The alma mater (and the tattoo reveal)

No, this is not a luxury boutique hotel. This is where I went to school.

It is an extraordinary, wonderful, confusing and confused place. It was founded in 1850 by suffragettes. If it looks scary from where you're sitting, try to imagine an ordinary kid leaving a grubby London suburb to go there every day. I'm not joking when I tell you that everyone raised in this hothouse leaves with the finest education and some kind of anxiety complex. We love it deeply from a distance and return to it in abject terror.

With this in mind, I wasn't 100% happy with the emergency fall-back look I wore to last weekend's reunion of the Class of 1986, but then I was never going to be. That said, I was comfortable in the heat and at least my hair behaved itself in all the pictures. The best bag of the day was not my 80's mix tape purse, but a canvas tote sported by one of my classmates, printed with the slogan EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE. Enough said.

The event was amazing. To paraphrase one of my buddies from the sixth form, connecting with long-lost friends is like rediscovering a piece of yourself you didn't know was missing. At the end of the day, I had the privilege of leading a memorial toast to my oldest, dearest friend, who passed away two summers ago. It was a moving and cathartic moment for all of us. 

After that, the tattoo reveal was a bit of a non-event. Following your wise advice, I wore short sleeves and acted normal until my brother outed me over drinks in the garden. He was the first to mention it and went on to describe his own plans to go under the needle. Bless him.

Anyway. Next time you see this famous alumnus and the most powerful woman in fashion, remember that she comes from a place that has probably left her with a deep seated sense of inferiority and is constantly worried that the whole world thinks she's faking it. You heard it here.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    What a beautiful school, and fun write-up. HAH. Well, we think you turned out just fine, Liz. Bless Mum & Dad. I'm glad you had a great time. 

  • Beth Ann replied 6 years ago

    Our schooling does shape us, doesn't it?  I'm dealing with questions about school environment myself at the moment, since my DD detests the high-quality, huge (3,300 students) public high school she attends.  What problems should we work to fix?  What obstacles are hers to learn to work around?

    Sounds like your experience was one of those best of times / worst of times scenarios, but I'm glad you had a good weekend bonding with former classmates with whom you share so many experiences.

    I'm sad to not see you Bad Boyfriend (so fun), but I think you've managed to look perfectly you and perfectly fab in the heat.  I adore the mix-tape bag!   Tattoos are so main stream now, that I'm sure your family will roll with it.   The size and placement are is quite simple and refined.

  • replied 6 years ago

    Oh wow! What a great building! My school looked so ordinary in comparison.

    Funny, but my school's never had a reunion...god...not even sure I'd want to attend...scary!

    I'm, so glad you had a great time Liz and got to honour you're friend's memory too.

  • deb replied 6 years ago

    Beautiful school grounds.

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Angie: I really can't complain and most of us turned out just fine. Yes, it was the best of times and the worst of times. For all the conflicted feelings I have about the place I feel very blessed to have started out there. 

    Beth Ann, best of luck with your daughter. Adolescence is a difficult moment isn't it? And I'm very happy with my ink, even though my Mum thinks it's a bit vulgar.

    DianeG yeah, it was a daunting prospect but I'm glad I went. When you've lived through Lord of the Flies, you can never really leave that desert island ;)

    And Deb, there's no doubt about it, the grounds are magnificent.

  • Aziraphale replied 6 years ago

    Wow, that school looks like something from a movie set. Glad you enjoyed your reunion, even though it involved mixed emotions.

    I can't see your tattoo! Need a close up!

  • rachylou replied 6 years ago

    Haha. My dad's school looked like a prison. It was made of stone blocks and not a lick of plaster on the inside to warm it up. All the desks were carved up with the graffiti of what looked like hundreds of years of inmates. Haha!

    My school, everyone CAME with emotional baggage. Lol. One extra trunk to move into the dorm.

    But haha - with Anna Wintour as an alumnus, I'm surprised you get dressed at all ;) Lovely grounds!

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Aziraphale, I've had the tattoo for over a year but I'd managed to keep it hidden from my parents. I posted here when I first had it done. It's quite small but I rather like it.

    rachylou: luckily it was a day school. If we'd had to board I don't think anyone would have gotten out alive. There used to be some excellent graffiti in the school bathrooms, which they should have preserved as a monument to their record in girls' education, but of course it's all gone now. 

    As for Anna, I'm pretty sure she doesn't show up for reunions. But now you know the origin of my fashion neurosis.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    What a terrific write up. You look fantastic in the photo. Glad your hair held up well and the speech was cathartic and your parents dealt with the news of the tattoo. Such a beautiful place; no wonder you have mixed emotions. 

  • Mochi replied 6 years ago

    Wow. There is absolutely a novel in here somewhere. I want to know everything. 

    Glad you had an amazing reunion. 

  • skylurker replied 6 years ago

    Yeah, ok, it does look intimidating! Can't imagine an all girls, in uniforms, place. I've always been to mixed schools and no uniforms here.
    Our system is also very skilled at making you feel never good enough and at fostering low self-esteem.
    It doesn't matter much, what matters is that you had a fine education, that's not something you can catch on later as an adult, while you can work on your feelings. Anyway, maybe it's not so bad to start humble in your youth.

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Mochi, I've been thinking the same myself. Maybe I'll get around to writing it one day, who knows? 

    skylurker, totally agree. The benefits of a good education outweigh the emotional trauma and compared to some I wasn't much of a casualty. And if living well is the best revenge, I've had some sweet revenge since then. It's all good. 

  • Style Fan replied 6 years ago

    What a great write up.  The building looks so intriguing.  I would love a tour.  Glad your outfit worked out.  Love your friend's bag.  I need one of those! 

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