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Scarves and The Band Uniform Rule

May 2, 2012

Two weeks ago I asked readers to submit old photos for entry in my weekly/monthly/whenever-I-feel-like-it Dynomite! competition — photos from the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s that depict you putting your best fashion foot forward.

I promised that accepted entries would be published on my blog and later would compete in a Dynomite! All-Stars competition like this one here.

Well, I was astounded — astounded! — by the response.  So many emails, so many photos.  So much self-loathing you could cut it with a butterfly collar.

What will I do with these?  I must get to work.

Today’s Dynomite! contest entry comes from Cathie of the blog Chatty Cathie’s Endless Chatter (here).  Oh, she’s chatty alright.  But she’s also Dynomite!

And she can french braid hair, so you’ll definitely want her in your corner of the bus:

Crunchy asymmetrical bangs, diner waitress eyeshadow, and a scarf that brings it all home.  Yes, she’s got it all and a bag of hairpins.  (If she’s any good at french braiding, she won’t need those.)

But let’s get back to that scarf.  Because that scarf reminded me of a wonderful moment I had forgotten all about.

When I was in junior high, I took a special shopping trip to the mall.  It was the day before Christmas.  And I needed a gift for my mom.  So I stopped at a kiosk to watch a video demo on the new must-have fashion item of 1988.  A scarf clip.  Look no further for the perfect gift, my shopping was done.

A saw on the video that you could also snazz up your wardrobe by turning scarves into exciting new configurations — whether worn as a train robber’s mask, a Superman cape, a Webelo uniform, a sari or a Mexican blanket (see left).  The video was extremely well done and, frankly, after seeing it I wondered how any of us ever got by without scarves in the first place.

Although Cathie is not donning a scarf clip, I’m certain she saw the same video I did:

Cathie’s photo also reminded me of a great rule of thumb in dressing fabulous.

I like to call it The Band Uniform Rule.

Who wants to spend your mornings fretting about clothing ensembles?  Who wants to worry about what shoes to wear, what trends to follow, what colors make you look old and whether stripes should ever high-five with plaid (here)?

I don’t.

Learn this tip and you will never again suffer through getting dressed in the morning.

Ready for this?  Okay.

1.)  Put your clothes on and stand in front of a mirror.

You got that?

2.)  Now visualize a person in a band uniform right next to you.

Are you still with me?

3.)  If the person in the band uniform looks better than you, then go change your clothes — immediately.  

Now what?

4.) Throw the clothes in a dumpster, pour lighter fluid on them and torch them.

5.)  Repeat.

See?  Simple.

Thank you, Cathie, for your photo submission and for reminding me of The Band Uniform Rule — a valuable lesson in looking your most Dynomite!


Okay, pop quiz time!  To test you on your understanding of The Band Uniform Rule, I’m going to close with some examples from The Marcia Archives.

Torch or Wear?

66 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2012 6:20 am

    I would have taken your band-uniform-rule advice if you had introduced yourself as a career woman like the career woman in the video, but at least I now know how to build my scarf wardrobe. Right now, my collection of scarves is in a ball by the toilet tank. Thank you career woman.

    • May 4, 2012 7:47 pm

      There really was a horrible injustice committed when I thoughtlessly threw that video into this post. I think you’ll agree that it should’ve been given its own billing. It was so good that I am presently wearing a scarf turban, a scarf sarong, and two linen napkins folded into swans that I’m wearing as slippers. I feel like a career woman ready to take on the world.

  2. May 2, 2012 6:35 am

    Kudos to Cathy for dusting off the ’80s fashion photo for the world to see.

    • May 4, 2012 7:36 pm

      I know, isn’t Cathie a great sport? I mean, I do this sort of roasting of myself here all the time. But I really don’t know that I could turn over my old photos to someone and say “have at it.”

  3. May 2, 2012 7:11 am

    I just posted this on Facebook. I’ll also be sharing this with my S.O., who’ll do well to bear it in mind if we have a second kid. This will do just the trick to get me out of my maternity clothes early, no matter my loathing for shopping! :D

    • May 4, 2012 7:40 pm

      Wow! How in the world did you get so many Facebook fans, aside from being a legitimate and popular book author (okay, I just answered my own question). I got some seriously amazing Facebook traffic and a lot of new subscribers on Wednesday because of you. Thanks for that! I may reward you by sending you a band uniform in case you need one in the future. Of course you will. We all do.

  4. May 2, 2012 7:17 am

    Wow, where to start? Who would have thought there could be a half hour’s worth of demonstration on scarf tying. I think this blows the Boy Scouts’ knot tying competition right out of the sky. Let’s see a Boy Scout do all that in a half hour, without breaking a sweat. An ode to girl power, if ever there was one.
    The bandit style paused just long enough for me to receive the subliminal message that from now on this woman gets what she wants out of life, by any means. Did anyone else get this? Or was it just me? It was a little scary. A little too much tension in that scene.
    I was really glad in the scarf- as-a-dress-over-the -swimsuit section that she did not go any further and demonstrate how to get that swimsuit off with one discreet swoop of the hand. I held my breath because for a second I thought that was what was coming next, a shocking flourish like when the waiter swipes off the table cloth but leaves the dishes intact. I would have fainted.
    Last but not least, I do remember that I used to do that thing where you fold a giant scarf into a triangle and drape it over one shoulder. I stopped trying to tie a knot very near the beginning of the scarf phase. I’m easily driven to tears when frustrated and this was at least a good compromise.
    Thanks for the video, it really made my morning.

    • May 3, 2012 6:50 am

      In re-reading my above comment about the swimsuit, I am not sure I adequately described my fear. In my mind the suit is icky and wet, and the dress nice and dry. I feared the next snippet would show her solving this problem by skillfully pulling the wet suit out from under the intact dress with a satisfying snap, giving it a flick to get the excess water out, then twisitng it into a belt, and adding the finishing touch of a scarf clip. She seemed so ready for anything. A career woman who could slip to the beach on her lunch hour, swim across the lake and back, and still get back to work on time. Maybe,I can just let this go now.

      • May 4, 2012 8:53 pm

        As if there is anything that could possibly feel worse than wearing a wet swimsuit. Now you can wear a wet swimsuit AND a polyester scarf dress simultaneously!

        She makes it look so easy that it’s no wonder she’s a career woman.

    • May 4, 2012 8:51 pm

      Was the bandit style not the BEST? How could she keep a straight face while she filmed that? Oh, that’s right…because she’s a cyborg.

      That video might be the greatest thing I’ve unearthed in a long, long time.

  5. May 2, 2012 7:43 am

    Why oh why did you enter my life so late, Angie? This one bit of advice – one snipit – would have changed my world completely, I’m certain of it.
    “3.) If the person in the band uniform looks better than you, then go change your clothes – immediately.”
    I’ll try not to resent you too much for not finding me sooner with such advice. Instead, I’ll share this with my boys. Thank you.

    • May 2, 2012 7:43 am


    • May 4, 2012 7:50 pm

      It’s okay, Lenore. I have only recently incorporated this into my lifestyle. It’s never too late to make a change.

      P.S. I edited your comment as I know you’d do it for me.

  6. Tony permalink
    May 2, 2012 8:02 am

    Liking dad’s blue all-poly shirt. My shirt was one of several I had as my ode to MacGyver.

    • May 4, 2012 7:57 pm

      You are so very MacGyver. I love it. I think you were aspiring to be Uncle Gary at that time too. Dad’s shirt was about ten years late. This photo was taken in the mid-80s and not the mid-70s. Thank goodness he didn’t wear a gold chain.

  7. May 2, 2012 8:04 am

    This entry inspired me to wear my bright blue eyeshadow (that came in an otherwise neutral eyeshadow palette.) But then I remembered I have to go grocery shopping today, and I’ll already be lugging around a 3 year old who insists she can dress herself and is wearing metallic snakeprint leggings, mismatched socks, ruby red glittering maryjanes and a pink t-shirt with disney princesses on the front. So I put on a bronze-y eyeshadow instead. Maybe someday my daughter can grace your Dynomite page!

    • May 4, 2012 8:02 pm

      I love that you put on bronzy eye shadow to go to the grocery store — that makes me feel better about the fact that I put on lipstick to vacuum the house. Your daughter sounds like she and my daughter would get along famously.

  8. May 2, 2012 9:03 am

    LOVE-LOVE-LOVE the blog this morning! You seriously made me laugh!!! I’m going to share your blog with my stripes and plaid-wearing (together of different color groups) to my neighbor. You’re awesome!

    • May 4, 2012 8:07 pm

      You are such a great sport, Cathie! I can’t wait to see how you’ll do when you’re up against the next round of Dynomite! contestants. That scarf might’ve sealed you a win.

  9. Emily permalink
    May 2, 2012 9:14 am

    I played in the band in high school, and honestly, our uniforms weren’t that bad–niner band and vocal ensembles (all levels) wore black bottoms with white shirts, junior band wore black pants (boys) or long black skirts (rented through the school) and black pantyhose (girls), white shirts, black shoes (with black socks for boys), black ties (boys only), and blackwatch plaid jackets. Senior band members wore the same uniform as juniors, except with red jackets–and, our jackets were really blazers. We weren’t a marching band, so we didn’t have to balance style with function. It was also nice that, during the years when I was in more than one ensemble (junior and senior band in grade ten, senior band and vocal classes in grades eleven and twelve, and maybe OAC, I forget), and I had to change uniforms multiple times in the course of one concert, all I really had to do was change jackets.

    Meanwhile, university was really easy, wardrobe-wise, anyway. At Bishop’s, where I did my Bachelor’s degree in music, ensembles wore dressy black, the choir either did black, or black bottoms and white tops (varied by year) for the winter concert, and jeans and coloured T-shirts for the spring concert, and soloists wore their formal wear of choice. At Western, where I did my performance diploma, it was dressy black for women, and black tuxedos provided by the school for the men, and of course, small ensembles and soloists chose their own clothes, but small ensembles usually decided to just wear black. Anyway, back to my main point–one of my favourite things about being done with high school band was, I was also done with uniforms, and I really liked wearing my own clotbes. Later on, I briefly joined a community band that had a lot of retired people who seemed to want to relive their high school days, and all of a sudden, it was back to Sousa, Disney show tunes, Christmas music starting in early November at the latest, and ugly red vests. Needless to say, I didn’t last long.

    • May 4, 2012 8:09 pm

      Wow. All I remember about my high school band uniform was “red,” “white,” “hot,” and “ugly.” If I hear of any band uniform expert panels being needed in the future, I’ll be sure to put in a glowing recommendation for you.

  10. May 2, 2012 10:47 am

    The simpler rule would be, “Skip the angst – wear your band uniform every day.”

    • Emily permalink
      May 3, 2012 9:42 am

      Some private schools already did that–they wore school uniforms as a matter of course, so they didn’t bother with band uniforms. If you were a student at, say, Cardinal Carter or Unionville (Unionville students were sort of our rivals at Kiwanis, lol), and you were wearing a uniform, and carrying/holding/playing a musical instrument, you were presumed to be a music student. No judgement here–it probably worked for them. For everyday life outside of formal performances, we were really more of a jeans-and-hoodies bunch (even our teachers), and we played just as well as the private-school students.

    • May 4, 2012 8:11 pm

      Not a bad idea, Peg. Although, they just don’t have the stretch I need for doing household chores and gardening. But certainly “out on the town” occasions would be appropriate.

  11. May 2, 2012 11:09 am

    HA! Oh god, you kill me. That is the best fashion advice I’ve ever heard. “So much self-loathing you could cut it with a butterfly collar.” I howled. Oh! And I might have some pics I can send you, thanks to the album my mom made for my 29+ birthday gift.

    • May 4, 2012 8:13 pm

      Thanks, Jules. You always brighten up the place. I think you’d brighten it up even more if you were wearing a band uniform. Bonus points if you could work in a silk scarf.

  12. May 2, 2012 11:10 am

    Okay…so now I’ve watched the whole video and I’m off to go shopping for a scarf! Oh…and SHOULDER PADS!!!! The sad thing is that I’m only about 1/2 kidding! LOL

    • May 4, 2012 8:14 pm

      What is it about that video? Highly addictive stuff going on there. I just kept telling myself, “Okay, I’ll stop watching after this last scarf style. Okay, one more. Okay, last time.” And then I watched it two more times after that.

      • May 4, 2012 9:21 pm

        Ya have to admit that it’s like magic watching all of those different ways the scarves can be tied! I was at TJ Maxx today and they had a display of scarves. I’m guilty of standing there looking at them thinking, “I can tie it like this…or like that…or like this…” LOL!

  13. May 2, 2012 11:38 am

    Oh, geez. That brought back painful memories of that stinky, heavy, sweaty, UGLY band uniform I had to wear once a week. And the stupid bucket-looking HAT. That totally topped it off. I’m certain I will never let the picture of me in that uniform get out there. It ruined all dating opportunities with anyone except those also of the “band standard.”

    Refreshing when I switched to symphony and my “uniform” was a white pressed shirt and a long, flowing black skirt. Much better. And I then started dating normal people.

    • May 4, 2012 8:18 pm

      I have never felt more repulsive than I did while wearing my old school band uniform. And then to have to wear it to football games. Noooo! Parades were bad enough. But to be at school social functions wearing that thing was horrifying.

  14. May 2, 2012 12:53 pm

    I wonder if shoulder pads will ever come back. You’d think not, but everything does… Maybe even the Band Uniform look?

    • May 4, 2012 1:17 pm

      I’m wearing some right now. So yes, yes they have come back.

      • May 4, 2012 8:43 pm

        Are they the same ones in Peg’s plaid jacket by chance?

    • May 4, 2012 8:21 pm

      Apparently shoulder pads were designed to make women’s waists look smaller. Just imagine giving a woman some football pads! She would look seriously hot in a Dixie Carter on Designing Women sort of way.

  15. May 2, 2012 1:20 pm

    That upside-down trophy on that last band member’s head kinda rocks. Combine that with the boots you’re wearing in the first picture and I think we’ve got something.

    • May 4, 2012 8:23 pm

      I’m thinking some kind of Roald Dahl character might wear a similar outfit. If those boots were silver, that is.

  16. May 2, 2012 1:25 pm


  17. May 2, 2012 2:28 pm

    Susan didn’t have to say she is a career woman. The scarf says it all.I thought I would watch just a minute or two, but I find myself sucked in my her eyes. I want an oversize bib full of color and pattern….

    • May 4, 2012 8:27 pm

      You are not alone. I think I watched it three times straight through but then paused it a few times on the fourth viewing so I could keep up with her. My robber’s mask didn’t quite work out. Oh, man…she makes it look so easy!

  18. May 2, 2012 7:24 pm

    I look better already!

    • May 4, 2012 8:31 pm

      Feel free to post photos of the new you. A cardboard cut-out of a marching band member standing next to you would be helpful. Without it, it’d be difficult for me to gauge whether my advice has really helped.

      • May 4, 2012 8:35 pm

        You will notice that there are no pictures of me on my blog. It isn’t so much to preserve my dignity as it is to, well, stop people from reading my political pieces and murdering me in my bed.

        But thanks for asking …

      • May 4, 2012 8:39 pm

        You’re in luck! The marching band member cut-out doubles as a protective device to scare off deranged blog readers. It’s like having a bodyguard watching over you at all times.

  19. May 2, 2012 8:02 pm

    Unfortunately, I missed out on both scarves and band uniforms. However, I did not miss out on that big hair. Or the blue eye shadow. But I’m still pretty sure all of my clothes should have been burned.

  20. May 3, 2012 12:18 pm

    Gosh, I’ve missed visiting, Angie. When I get my internet access straightened out I’ll be back regularly. For tips like the Band Uniform Rule. Awesome. Mornings will be a breeze forevermore. There may be a shortage on lighter fuid, though.

  21. May 4, 2012 1:19 pm

    Great advice, but now my entire closet’s gone up in flames and the only thing left is Peg’s jacket.

    • May 4, 2012 5:54 pm

      That’s not a bad thing.

      • May 4, 2012 8:48 pm

        Maybe it has the ability to extinguish itself? The worst clothes always do.

    • May 4, 2012 8:48 pm

      Wait, I’m confused. Peg’s jacket is the only thing left? Oh, no…the Band Uniform Rule is not working. Perhaps the jacket’s brass buttons were what caused the error. Were you imagining a band uniform that also has brass buttons?

  22. russelllindsey permalink
    May 6, 2012 9:30 am

    What an excellent post – and excellent fashion advice. The girl in the picture having her hair braided looks eerily like my Ecuadorian host sister, Maria Mercedes. I was never in band, but our band uniforms were – and still are – horrors to behold.

    I have thus far resisted watching the mesmerizing scarf video, but I have to admit, I’m old enough to remember when scarves were in. While I admit I committed several 80s fashions sins as a child, that was not one of them. Thank God.

    Oh, and I hope shoulder pads never come back. I have broad enough shoulders – and shoulder pads, as my Dad put it, make me look like a linebacker.

    I’m thinking you need to straight up start an 80s fashion blog.


    • May 8, 2012 1:13 pm

      Lindsey, don’t be afraid. The scarf video may suck you in like a mad cult, but I promise it will be worth your time. You’ll never look at a scarf the same way again, nor will you want to.

      Shoulder pads scare me.

  23. May 8, 2012 1:13 am

    I was so happy to find out that scarves are back in style because my neck is really sagging. My life is perfect, just like this post.

    • May 8, 2012 1:10 pm

      They are really quite multipurpose. I was thrilled to see on the video that I could tie a scarf bandit-style over my face in case of a spinach leaf between the teeth.


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