Girl Scouts have been making a difference in their communities and the world beyond for over 100 years. In 1912, Juliette Gordon Low set out to create an organization that would give girls the opportunity to try new things they had never been exposed to before, such as camping, hiking, and forestry. At a time when women in the United States hadn’t even yet earned the right to vote, Girl Scouts blazed trails and redefined what was possible for themselves and for girls everywhere.
Girl Scouts has continued to evolve throughout the past century, bringing the materials that align with modern girl’s interests and passions to the table. While the mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place remains, the look of Girl Scouts has changed quite a bit with time! Read on for a look at Girl Scout uniforms throughout the years:
Juliette Gordon Low organized the first Girl Guide troop meeting in Savannah, Georgia, in 1912 after meeting Robert Baden-Powell, who established the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides in England in 1911. The Girl Guides of American changed its name to Girl Scouts of the United States in 1913. At the time uniforms were modeled after those of the Girl Guides in England, featuring homemade dark blue middy blouses and skirts with sateen ties, felt campaign hats, and black stockings. In 1914 the navy blue uniforms were changed to khaki versions in response from members requesting uniforms better suited for hiking, camping, and service work. By 1919 there were two styles of uniform, either a dress or a skirt and blouse, which were to be worn with bloomers, a neckerchief, and a hat.
Girl Scout continued to expand to include girls outside of the United States, with troops forming in China, Syria, and Mexico. At the time Girl Scouts officers usually wore dark khaki, serge, or twill uniforms with a tailored shirt and a silk tie. A trefoil pin was worn just below the knot, which signified the Girl Scouts Promise. Most early uniforms were homemade, with official buttons issued to girls to add on. In 1926 the Brown Book for Brown Owls, the first official leader’s guide to program for Brownie Girl Scouts, was published and Brownie Girl Scouts received their own insignia. New uniforms of “Girl Scout green” were adopted in 1928 for Girl Scouts and adults to replace the khaki uniforms worn earlier in the decade.
During the era of the Great Depression, Girl Scouts aided in relief efforts by collecting food and clothing, making quilts, carving wooden toys, and assisting in hospitals. Uniform silhouettes were updated and troop members began wearing berets, a very trendy accessory in the early ’30s. The introduction of the new grey-green fabric for uniforms marked the first time the color “green” was associated with Girl Scouting. It also was the first time the adults wore a completely different style of uniform than girls. In 1935 a change was made to the neckline, a zipper was added and the modesty shield was removed. The Girl Scout program was reorganized into three separate groups in 1938: Brownie Girl Scouts, ages 7-9; Intermediate Girl Scouts, ages 10-13; and Senior Girl Scouts, ages 14-17.
The United States didn’t become involved in World War II until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The first half of the 1940s saw Girl Scouts and their families planting Victory Gardens, collecting fat and scrap metal, operating bicycle courier services, making and collecting clothing, and rationing sugar, coffee, rubber and gasoline to preserve resources for the war effort. In 1944 Girl Scouts sold calendars instead of cookies due to ingredient rations during World War II. Over the next few years, the look of Girl Scout uniforms went largely unchanged due to the low availability of materials in wartime. Junior and Senior Scouts continued to wear green dresses, paired with yellow neckerchiefs. Brownies instead wore brown shirt dresses with short sleeves. Wartime restrictions on the use of metals led to the zippers in uniforms being replaced with button-fronts.
By the 1950s the Girl Scout Movement was well-established with 1.5 million girls and adult volunteers. The organization continued to strive for inclusiveness, with Martin Luther King Jr. describing Girl Scouts as “a force for desegregation.” Designer Mainbocher, a popular haute couture American label at the time, created a uniform for Seniors that included a short-sleeved dress with action back, dark green cowhide belt, and overseas-style hat. Intermediate Girl Scouts were to wear a blouse, skirt, Girl Scout beret, and Windsor tie. Brownie uniforms were updated with a six-gored style skirt. The badge sash was first introduced in the 1950s, as opposed to the previous method of sewing badges onto the sleeves of uniforms.
The 1960s brought about major social change, from the Vietnam War to the struggle for racial equality to the birth of the counterculture. During this decade Girl Scouts held “Speak Out” conferences across the country to raise their voices for racial equality. In 1963 girls were re-organized into four age levels: Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors. Each age level had a distinct, stylish look, with the older girl’s uniforms similar to flight attendant attire from the same era. Adjustable green berets designed by New York hat designer, Miss Emmé, were added. By 1969, membership had reached an all-time high of 3.9 million Girl Scouts.
Major trends from the 60s, including a growing disillusionment of government, advances in civil rights, increased influence of the women’s movement, a heightened concern for the environment, and increased space exploration, continued well on into the next decade. During this period, Girl Scouts elected its first African American national board president, Gloria D. Scott; stood up for environmental issues by launching the national “Eco-Action” program; and helped Vietnamese refugee children adapt to their new homes in America. Girl Scout uniforms adapted as well, introducing five separates that could create 12 different outfits. Among the options were a green A-line jumper, white blouses with trefoil stripes, red ties, and wool berets.
The 1980s saw more changes in the social, political, and economic landscape of America, including women becoming common in the workplace, new developments in technology, and the end of the Cold War. Girl Scouts launched The Contemporary Issues series, which addressed some of the most serious issues teen girls of the day were confronting, including drug use, child abuse, and teen pregnancy. In 1983, GSUSA launched the Girl Scout Daisy program for 5-year-old girls or girls in kindergarten. New uniforms were designed by Fashion Hall of Fame member Bill Blass, who incorporated kelly green to fit in with the decade’s trends. Other additions included new blazers and dresses with dropped shoulders for Scouts officers, as well as green, white, and blue-striped blouses.
With the 1990s marking the beginning of “The Information Age,” technologies such as the personal computer, the Internet and email became widely used by the general public, not just academics and scientists. Girl Scouts responded with the introduction of the Technology badge for Juniors, while also tackling illiteracy with the Right to Read service project alongside First Lady Barbara Bush. Uniform rules were relaxed, allowing girls to choose which outfit combinations they liked. The Daisy uniform was updated to two options in 1993: the original blue tunic, knee socks, and white short, or a short-sleeved white t-shirt with puffed screen print and shorts. Brownie uniform separates were introduced, with options including a light blue chambray shirt, light yellow knit top, western belt, yellow webbing tie, brown beanie, one-piece floral top culotte jumper, cocoa brown pants, or knit skirt. Brownie Girl Scouts chose either a vest or a sash for their insignia. In 1994, Junior uniforms featured bold styling, bright colors, and coordinating separates. The white blouse with jade green “GS” scatter print was worn with either a jade green culotte, skirt, or shorts, a brown leather belt, and an insignia sash or vest. In 1995 the official Cadette and Senior Girl Scout uniforms included a royal blue skirt or walking shorts, a white blouse with royal blue, yellow, and green stripes, sleeves, a bandana, and an insignia vest or sash.
Girl Scouts entered the new millennium focused on the healthy development of girls, establishing the Girl Scout Research Institute to conduct studies and report findings. We began hosting a National Conference on Latinas in Girl Scouting and, in 2005, elected the first Hispanic as chair of the National Board, Patricia Diaz Dennis. In 2001 the Girl Scout Junior program was revised and the Bronze Award was introduced as the highest award for Juniors. Cadette and Senior Girl Scout uniforms were changed from royal blue to khaki, with a light blue blouse for Cadettes and a navy blue blouse for Seniors. Girl Scouts responded to the September 11th attack on America by performing community service, hosting remembrance ceremonies, and writing thank you letters to rescuers. In 2006 program age levels were changed to how they currently remain today,
Even as technology plays a larger and larger role in Americans’ lives, Girl Scouts also stay connected to nature and the great outdoors. The 42 new badges introduced in the summer of 2019 included a variety of Outdoor High Adventure, Cybersecurity, Space Science, and Think Like a Citizen Scientist badges and journeys. Since 2008, Girl Scouts are only required to wear one element to display their insignia, either a tunic, sash, or vest. Digital Cookie was launched in 2014, through which girls were able to sell cookies online for the first time in the history of the cookie program.
Juliette Gordon Low’s original vision of an organization for girls that emphasized inclusiveness, the outdoors, self-reliance, and service still remains today. Through the Girl Scout Leadership Experience—a collection of engaging, challenging, and fun activities like earning badges, going on awesome trips, selling cookies, exploring science, getting outdoors, and doing community service projects—we still prepare girls for a lifetime of leadership, success, and adventure. Our uniforms just look a little different now!