Hogwarts School Uniform
The other day I read a series of posts on the Hogwarts uniform and how book!uniform differs from movie!uniform, which is more canonical and whether there’s been/there should be some retconning to unify the books, films and illustrations from different sources. Since wizarding fashion is one of my favourite subjects (particularly since the word “corsets” was mentioned in HBP), I thought I had to write a post about it. So here it goes.
On tradition and unmuggleness
As much as I like the movie uniforms, the way I see it, they’re irreconcilable with those described in the books, which, both because they’re from the book and because that’s how I see them in my head, I consider canonical. Most people point out as proof of this that in a couple of occasions we are told more or less directly that the basic (I’ll talk more about this later) uniform does not bear any house indicator (see the Penelope Clearwater and Crabbe-and-Goyle’d Ron-and-Harry Cases, both in CoS). This is true. However, what I see as a bigger issue is the fact that the movie!uniform is basically a muggle school uniform with robes instead of a blazer, which, considering how often we see wizards struggling with muggle clothing, doesn’t really add up. And given that school uniforms tend to be on the conservative side of fashion, it would make much more sense to have the Hogwarts uniform resemble traditional wizarding attire.
On openings and trouserslessness
The movie robes are completely open at the front save for one (PoA-onwards) or two (PS-CoS) little clasps, which would take next to no time to do up and undo, so the movie robes would be put on and off like a bathrobe or a coat. However, most (if not all) of the times we see Harry changing into his school robes he’s described as pulling them over his head. To me that implies that the front is not open all the way down, that maybe there’s just a small opening with a few buttons, like a polo shirt. Either that or the robes are open all the way down but fastening and unfastening them is so tedious that students simply never do them up or undo them all the way. In a pre-zipper world, a front opening like that would most probably mean a metric tonne of little buttons, at least (look up some old-timey portraits, particularly of women’s fashion. They took their buttons seriously). No one has time to fiddle with that many buttons, so it would be easier to undo a few of the top ones and pull the robes over your head.
Personally, I think the left-hand version fits the description of “plain black work robes” better. And yes, there’s no indication anywhere in the books that the sleeves are flared or gathered at the top, but they look more wizardy this way, so.
For an even more undeniable piece of evidence that supports the idea of having a closed front, look no further than Snape’s worst memory in OotP. When he gets levicorpused by James, we see his underwear. He’s not wearing trousers. Wh. Why is he not wearing trousers??? Because there’s no risk of accidental exposure of one’s undergarments when there isn’t a massive opening on the front of one’s robes, that’s why. Also, if for some sinister reason he had not been wearing trousers under open-fronted robes, everybody would’ve been able to see his pants already and it wouldn’t have been “funny” when James revealed them.
Moreover, it seems that trousers, even though they are worn in the wizarding world, are neither required nor part of traditional wizarding attire. See the old man at the Quidditch World Cup. Trousers have been adopted to some extent, but they are not considered wizarding clothing per se, but rather a garment borrowed from muggles. So if we go back to the idea that uniforms tend to be conservative, the Hogwarts uniform would have probably been designed to be worn with no clothes underneath other than underwear.
On hats gone with the wind and cloaks
Hats. “One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear.” Day wear. In the films (PS, basically), hats seem to only be worn on special occasions. And I can understand that; On set they’re probably a huge inconvenience as they like to fall off and have to be touched up constantly and may cover something/someone important. Still, canonically, a pointed black hat for day wear is part of the Hogwarts uniform.
Now, do not
quote me on this, but I am positive that in one of the books there is a
description of a windy day where students grab the brims of their hats so that
they don’t get blown off. That’s the one and only time in the whole series
(that I can remember) where the uniform hats are said to be brimmed. It makes
sense, though, as traditional witch hats do have a brim. Modest brims seem
adequate for uniforms. (I do think it is strange to make students wear hats
indoors, but oh well.)
(Edit: ‘ “Maybe I’ll skive off Divination,” he said glumly as they stood again in the courtyard after lunch, the wind whipping at the hems of robes and brims of hats.’ - OotP, chapter 17)
Then there’s the winter cloaks. Again, plain and black, this time with silver clasps. No crest, no house colours. And there’s also the protective dragonskin gloves, which seem to be used both as protective gloves for Potions/Care of Magical Creatures/Herbology and as regular winter gloves.
On house pride (or the lack thereof)
So far we have established that the uniform consists basically of plain black garments: a set of black robes (closed front), a black cloak, a black hat. Hence, by default, there is no way to tell what house a student belongs to just by their attire. Or is there? Here’s where the “basic uniform” I mentioned before comes into play.
It is true that the robes, hats and cloaks are plain black when bought. And yet, there are many points in the story when Harry seems to simply know what house some students belong to, even when he clearly doesn’t know them. We get constant references to “a gorup of first year Ravenclaws” or “a Hufflepuff girl”, and since the story is told from Harry’s point of view rather than an omniscient narrator’s, there must be a way for Harry to tell apart people from different houses without knowing them personally. So how can we reconcile the ideas that some people’s house is recognisable at first sight while other people’s isn’t? It’s quite simple: CUSTOMISATION.
Bagdes, scarves, appliques, ribbons, hat ornaments, buttons, socks, belts, and a long etc, to show your house pride. Just as we can get jumpers and hoodies and caps and whatnot with the name and colours of our uni or specific college, kids in the wizarding world are probably able to buy (and make) house merchandise. These items would be available at Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, and parents would send them to their children once they’ve been sorted or the kids themselves would be able to get them via owl order.
Some students may only wear a small badge on their chest. Others a scarf+turtleneck undershirt+bandana+animal-shaped hat bauble combo. I love to imagine some kids wearing ridiculously tacky things, like red-and-gold neck ruffles or bee-striped boots. And those kids who are not as inclined to show off their house? They can just wear their basic black uniform.