Scout Online Museum.

© 2023 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, Girl Scout historian

Frances Hesselbein, Girl Scout Legend

Former Girl Scout CEO Frances Hesselbein passed away over the weekend at age 107. She led the movement through the turbulent 1970s and 1980s, finding ways to reach more girls and to empower them to take on a rapidly changing world.

Frances Hesselbein was a kick-ass Girl Scout.
Hesselbein in the Halston Girl Scout uniform, 1978

After hearing her speak at the 2011 National Convention, I wanted her to adopt me. She spoke with passion, with vision, and with a firm focus on how to empower women.

She urged listeners to connect with others by expecting their best intentions. She emphasized the need for respect, such as between councils and the national organization, as a prerequisite for collaboration.

Workplace blogger Sylvia LaFair made this insightful comparison just three months ago:

Cause Before Self

We can all learn deeply from women like the late Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Frances Hesselbein, C.E.O. of The Leadership Forum. There is less focus less on celebrity and more on duty and legacy.

Sylvia Lafair, CEOptions

In 2017 I sent Mrs. Hesselbein a letter asking for an interview. A few weeks passed with no reply, then my phone rang. “This is Frances Hesselbein. I would be delighted to meet with you.”


This post was originally published in 2017, following that visit.


An Afternoon Meeting

I never met Juliette Gordon Low, of course, but last week I came pretty close. I had the privilege of spending part of the day with Frances Hesselbein at her office in Manhattan. Few individuals have had as great an impact on the Girl Scout movement as this gracious lady.

Mrs. Hesselbein was the GSUSA National Executive Director from 1976 to 1990. Her first day on the job, in fact, was July 4, 1976. Today she is the director of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute.

I had asked to interview her about the decision to sell Rockwood National Center in 1978. But we soon moved on to the many highlights and happier memories from her time at GSUSA.

She presided over many milestones, some more popular than others, including implementing circular management principles, introducing the Worlds to Explore program, reconfiguring the Edith Macy Center into a year-round training facility, and the introduction of the contemporary (three faces) logo. Some of her favorite memories include:

Halston Adult Uniform

Autograph and book dedication from the niece of fashion designer Halston.
Halston Catalog
Two women model sage green Girl Scout uniform designed by Halston
Halston uniform

When we met, Mrs. H (“Frances” just seems too informal!) had just returned from visiting a Halston retrospective exhibition at the Nassau County (NY) Museum of Art. The famous fashion designer had created a stylish collection of adult uniforms in 1978, and Mrs. H vividly recalled participating in that process. She also let me borrow the gorgeous exhibit catalog.

Camping and Diversity

I had submitted my resume, Rockwood book outline and synopsis, and several other documents in advance, and Mrs. H immediately noted that we both had experience as camp staff, making us both survivors of that trial by fire. She shared with me several staff photos from her time directing Camp Blue Knob in western Pennsylvania and pointed out the unusual racial diversity of the group for the early 1950s. She also had a photo from the summer 2016 camp out on the White House Lawn.

Camp Blue Knob staff photo
The diverse staff of Camp Blue Knob, circa 1952 (Hesselbein Institute)

While her Girl Scout camp was integrated in the early 1950s, much of the “outside world” lagged behind. Mrs. Hesselbein recalled that she could not eat with her African-American staff members at any restaurant in any town near the camp.

With that camp experience in mind, one of her priorities as head of GSUSA was to reach out to all girls, especially girls in historically underserved communities.  When she began at GSUSA, the organization was 95% white; fourteen years later, minority ranks had tripled.

As part of that effort, she sought to have a greater range of images in Girl Scout handbooks and other publications. She wanted any girl–of any background–to be able to find herself in a handbook. New handbooks released under supervision depicted girls of all skin tones, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all physical abilities — in other words, all girls.

White House Honors

Frances Hesselbein and President Bill Clinton
Frances Hesselbein and President Bill Clinton (Hesselbein Institute)

While Mrs. H never camped on the White House lawn — that I know of — she has been a frequent visitor. But few visits can top one in 1998, when President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. (Juliette Gordon Low was posthumously awarded the medal in 2012.) The beautiful medal and collar are prominently displayed in her office.

A Secret to Longevity?

Finally, as our conversation drew to a close, I brought up another topic: age. Mrs. Hesselbein is 101 — exactly twice my age.

Of course, many people remark on her extraordinary vigor. But my casual research in recent months has led me to a realization. We Greenbloods–long-term, deeply committed adult Girl Scouts–seem to be an exceptionally long-lived group of women.

That holds true for volunteers and long-time staff. I just recently learned of a former Rockwood director who has passed away in February — and wanted it known in her obituary that she lived to 99 years and seven months.  At Nation’s Capital, we lost two past council presidents in recent years — Marguerite Cyr (age 101) and Bobby Lerch (104).

Smiling woman in Coast Guard women's auxiliary uniform
Dorothy Stratton in her Coast Guard uniform

And the more I investigate, the more very senior Girl Scouts I find: Camping expert Kit Hammett (96); national board member Lillian Gilbreth (93). National presidents Henrietta Bates Brooke (89) and Grace MacNeil (92). But the record, so far, must be Executive Director Dorothy C. Stratton (1950-1960), who passed away at age 107!

I would love to see some data on the percentage of our membership over age 90 compared with the general population. That could be quite a retention incentive.

I asked Mrs. Hesselbein what she thought might be behind this possible trend. We came up with the same answer immediately — the girls.

The girls keep us young.

© 2023 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, Girl Scout historian

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 2000s

Counting down to the 110th birth of the Girl Scouts of the USA on March 12, 2022.

Pssst: That’s TOMORROW

The Girl Scout movement underwent dramatic changes in the 2000s. While there had been incremental changes to badges, age levels, and council boundaries before, this time sweeping changes were simultaneous.

All initiatives were part of the all-encompassing Core Business Strategy.

Girl Scout Leadership Experience

GSUSA introduced a completely new program curriculum for all age levels. The centerpiece of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience was the Journey–a vaguely defined theme that structured a troop year.

Journey Ladder
Early Visual Aid for Explaining Journeys

Badges seemed to be an afterthought as they rolled out roughly three years after the journeys. The badges looked completely unfamiliar. Designs that traced as far back as 1912, such as Cooking, were discontinued. A key element of historical continuity was lost.

Variations on Girl Scout cooking badge designs
Evolution of the Cooking Badge by Vintage GS Online Museum
Whats  Happening With Girl Scout Badges
What’s Happening With Badges, from GSUSA

Age Levels Redefined

Girl Scout levels by paragraph
Girl Scout levels explained

Program levels were shuffled. First graders became Daisies, not Brownies. Now each level Brownies, Juniors, Seniors, and Ambassadors (a new level for 11th and 12th graders) were shortened from three-years to two, except for Cadettes, which remained three years, to match middle school grouping.


The realignment project was designed to consolidate 315 councils into 100.

The Un-uniform

While Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors still had recognizable uniform options, the new dress code for all ages was white polo, khaki bottom (pants, skirts, shorts, etc.) plus a sash or vest.

Girl Scout uniform policy
2008 statement copy
  • 2003 00 cover
  • Girl Scout Uniform Essentials for Every Grade Level 1
  • 2020U 00 cover 2
  • 2009 11

Will the Girl Scouts crumble under all of these changes? Will the movement survive? Stay tuned ….(Spoiler alert: YES).

History by Decade 2000s
History by Decade 2000s
Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1980s

Next up, Girl Scout history from the 1980s. Five Great Moments from Girl Scout history in the 1980s. How many do you remember?

Daisy Program Introduced

Young girl in blue smock
GSD 1 sketch

Starting in 1984, kindergarten-age girls could become Daisy Girl Scouts. Daisies wore simple blue smocks. They did not sell cookies and did not have earned recognitions. Daisy petals were introduced in 2002, petals in 2011.

Brownie Try-Its Introduced

Before 1986, the only recognitions for Brownies were patches for well-rounded troop years. Fifteen Try-Its were offered the first year, with more to follow. The triangle-shaped Try-Its were designed to be non-competitive and encouraged trying new things. Girls had to complete four of six requirements to earn the recognition.

Chart of Original Brownie Try Its
Original Try Its

Cookie Sales Turn 50

In 1984 Little Brownie Bakers marked the 50th anniversary of commercial cookie sales with a new cookie: Medallions.

Special Girl Scout cookie 50 years
50th Anniversary Cookie, 1984

Thirty-three years later, in 2017, Girl Scouts celebrated 100 years of cookie sales.

White circle patch says Cookie Troop 100
100th Anniversary, 2017

50 + 33 = 83?

Maybe the Math Whiz badge needs to return.

Teen Uniforms Take Preppy Turn

Girl Scout Cadette and Senior uniforms from the 1980s
Cadette/Senior Uniform, 1980s

New uniforms for Cadettes and Seniors (no Ambassadors until 2008) were introduced in 1980. For the first time, both levels shared the same skirt, pants, vest, and sash. They were distinguished by plaid blouses. The Cadette plaid was predominantly green, the Seniors blue. Catalogs described the green pieces as “apple green,” but it was more like Girl Scout guacamole.

I Earned the Gold Award

Robertson Gold Award certificate
Robertson Gold

The Gold Award was introduced in 1980 as the highest award available to Girl Scouts. I volunteered at my local council office, and they handed me the guidelines. Staff said, “We know you’re going to earn it. We’re also going to send every question about the process to you.”

I earned my Gold Award in 1983. Today, I am still mentoring future golden girls as a member of my council’s Gold Award Panel.

History by Decade 1980s
History by Decade 1980s
Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge

Girl Scouts Look Back 110 Years: 1970s

Action 70 Patch
Action 70 Patch

Girl Scouts adapted to the rapid changes that transformed US society in the 1970s.

At the 1969 National Council Session, Girl Scouts of the USA committed to creating a membership body rich with religious, racial, ethnic and economic diversity. The first step toward achieving that goal was reaching out to groups that were underrepresented in Girl Scouts.

New Outreach

Staff created specialized recruitment brochures, tailored to Black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian communities. One initiative created a tracking and referral system to keep migrant workers in troops as they follow seasonal work throughout the year.

The Girl Scouts also focused on specific issues, such as pollution, civil rights, and hunger. Teens focused on the US government system when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1971.

History by Decade 1970s
History by Decade 1970s

New Program

From Dreams to Reality Patch
From Dreams to Reality Patch

World to Explore replaced the 1963 program model, with five broad categories. The Dreams to Reality program expanded career exploration activities for all age levels.

But in my opinion, two words summarize Girl Scouts in the 1970s: Rockwood and Pants.

(I’m forgoing an opportunity to riff on Rockwood because I want to talk about PANTS.)

New Uniform

The hottest topic at that 1969 meeting in Seattle was uniforms. 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. The 1973 Girl Scout catalog announced the arrival of PANTS, one option in a new, mix-and-match wardrobe.

Pants are now a permanent staple of the Girl Scout wardrobe. Now, I like pants as much as anybody, but I remain confused about the “uniform separates” idea. Personal choice and expression are fabulous, but “uniform” means identical, right?

definition of uniform
Uniform Definition

Isn’t the phrase “uniform separates” an oxymoron?

Sigh. On to the 1980s.

Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge

New Girl Scout Uniforms Are Here!! Again!!

This week the Girl Scouts of the USA unveiled new uniform options for the three youngest program levels. Daisy, Brownie, and Junior Girl Scouts may start the new school and Girl Scout years with casual options and a new, softer color palette.

New Girl Scout uniforms for Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors
New uniform options for Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors

These are just a few of the new looks, the entire wardrobe is shown at the national Girl Scout Shop.

Traditional components, such as tunics, vests, sashes, and neckerchiefs have been refreshed as well. Headbands and matching hair scrunchies, so popular in the 1990s, have also returned.

The pieces have subtle branding so that they may be used everyday.

A new Girl Scout uniform wardrobe for girls in middle school and high school, debuted in 2020. It used a color palette of lavender, sky blue, charcoal, and green. Responding to girl feedback, the vest was redesigned with pockets.

new girl scout uniforms
New Teen Girl Scout Uniforms

Why a Uniform?

Early handbooks explained the advantages of wearing a Girl Scout uniform. First, “it gives a certain prestige in the community” because the public will recognize wearers as girls who are courteous and helpful. Second, the “uniform puts every girl on the same footing.” Uniforms made be purchased, sewn at home, or hand-me-downs, but everyone wears the same thing.

1919 Girl Scout uniform

The first Girl Scout uniforms were a simple dress or coat dress, with an official tie, hat, belt, and socks. The only choice was which color tie a troop would wear. Older troops had a choice between socks and hose. Once decided, every girl was to dress in the same leg wear.

1939 Girl Scout uniforms

As membership grew and new age levels were established, each phase of Girl Scouts had its own distinctive uniform: a simple dress with a tie and hat. Hats and white gloves were included as they were the norm at the time.

1966 Girl Scout uniform
Uniforms in 1966

Blouse-and-skirt options became available in the 1950s and 1960s. The new dark green skirt, shown above, was particularly popular as girls could tuck the “GS” tab into their waistband and nobody would know it was a Girl Scout garment.

“Uniform Separates” A Contradiction?

The 1970s brought the concept of separates to each age level, with many options and combinations possible. Instead of troops using a consistent, uniform, look, the 1973 catalog encouraged girls to express their individuality:

Cadette Girl Scout Uniform separates


Here’s a new Cadette GS Uniform that lets you be you. Whatever you’re doing, whatever your pursuit, there’s an outfit just for you. Six separates mix and match into over 15 different looks. Choose one or all six to suit your tastes, reflect your lifestyle, keep up with your busy life. Whichever you choose, you’re official. For today’s liberated you, official never looked so good. (1973 Catalog)

New fabrics, colors, and designs came along in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, and all of these collections continued to offer multiple options. At times the options were overwhelming.

The evolution of the Brownie uniform demonstrates these changes.

Evolution of Brownie Uniform, 1927-today

  • GSB 1 1
  • GSB 2 doll 1
  • GSB 3 1
  • Brownie 1956 1
  • GSB 5 sketch 1
  • GSB 6 1
  • 1974 02
  • Brownie July 1988 GSB 8 copy
  • 1993 02
  • Brownie JCP 2000 GSB 9B 1
  • GSB 10A Catalog
  • GSB 11 Catalog
  • Brownie shorthand
  • Brownie Activity
  • 2021 Brownie Look 1

The Minimalist “Un-Uniform”

Uniforms all but disappeared in the 2008 catalog. Official, Girl Scout-produced uniform components were reduced to just a sash or vest, worn with any white top and khaki bottom. “Uniformity” now meant standardized across all age levels.

As of October 2008, an official sash or vest worn with white shirt and khaki pants is required when girls participate in ceremonies or officially represent the Girl Scout Movement.

Girl Scout Catalog, 2008-2009, p.8

Girl Scout officials believed most girls would already have white shirts and khaki pants, perhaps as part of a school uniform, and would not need to purchase additional items.

2008 Girl Scout uniform for Cadettes and Seniors

Although any white shirt was acceptable, new Girl Scout uniform white shirts and bandanas were available for purchase.

GSUSA also introduced a new line of “official casual” uniforms in a separate fall 2008 catalog.

Some old-timers believed the movement had finally caved to the demands of the many members, especially teens. Many of these girls believed they would absolutely and totally DIE if their friends knew they were Girl Scouts.

The un-uniform decision had two consequences. First, uniforms were one of the few dedicated revenue streams at the National level. Revenue from merchandise sales, according to annual reports, dropped from $45.7 million in 2006 to $20.7 million in 2011.

Second, many Girl Scouts disappeared from public view. It became difficult to recruit new members for this phantom organization.

The generic uniform design also contradicted the first strategic priority adopted at the 2005 National Council Session.

Transform the Girl Scout image with a compelling brand that resonates with girls of all ages and cultures, that makes girls feel proud and excited to join.

Leader (Winter 2005): 11.

The change to minimal uniforms evidently was not popular with all of the membership. The more traditional Brownie and Daisy uniforms reappeared in the 2010 Girl Scout uniform catalog.

The pendulum swung in the other direction following the 100th birthday celebrations in 2012.

Options expanded with two new uniform shirts: the “shorthand” polo in 2013 and an “activity shirt” in 2017. The activity shirt touted its moisture-wicking fabric, acting as a successor to the long-retired camp uniform. New coordinating neckerchiefs, slides, and hats completed the look.

New Girl Scout uniform options for Juniors
Junior Shorthand and Activity shirts
Adult casual uniform optios
Adult Shorthand shirt

Volunteers had their own shorthand shirt, neckerchief, and slide.

Consider Vintage

If the latest designs leave you underwhelmed, you and your troop can always go retro. Girl Scout shops have the shorthand and activity shirts on clearance.

Another option is to go vintage. It is perfectly acceptable to wear a uniform from the past, although you should pick one style, not mix-and-match decades. Check thrift shops, family attics, and your local Girl Scout historians.

Models at a vintage Girl Scout uniform fashion show
Scenes from the Nation’s Capital Girl Scout EXPO, November 2019

After all, once a uniform, always a uniform.

Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge

Halston Designs for the Girl Scouts

I’ve written about the Girl Scout tie-ins to the PBS mini-series Atlantic Crossing. But wait …. that’s not the only current TV series with a Girl Scout connection.

Netflix has released a series about fashion designer Halston. Ewan McGregor plays the titular character.

The PR folks at Netflix have done a splendid job of drumming up interest in a man who died in 1990.

portrait of Roy Halston
Halston, 1978

The New York Times, Washington Post, Esquire, The New Yorker, Variety, and other news outlets took the hint and have recently published features about Halston’s career. Much is made of his glamorous friends and wild nights at Studio 54. Liza, Liza, Liza.

As far as I can tell, one major project has been overlooked in the accompanying Halston media campaign–and I highly doubt it will be mentioned in the TV series.

Believe it or not, Halston designed uniforms for adult Girl Scouts. Girl Scout executives approached him about the project, and he agreed to do so on a pro bono basis. Normally, his fee would have been between $50,000 and $100,000.

He was enthusiastic about the Girl Scout project.

The Girl Scouts are a terrific organization and anyone who could help them should.

Bernadine Morris, “No Sequins This Time,” New York Times (May 17, 1978): C9.

Young Roy Halston Frowick was an Eagle Scout himself.

Why did the Girl Scouts seek a high-end fashion brand, such as a Halston design?

This was not the first time. Earlier adult uniforms were designed by Mainbocher (left) and Stella Sloat (center). In the 1980s, Bill Blass created a wardrobe for leaders (right).

GSUSA gave its own answer in Leader Magazine:

Why? Because you wanted a uniform that was high-fashion, but not too “way out”–a uniform for today’s woman. Involved. Efficient. Alive!

Leader, May/June 1978.

The results debuted in May 1978.

The collection was made of sage green polyester gabardine fabric with mix and match pieces. An ivory blouse and scarf completed the look.

Braniff airlines flight attendant uniform by Halston
Braniff uniform by Halston

The design was quite similar to the brown Braniff flight attendant uniform that Halston designed one year before the Girl Scout ensemble.

Some of the headwear, however, seems out of place. The woman on the right in the Girl Scout photo is wearing a pillbox hat. That makes sense as Halston’s big break came in designing the pillbox hat Jacqueline Kennedy wore at the 1961 Presidential Inauguration.

But what IS that headgear on the left? It appears to be a visor, and indeed it is a visor. There is no good explanation for the visor. Visors are worn on tennis courts and golf greens, not in board rooms or committee meetings. The whole visor idea must have been conceived during one of Halston’s cocaine-booze-rent boy binges. Or, perhaps it came during a hangover, as it certainly is nausea-inducing.

Adult Girl Scouts model the Halston pillbox hat and visor
Look at those hats!

It must not have been popular, either. When the Nassau County (NY) Museum of Art held a Halston retrospective in 2017, finding a visor for the Girl Scout exhibit took all of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men to locate.

Given the, um, colorful life of Halston depicted in the Netflix series, perhaps it is just as well that there isn’t a scene with the Girl Scouts.

Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge

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.

Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge

Martha and the Stailey Sisters

No, it’s not a girl band from the 1960s. It’s a girl group from the 1910s!

My last post profiled Martha Bowers Taft, who began a Girl Scout troop at the Noel Settlement House in Washington, DC, in 1914.

Near the end of 1914, Martha married Robert Taft, son of President William Howard Taft, at St. John’s Church in Lafayette Square (and scene of protests this week).

My favorite part of Martha’s story is that her troop attended the wedding. The girls were mentioned by name in the plentiful news coverage of this enormous social event. Can’t you just imagine these little disadvantaged girls mingling with Washington’s elite?

Washington Post (October 25, 1914)

I thought some of the names seems familiar. The connection was something way, way back in my mind.

I was right. After a deep dive into our council’s archives produced two tintypes.

After a little cleanup with PhotoShop, I’m thrilled to present:

The Stailey Sisters!

I don’t know why Margaret, the fourth Stailey girl mentioned in the newspaper, was not included in the photo session. Alas.

But look at those proud girls in the Girl Scout uniforms! And they even brought their semaphore flags!!

Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge