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I entered the Scout hall weaving my way through the playing children to the kitchen so I could drop off my phone and wallet before staring the meeting. Seeing me, Zoe (not real name), a ten year old girl (I live in the UK where Scouts is co-ed) charged towards the kitchen hatch area and asked for a drink of water.
“Of course you can” I said, a flicker of confusion crossed my face as I glanced in her direction and realised her outfit wasn’t her usual top and leggings. She was wearing a blue and white stripy top with what looked like some sort of black body warmer over the top. St first glance the body warmer looked too big and a little bulky on her tiny frame.
I ran her some cold water into a mug and turned back to hand it to her.
“Thanks” she said standing at the counter while sipping the water. My attention was drawn elsewhere after for a few moments, there’s always lots to do at the start of a meeting.
“I’m done” Zoe said, bringing my attention back to her, sliding her mug onto the counter.
“Cool” I replied and put the mug to one side. I watched her go as she skipped back to her friends and realised the body warmer was actually a dress teamed with some very snazzy, bright blue, cable tights.
It was a pleasant surprise to see her wearing a dress such a striking outfit, I’ve known Zoe since she was seven, seeing her at meetings each week and on weekend camps. I’ve never seen her wear anything except trousers or leggings (once, on camp a few years ago, she had cheekily bellowed at me across the campsite one dreary Sunday morning “how are you wearing shorts?”, while she herself was all trussed up in trousers, jumper and a coat).
I always assumed girls never wear skirts or dresses to Scouts due to the adventurous nature of the activities, its just not practical, yet here was Zoe in a dress with some very striking tights and she knew full well the types of activities we do. Perhaps her outfit tonight was a one off, a consequence of some event prior to the meeting, and not enough time to get changed.
We called the group together ready to start the meeting, and as I stood waiting for the Scouts to fall into line, Zoe came up to me to ask whether they had to buy uniform as her mum wouldn’t buy it for her or her brothers.
“You should have it really” I said, “but you don’t have to have it.”
“Ok, I’ll just wear something green, sow the badges onto that.”
“You could do that, better than something green though, is something smart for when we do investitures and stuff like that, you don’t have to wear it every meeting.”
She nodded, her brows kitted together in a thinking frown. “Ok, I’ll do that.”
“Your looking snazzy tonight” I said pointing at her outfit before she turned to go. Taking a closer look, I could see the dress fell to her knees and was straight cut, perhaps slightly a-line, and the material was ribbed vertically, I later learnt the material/style was called corduroy.
“Thanks, Alex” she smiled shyly.
I smiled back, surprised by my own boldness, if I was a cis woman, complimenting Zoe on her outfit would be an acceptable thing to do but as a man it seems unnatural. However I pride myself on having a good relationship with all the children I work with at Scouts, so it felt ok.
Once we finished the opening ceremony, we headed outside and set the Scouts the task of collecting wood. Zoe got as stuck in just as much as the boys (she was the only girl this particular evening). The scouts took great pride in lugging the largest fallen tree branches, they could find into a pile despite my pleas to bring back smaller twigs and kindling. When the fire starting began Zoe was more than happy to crouch and kneel on the floor to work the fire completely unphased by her outfit. She even ran off into the darkness at speed to find more twigs, her legs flying out behind her.
I’m glad Zoe enjoyed herself and felt a huge surge of admiration for her, her willingness to dress fashionably coupled with the fact she hadn’t lost her bubbly adventurous personality. So much so, I have been inspired to buy my own corduroy dress, and match her outfit. My outfit is not exactly the same as Zoe’s, but it comes close. For starters the dress is a redy orange not black (I could’ve had black but would have had to wait a week for it to arrive), in a pinafore style with thick straps rather than sleeveless, the top is long sleeve with blue and white stripes (exactly the same as Zoes as much I can remember), and my tights are navy cable tights, just like Zoes’ just not as bright.
I’ve never been interested in corduroy type outfits (nor demin for example), assuming I’d find them uncomfortable, however my Zoe inspired outfit is incredibly comfortable, and fast becoming a new favourite. Thank you Zoe!
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