April 3, 2012

Park Ranger Barbie: Mom Jeans

Let me start this one off by saying I love my job. First volunteering and now working for the National Park Service out here in Hawaii has been a dream job in so many ways, and I am extremely thankful for the opportunity!

Let me also say that the views expressed in this post (and every post on this blog) do not in any way reflect the views of the National Park Service, my coworkers, or anyone else. (Even though really, I think lots of people DO share this particular view. Let's be serious.)

The following is an email that I sent to my circle of trust on September 1, 2010, on the brink of my first 60-day hire with the National Park Service.

What are the odds she'd have red hair?
Hi fam and friends,

Many of you know that I've been working/volunteering at the USS Arizona Memorial this summer, and hope to make it a bit more of a full-time gig later this year. Only a select few of you know about my first experience trying on part of a National Park Ranger uniform today. Let's just say it was a bit traumatic.

I hate to use the term "mom jean" because it's offensive to moms everywhere, but let's just say the pants came up to the middle of my rib cage, out at the hips (wonderfully flattering), and in at the ankles. This just won't do.

After notifying a good number of my NPS buddies of this budding fashion emergency, we've decided my best bet is to try and order some men's pants and see if they fit any better, but who knows. I fully realize that the Arizona Memorial is not a runway and the focus should definitely not be on what the rangers (aka interpreters) look like, but I simply cannot feel comfortable speaking to hundreds of people in those pants on a daily basis. Trust: the world does not need to see me (or anyone) in these babies.

Fortunately, I won't be wearing the uniform at all until I officially start my two-month "emergency hire" status with the National Park Service September 29th, so there's still time to get everything sorted out.

In the meantime, I'm going to search for the cutest comfy brown shoes and watch possible, since I'll have to express myself and my style via accessories in this new job ; ) If you see anything fabulous yet not too expensive, be sure to let me know. I'm in the market.

I have to laugh at myself, and it helps if you laugh with me, your personal Park Ranger Barbie. Please enjoy the attached photos of the female NPS ranger uniform, past and present, and have a giggle knowing that it will be ME in just a few months. Good thing I love the job!!!

: )

For your viewing pleasure, I've rounded up a number of photos to trace the history of the NPS female park ranger uniform.

Many of these come from historical gem, Breeches, Blouses, & Skirts: Women's Uniforms in the National Park Service, 1918-1991:

Early Years
Claire Marie Hodges, one of the first two women ever hired for the NPS, 1918

Herma Albertson sporting the men's uni, 1929

Ideas for a unified effort - Spring 1940

1960s - Stewardess-Chic

Some didn't like this look, but I think it was kinda cute!?

And that brings us to the hits of the 80s...90s...00s..and whatever we call this decade. No change!?

Must get Bryson one of these, inspired by the current uni:
Park Ranger Doll - Amazon

Now, here are my own NPS unis, past and present:

I should point out that there is a skirt option, but it requires heels, and that's not practical when you're on your feet for close to 10 hours a day. Therefore, I opted for the men's pants (shhh...don't tell), and eventually, men's shoes! EEK! This photo was taken when I was 14 weeks pregnant. My dear Noni wanted a picture of me in my uniform, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to button these babies much longer, so we went for it.

Please note the clunky brown (women's?!) shoes I sported until I literally wore the soles out. (I realized that fun fact when my left sock was soaked on an uncharacteristically rainy day.) That's when I made the switch to a dazzling pair of men's leather Crocs. My first and only pair of men's shoes (and Crocs!) to date. Very comfy, I must say!

Then it was time to rock the TRUE mom jeans - maternity pants! I got a lot of interesting comments from visitors who were not used to seeing a pregnant ranger in uniform. I couldn't tell if one guy was trying to be funny or trying to insinuate I was "out of regulations" when he asked, "Can I leave my shirt untucked too?" I gave my belly a Beyonce-like rub and replied, "When you're pregnant, you sure can!"

Fun fact: Apparently there was/is also maternity tent jumper option. Not interested.

While I'm thankful there was a maternity pant option, I would gladly welcome the opportunity to provide feedback on how to make them more comfortable. While they provided some stretch, they were kind of awful. This one was taken when I was about seven months along (Hi, Bryson!).

While pregnant, I ordered the skirt just for kicks. When it arrived, I hung it in my closet and stared at it longingly, knowing it was going to be a while before I could take it for a spin. Six weeks after Bryson was born, it made its debut at the 70th anniversary commemoration ceremony, December 7, 2011. It was a little snug, but I was determined to make it work. While my own tiny Junior Ranger was in attendance with us that morning, my patriotic arm candy helped distract from any indication that I'd just given birth :)

Fast-forward to December 7, 2012. Over the past year, I've adopted the skirt uniform as my mainstay when it's time to suit up. I've even had the fun experience of needing to order a smaller size, twice! That's always a good feeling. This year's patriotic arm candy included some of my favorite men from the Greatest Generation, like Mr. Ray Emory. (More on this year's D7 in another post. It was amazing.)

And there you have it, folks. My experiences with the uniform. It's an honor to wear it. The flat hat, the badge...they're icons of the American experience. While I don't think the mom jeans are flattering or friendly to the females who have no choice but to wear them, I do have hope for a brighter, more boot-cut future.

Who knows? Maybe the NPS uniform coordinators will stumble upon this blog post and start a professional, yet fashion-conscious focus group on how we can improve our collective bottom halves. They've had think tanks in decades past, after all!

A girl can dream.

P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

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