Woolworths and me

  • By Alison
  • 15 April, 2009
  • Comments Off on Woolworths and me

I never was an afficinado of woolworths while it was alive. I think that they lost sight of what they actually stood for – if they ever stood for anything.

I did go there regularly however – usually having to make repeat visits to find the item I needed. In hindsight, the demise of woolworths was on the cards for some time. My reasons for shopping there were primarily to find a pair of grey tights for school. In the last year I must have gone back to Penge woolworths 5 times hoping for the right size to be available, but each time only a single 9-10 year pair were hanging there. No long white socks in the right size either.

Even going to the larger Bromley store yielded the same results, and the once good quality budget ladybird brand of school uniforms consisted of poorly contructed and badly finished items.

Without the quality clothing range, Woolworths become known for coffee cups, dressing up outfits, toys, DVDs, and aisle on aisle on aisle of sweets.

But if Woolworths uniforms were bad, M&S’s range were worse. I often walk through M&S in Bromley on the way in or out of the glades. I can ususally walk past the Una range and see things I like. But the reputation of good quality (if boring) no longer applies to their school uniform range. The finishing is cheap and the garments are rarely lined. And I don’t particularly wish to furnish my 7 year old with school trousers that come with silver chains hanging off them as detail. Neither do I want monogrammed unicorns.

At least I can find grey tights on offer here!

Most of the girls grey school tunics ended up coming from the 2nd hand school uniform store, and ebay.

And Bhs turned out to be my saving grace for school shirts. I might be setting myself up for more work, but I refuse to send my children to schooll in polo shirts, despite them being listed as the school uniform. There is only one word that applies to that style of shirt after two washes, and that is “shabby”. They look like they’ve been slept in, and the collar needs ironing. And ironically, the tidier button up shirt doesn’t. If you whip it out of the dryer while still hot and hang it up, it looks perfect. (And if you don’t… they can wear a jumper over it!)

I got a 4 pack of shirts at BHS for £4. Actually, I might be overstating the bargain, but it was still absurdly cheap. And they’ve lasted just fine.

As Jamie grew into them I needed to get more for Molly, but elected this time to look for a shirt that is designed to look nice without a tie, as school shirts look slightly unfinished when worn that way. I expected to find something simple with a nice peter pan collar, but my expectations were rooted back in the 70’s. Eventually I looked in NEXT. Their school range is high quality, but more fashion that ulititarian. I did find some nice shirts, but they were overly fussy, and not as cheap as I should have paid. BUT she does look very smart in them.

Fashion isn’t a good word to unite with uniform. I think for primary schools in this country, where the uniform is not a set style we are living in a disposable era. The quality is poor because they don’t expect the garments to be in use a decade from now. They’d look dated and embarrassing if they did.

When I was in high school, my school redesigned their uniform. They failed dismally! We ended up with a sailor shirt with a massive collar and detachable bow, and wrap around skirts that went white on the side you carried your bag and rotated until the buttons went down your bum. They told us to carry our bags like ladies, but with 8 text books the size of a phone book, there was no other alternative. (There was actually – get a backpack instead of a shoulder bag, but they were NOT de rigour!)

It was even harder to tote those bags around for the senior years, as they took away our school shoes and socks and made us wear court shoes. At first we jumped at high heels (maximum 2 inches I recall…) and tottered around feeling very grown up. But the train, bus and 15 minute walk to school are not kind on shoes, and very quickly we looked shabby, and most students switched to flats.

To add insult to injury, we were gobsmacked to see the local secretarial school girls walk by wearing our uniform – in lilac and navy rather than white and navy, and with a square collar instead of round. I hope they didn’t pay the designer full price as he was reusing his designs!

Time passed, and the uniform was modified to become more timeless, the collar made normal, the ridiculous clown bow removed, and the skirt into a fitted a-line skirt. They also brought back school shoes for the senior years. Probably as a result of parents complaining about the amount of shoes that they had to buy!

So what was my original point? Woolworths. They lost the plot. There is a 99 pence shop in the place of Penge’s Woolworths now. It probably sells the same tat. Even in a recession, people still know that you get what you pay for. So even if it’s cheap, rubbish is still rubbish. Maybe living in a disposable society has brought this down on us.

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