Dressing up or mucking up: the final days for Year 12s

This is our 100th edition of Objects of Substance! The 2022 authors of the Objects of Substance articles would like to sincerely thank Ms Maxine McCabe for her beautiful photographic work across the year.

On Thursday 5 February 2015, the School gathered for the special Assembly to observe the Student Council Induction in the steamy conditions of the McCrae Grassie Sports Centre. On this day, the Chair of Trustees, Elizabeth Jameson (1982), was unavailable, so she asked fellow Trustee and Head Girl 1989, Diana Lohrisch, to represent her.

Diana Lohrisch’s responsibility was to deliver some words of wisdom to the incoming Student Council and to present their badges of office. To make her delivery more authentic, Diana did something which totally captured the attention of her diverse audience, she put on her Year 12 blouse. ‘I wore the shirt because I was asked to give advice and so I put my end of Year 12 school shirt on so I could really remember being at that point in my life and tried to channel what I’d have found beneficial to have someone tell me when I was on the cusp of my senior year’.

On reflection, Diana felt that with this shirt on: ‘I could time travel! I could go back in time, and the girls could hear from someone speaking almost from their future. I wanted them to understand deeply that time passes quickly, so that could inform their approach to the years ahead. I explained that what I had learned was that decisions made from the heart (and following their passions) will stand the test of time. I challenged the girls to reflect on what they wanted or hoped for out of the years to come and to live them deliberately. I hoped to convey a sense of importance to what they do now, and a reminder to enjoy the ride’.

1989 Di Lohrisch’s blouse—worn again in 2015 as a trustee presenting the Student Council Induction address

This vibrantly decorated Year 12 blouse not only channelled Diana’s thoughts but represented years of Grammar girls ‘dressing up’. Indeed, Grammar girls have a ‘colourful’ history of dressing up that carries right into the present traditions of Blue Days, Galentine’s Day, and the like. It even extends to dressing up the School.

Historically, Year 12 students have always celebrated that bitter-sweet final day, or week, of their secondary schooling. Celebrations in our early years have been lost in time; however, photographic evidence from 1940 shows the VI Form ‘breaking up’ day concert. Grammar girls, it seems, have always been ready to perform!

1940 Breaking up day VI Concert (Leah Potter collection)

The 1950s continued the tradition of ‘breaking up’ although it was somewhat compromised by external examinations. Ann Caston (1958) remembers no real celebrations except for a visit to The Oasis Swimming Pools and Gardens at Sunnybank post examinations. However, dressing up was still central to the celebration of individual classes where the everyday uniform—be it gym tunic or School uniform—was creatively enhanced or supplemented.

1959 last day dress up

1962 in the old gymnasium

In the 1960s, the celebration was often held in the final swimming lesson—now we had a pool—or a more demure picnic lunch with invited staff. It was during this decade that pranks seem to have evolved. I have memories of Condies crystals and detergent in the old toilet block behind the Main Building, the floors covered in purple bubbles. Sue Meeking (1965) recalls that ‘A couple of girls hung an effigy (can’t remember of whom) from the rafters of the old toilet block. I’m sure there was an article in the newspaper about that’ (email 15.11.22). It seems the old toilet block was a prime location for a prank! Mrs Kristine Cooke (1967) remembers the effigy of a Grammar girl hung from the covered way just outside the back door of the Main Building.

1971 VID Last day Form Party with Julie Colquhoun, Susan Armour and Andrea Anderson foreground and staff, Jan Knight (1950), Anne Walton (1952) and Jan Salzman (1961) (seated)

1985 writing messages and dye for Amanda Fitzsimmons and Liz Hartland’s last day

Dressing up escalated in the 1980s where uniforms were embellished, dyed, and reimaged. Friendship groups would sometimes create a specific theme, have a decorating party the night before, and turn up the next day in matching outfits for a photo opportunity. However, Diana Lohrisch’s uniform recollection from 1989 was: ‘At the time it was done because that was the tradition. The uniforms were decorated, and—for the more creative—cut strategically, overnight before the last day of School. Friends then wrote their messages to each other during the course of the day. Unfortunately, I was too busy that day to stand still long enough to ensure the blouse was filled with messages!’

1989 Diana Lohrisch’s year and Year 12 performance for the school—serious uniform transformations

Ms Cathy Taylor (1989) remembers her reimaged uniform with friend and fellow Woolcock girl, Cathy French (1989), themed Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Ms Taylor comments ‘it’s what people called us because we were inseparable … it was always just the two of us. However, there was some discussion as to which one was Dum or Dee!’

1989 Cathy Taylor and Cathy French—Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee

During the 1990s creative uniforms, organised performances, and pranks intensified. The final Assembly with the Year 12s singing a cohort-chosen song or songs for the whole School, developed into themed performances in the McCrae Grassie Sports Centre with an organised program. In 1995, the girls sang the Beatles Hey Jude (perhaps a salute to then Principal) and the Animals, We gotta get out of this place.

1995 Emma West, Alison Meeking, Anne-Louise Watkins (Love the hat detail!)

A new century brought even more elaborate uniform designs and interesting performances. These were coupled, at times, with clever pranks. One such original hoax was in 2009 when the cohort, with the assistance of a student’s father who had serious influence in real estate ranks, erected a ‘For Sale’ sign outside the School on Gregory Terrace. The general public was highly amused; however, the School did not divulge any offers received.

2009 Year 12 Grammar For Sale sign

2007 Julia Colwill’s Ghostbuster uniform

Sadly, not all antics were as cleverly thought through or harmless as the Class of 2009’s real estate sign. Subsequently in 2011, then Principal, Dr Amanda Bell, asked me, as Associate Dean, to change the culture of the final week for Year 12. As performances became more risqué and the Year 12 cohort larger, a gentle phasing out of the Informal Assembly was put in place from 2014.

Today, the Year 12 students, once again, deal with external examinations and staggered completion of assessment. However, the final week remains one of celebration, farewells, the opportunity to release some pressure, and the joyous expression of friendship groups. The cohort ventures to our fields at Rangakarra for a picnic, the reimaging of uniforms, and a chance to play like young girls again before embracing the responsibilities of adulthood.

2022 Year 12 picnic at Rangakarra

What message did Diana Lohrisch, lawyer, director, Head Girl, mother, and Trustee, communicate to the students of 2015 when she chose to don her Year 12 reimaged blouse? That the School has always appreciated the significance and impact Year 12s have on the School and the School on them. Embracing enthusiasm, spontaneity, individuality, and joie de vivre are parts of our DNA. We appreciate clever, often subtle, but humorous efforts, but do not support thoughtless, crass behaviour.

The final week offers each student the opportunity to create happy and lasting memories. However, perhaps it is prudent to remember Coco Chanel’s telling quotation: ‘Dress shabbily and they remember the dress. Dress impeccably and they remember the woman.’

2022 another year of reimagined uniforms at Rangakarra

Mrs Pauline Harvey-Short (1971)

Manager, School History and Culture



BGGS Archives

BGGS Archives Leah Potter Collection.

Lohrisch, Diana emails dated 16 and 19 November 2022.

Meeking, Sue emails dated 15, 18, 21 November 2022.

Taylor, Catherine Interview 23.11.22.