Back To School In Archetypal Style

All over this hot, hot country, mothers are waiting. They intervene in another quarrel. Then they wait. Courage, my friends, we’re almost there.

I remember the days of back to school. Our kids’ alma mater began with Work Day, where we’d all gather to clean and paint and hammer wood into shelves. Then a few days later we’d enter the driveway for the first time, pulling into a parking space if we had littles, releasing the bigger ones out of car doors and watching them scamper across the yard.

Pause now, for a minute, to remember the soft chubby hands of our sons, held as they made their way to nursery school. Then think instead and more lightly about what we wore, and what mothers will wear soon, and what the Style Archetypes may wear when school, as it will, opens again.

School's on, and sturdy

The Sturdy Gal is so pleased she’ll be able to get more done with kids in school that she dresses for errand speed alone. Large Starbucks a must. Fish dinners will be fresher today, all surfaces clearer, her  laundry languishing no longer. Sturdy Gal pulls on a pair of yoga pants, and, in a celebratory mood, that pattern-mixing tee with a teeny lime stripe. It’s all in the details. She is proud that she bought black sneakers to ensure a high-fashion look.

School's on, and artsy

The Cousin kisses her oldest on the school steps, walks the pre-schooler to his classroom, all while carrying a still-nursing infant. You need a long skirt for the pre-schooler to hold, and a loose top for infant access. But the Cousin has always been able to carry off nonchalance better than any – her Ancient Greek sandals and bobby pins are the ne plus ultra in I-Don’t-Care-Chic.

Schools on, and fancy!

The Dame probably has a nanny. But when she dresses for the first day of school, determined to do her maternal job, she’s going to forgo a few of her usual accoutrements, including help. And no high heels. We don’t want to stomp a child’s pillowy foot with stilettos. Bad form. Nor scarf. There’s every likelihood that she’s going to have to lift small child into her arms, and Hermes patterns suffer from maple syrup hand prints. The housekeeper will have made the family pancakes that morning, and stickiness lingers through the day.

But La Grande finds herself quite able to manage trends and tots at once. If she relies on a little too much hairspray, well, we all have our vices. Just be sure not to ask what’s in her elegant glass water bottle. Once the kids are back to school, all clear liquids are fair game.

And yes, I know many, many fathers do the school drop off. My own father drove me us to school even back when. It’s just that I don’t know what men wear for the occasion:).

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  • how fun! and right on target! three weeks to go from today, kiddos.

  • As always you have nailed the situation. I’m such a Sturdy– and have to laugh about the black sneakers being a nod to fashion. That’s me.

    9:31 am
    Lisa said...

    I couldn’t make this stuff up:).

  • “Hermes patterns suffer from maple syrup hand prints”. Ha! You are so much fun to read. You also keep reassuring me just how sturdy I am ( Hermès scarves notwithstanding).

  • Now, as this sturdy mom prepares to drop her youngest off at school next week, is a wonderful time to remember the days your post refers to so accurately. This time, it is graduate school in Manhattan. I believe there will still be sticky hands involved, as well as the opportunity for Mom to re-focus.

  • I’m solidly Artsy Cousin, but I think I lean more Grand Dame here because I don’t have kids to worry about. Bring on the Hermes scarf and clear liquids!

  • As a ‘Dame’, I must concur that Hermes and maple syrup has never been a good mix! :)
    As always you are spot on, love the looks!

  • Thank-you for the reminder for me to pause and give reflection to my own “drop-off” and “deliver” wardrobe! I envision a shirtwaist dress and not a hair out of place or a teary eye. I always get a bit sad that first day.

  • Great ensembles! If I had it to do over again, would probably do Artsy for the first day, but Sturdy thereafter. Love your choices….especially the clear liquids!

  • Too cute. After the first day pajamas always worked quite well for me. I’m definitely not of the sturdy girl genre. One day my best friend hit a small rubber blockade in the drop off line with her car. She was in her nightie and you can only imagine the maneuverings she had to do to get out of there without emerging from her vehicle. Ha!

    9:31 am
    Lisa said...

    Hahahaha. I wound up in the grocery store in pyjamas bottoms once. Mortifying.

  • Perfect timing, as schools started today over here.
    Were I taking my child to school now, I´d wear sturdy gal´s clothes with a long sleeved T and different type of shoes. I´ve never had a pair of sneakers ; ).

  • GOT to have that sage green Artsy skirt! And what a label: “Fat Face”!

    I just started tinkering with Polyvore again….sure do wish I’d left those old Artsy Cousin ensembles online rather than my turning all WASPish by deleting them, and me, from public view. Phooey.

    This is such a great topic, who else but you would know to highlight the drop off ensemble. Go you!

  • What fun! Great approach to Style as it is Lived. From my oldest’s entry into kindergarten to my youngest’s graduation from highschool, I spent 20+ years at this gig, and it still seems a bit surreal to me that it’s done (not that I was dropping my baby off at high school, but still . . . )
    They were wonderful years despite their challenges — no matter what else I did or didn’t get done, that job easing my kids into the larger world, as represented by school, was such an important and fulfilling one. And worth dressing for! (in something between Sturdy and Artsy Cousin dress-up, for me, inflected for my local environment and class)

  • full length mink over nighty – not me but a mama friend at preschool – who was once asked to fill in as a last minute replacement chaperone for a school outing in her standard drop-off ensemble and never batted an eyelash… heavily mascaraed and maybe artificially enhanced – of course she could help out!

    it wasn’t the first day though, but not winter either – probably fall color time

    I had on Laura Ashley. Gosh that was long ago.

    Thanks for the memories!

    9:33 am
    Lisa said...

    Grande Dames never bat eyelashes. Impunity!

  • Thank goodness drop-offs and pick-ups are a thing of the past for me; all I have to do is shove a lanky, 6-foot-tall zombie out the front door each morning while yelling, “Hurry up, or you’ll miss the damn bus!!”

    Besides, I’ll see him later in the morning, when I deliver the lunch the big mook left in the fridge because he was, well, a zombie.

  • Excellent descriptions, as usual your archetypes are spot on.

    But you must do the Urban Warrior variation too! At least some of them must have children….and be willing to get up before 11 am to deliver them to their classroom!

    9:33 am
    Lisa said...

    Yes. I need to research that variant. Us suburban moms are clueless!

  • “Just be sure not to ask what’s in her elegant glass water bottle. Once the kids are back to school, all clear liquids are fair game.”

    BWAHAHA. You crack me up.

    Also, my Mother used to own a Lincoln Town Car. With a car phone as Virginia did not have cell service yet. People were convinced it was a limousine whenever it pulled up at school. I loved that but never understood why people did not get that it was not a “real” limousine as my own mother was always driving. “Duh” I would think, while they, not knowing anything, would just think we had bags of gold in the trunk big enough to carry a dozen Italian mob members.

  • In England the children go back to school 2nd week in September,Wales is earlier,Scotland don’t know.
    All the parents are busy buying school uniforms in towns..such happy memories taking daughter to school.

    Wore a pant suit as I was on my way to work…the only liquid was tea. Ida

    10:19 am
    Aine said...

    Not all of England; I work in a school in Leicester and this is the second week back.

  • Loved this, the comments made me laugh. I must admit I dress very carefully when minding my grandchildren, some sticky finger marks are hard to get out!

    I do miss buying school uniform especially the gingham dresses for summer term, my daughters were blue and white and had matching bobbles and socks.

    9:34 am
    Lisa said...

    Aw. Those uniforms sound wonderful.

  • Camp Sturdy all the way!

    SSG xxx

  • Love it! Usually I am squarely in Sturdy territory, but for once I find myself thinking I might able to pull off Grande Dame…maybe? That outfit looks so summery and composed. Or maybe it’s my fear of yoga pants talking. Substitute in jeans, and the Sturdy outfit is very close to what I wear on days when I don’t have meetings or social engagements.

    3:39 am
    my honest answer said...

    I’m also a sturdy and I would never wear yoga pants out of the house! Too tight, too thin, too casual. Probably substitute linen pants for me though. And sturdy ballet flats.

  • Grandma will have some child delivery duties this year…and I’m NOT a morning person. May have to show up in my nightgown…

  • This was such a great post Lisa. It had me thinking of my mom days and dellvering our sons to this school and that. I honestly can’t remember what I wore. I was clueless.

  • Love this & have a similar post on the way, since I’m doing the eagerly awaiting / dreading nursery school dance myself right now. As usual, I’m thinking along some hybrid La Grande Dame / Sturdy lines. Those vibrantly pink jeans probably swing me in the LGD direction, however, as pink tends to do.

  • One of the most interesting things I read in my early days in Paris was the degree of consciousness that went into that “first day” outfit — not by the moms, but by the teachers. The article (in French) explained the desire to seduce the students (mind you, not in the illegal American sense) from the start. I kinda love that!

    9:34 am
    Lisa said...

    But of course they do! I had no idea, but now that you say it, it seems so inevitable.

  • My uniform for gandparent duty has been something closer to the sturdy girl pictured here, although I might substitute narrow jeans. I am not likely to be dropping off, though pick up may be in my future. I have to admit that LGD’s colorful pants are awfully tempting.

  • Sturdy Gal may have time for a stop at her favorite A.M. Yoga Class before embarking on the fish detail.