Teachers dabble in fashion ...

  • Education
  • Sunday, 31 Aug 2003

BET you’ve never seen your teacher in a mini-dress or a tight fitting cheongsam with high side slits.  

Well, while women teachers now have strict guidelines on their attire – no trousers, short hemlines, etc – there were no such impositions during the 1950s and 60s and it was not uncommon to find very stylish teachers, appearing in the latest fashion, be it in clothes, hairdos or bags.  

Take a look at the pictures of teachers through the decades and you may have to discard the commonly held notion that teachers are a frumpy lot. In fact, throughout the years, teachers have (at least going by the pictures) been very much in the forefront of fashion.  

PRETTY MAIDS IN A ROW: Trainee teachers from the Malayan Teacher Training College, Kota Baru, have an evening out. (circa 1955).

In the 50s, teachers were wearing pleated knee-length skirts that were fluffed with petticoats. Paddle pushers and summer dresses were also common over the decade while in the 60s, styles were more “hippie-ish” – trousers were in and mini-skirts revealed more leg than ever before. 

By the 70s, hemlines had grown longer and trousers flared out. Disco ruled the 80s and this influenced the attire of teachers too – large rimmed spectacles, clothes that were loud and colourful, and chunky accessories.  

Naturally, another time marker is the hairstyles – rollers and hairspray were essential styling tools of the 50s; bouffants and asymmetrical styles defined the 60s; and big hair ruled in the 70s and 80s. 

While the changes are not as drastic for the male teachers, there are clear markers of how things have evolved – hairdos for men in the 70s and 80s, for example, used to be more “shaggy” a la Bon Jovi and pants were not only flared but mostly light coloured, like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. 

These days, not only are male teachers few and far between, their togs are very conventional – dark trousers and plain coloured shirts. And their hairdos have reverted to the close-cropped length of the 50s and 60s, but minus the Brylcreem and Yardley brilliantine that kept every single strand in place back then. 

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