I celebrate these guys' entire catalog
October 10, 2015 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Scans of every Girl Scouts catalog from 1917 to the one for 2015.
posted by 23skidoo (33 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

God, why they switched from the perfectly nice Halston uniforms to the Bill Blass ones for scout leaders, I do not understand. The 80s just can't win at anything .
posted by jacquilynne at 9:47 PM on October 10, 2015

It's really quite interesting to flip through these catalogues and track the progression of diversity in the models.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:49 PM on October 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wish we still had a proper uniform. Last year, I stopped buying my girls the badges they earned because 90% didn't even have a vest or sash. They were at the level where they could do GS until they graduated high school and wouldn't need to ever buy a new vest/sash. Getting them to wear a white polo and khakis was unthinkable.
posted by Ruki at 9:56 PM on October 10, 2015

Bill Blass was in the 603 camouflage unit in World War Two...makes sense.
posted by clavdivs at 10:14 PM on October 10, 2015

My 5 year old daughter is about to join her first group this week. I am so excited for her.
posted by growabrain at 10:26 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Looking at the 80s catalogs reminds me that I still desire all of the badges I never had time to earn.
I need to find some time and get myself a troop.
posted by littlewater at 10:28 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

There's a dramatic cover style change between 1934 and 1935: the earlier uniforms look as though they were designed by the Junior Anti-Sex League, but from 1935 the girls start having loose hair and spend their time mooning over nature and trees and stuff.

Then the style changes again: from 1940 the girls are basically junior servicewomen with neat service-differentiated uniforms. They're miniature soldiers
and the uniform itself is the thing that they're supposed to aspire to.

After WW2 the style softens and we go back to the moony-nature business for a while, but it's hard to find a convincing theme after that. So here are some very decade-appropriate covers. 1960s (technically 1970). 1970s. 1980s. My favorite.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:30 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

OMG. Saw 1992 and had an intense, super emotional flashback to my excitement looking at that catalog cover and knowing I was going to get my first Brownie uniform. My mom spent all of the 1991-92 school year trying to find me a good troop only to have them disband or otherwise fizzle over and over. Thanks, Troop 727, for finally popping up and making my Scouting dreams come true. And then 711, 1864, and 1481, for Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors. That '92 catalog marked the beginning of many happy years rocking the dorkiest of uniforms. Troop 727 didn't do the brown knee socks with the little orange tassels at the top and I thought it was such a missed opportunity.

Thanks for posting this!
posted by town of cats at 11:02 PM on October 10, 2015 [9 favorites]

Huh, looks like 1962 was the last year they sold patterns and fabric so you could make your own uniform at home.
posted by town of cats at 11:20 PM on October 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

I still have my Brownie sock tassels AND the marching uniform for my Cabbage Patch Doll. My mom slash troop leader dyed the socks in tea. I broke out these artifacts, along with the beanie, when my girls were Brownies. They were unimpressed.
posted by Ruki at 11:26 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

When I was a little girl, I had some handbooks from the 1930s and 1940s and I really, really wanted to be a Girl Scout so I could wear the cute uniforms. My first glimpse of the actual uniforms horrified me, and then I found out that scouting involved camping, in other words, being outdoors, and was not just about wearing scarves and knitting socks.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:28 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

How much more interesting are the badges in 1987 than they are in 2015?

It really puts in perspective all the complaints about the Journeys program.
posted by madajb at 12:43 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

On one hand, Girl Scouts are an awesome organization.On the other hand, I was personally a most reluctant Brownie and those 80s era brown knee socks and polyester jumpers (shudder) . . .
posted by thivaia at 2:14 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh wow. Nothing was really hitting until that page of badges from 1987 and now it's all FLASHBACK and I was five yet I still remember 100% which of the brownie badges I had.

My troop sucked a lot, but I had a fantastic summer camp, and I'm really, really happy I had scouting. I think I still have my mom's handbook from the '50's somewhere too -- loved reading that, if only for the fantastic, sketchy art style, which was and is about a million times better than the cartoony-ness of my 80's/90's handbook.

Man. These are fantastic, but I would love scans of the handbooks through the decades...
posted by kalimac at 4:29 AM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

And I now have nostalgia for my old Boy Scouts troop. Does anyone know of an equivalent database for the Boy Scouts of America? Would love to troll through old Boy Scout Handbooks. Still have mine from 1995, but would be interesting to see the most recent and do a then versus now comparison.
posted by Fizz at 4:33 AM on October 11, 2015

This is delightful. I was a Canadian Brownie/Guide/Pathfinder at times and an American Brownie/Junior at other times through the 1990s and I loved the colourful Girl Scout badges (patches?) so, so much. The Canadian ones were much less exciting - both on what they looked like and in how you earned them. I still have them & it is with some yearning that I look at the ones here I never earned but world like to have...
posted by bibliotropic at 5:16 AM on October 11, 2015

I was a Brownie in the early 80s and am currently a troop leader (and service unit team member). My girls like their vests but have zero interest in buying the rest of the ensemble, including the new scarves and slides.

Our official "uniform" as leaders is supposed to be navy business attire, but that isn't happening for me, unless I end up going to our council's annual meeting or something else formal like that. Some councils sell navy leader vests but other councils strongly disapprove.

As for the current version of the program (Journeys, fewer skill badges, watering down of GS traditions/folklore), I bought a copy of Worlds to Explore (the Brownie/Junior handbook from when I was a kid) and use songs, stories, and games from it to supplement our meetings.
posted by candyland at 5:23 AM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Man I hate Girl Scout uniforms. I'm a leader and some leaders get really up their ass about the girls wearing uniforms and how society is literally crumbling to the ground because girls don't wear them anymore, and I just don't get it. My only thought is that perhaps they're all older than me and have nostalgia back to a time when they were scouts and remember uniforms that were actually kind of cute. But I joined the scouts in the 90s, and this was my first uniform.

That uniform consists of a single piece textured paisley print vest/jumper piece and high-waisted brown culottes with a belt to I guess give the illusion that you purchased two ugly pieces of clothing instead of just one. Then under that there's a light blue oxford that bunches up every time you move your arms, so you're constantly having to reach up under your culottes to pull the hem down while adults scowl at you for being uncouth. And whatever that canvas collar piece is that I'm pretty sure they just put on to choke little girls. Thankfully my mom didn't try pushing the socks or the beanie on me, knowing that would be a losing battle. The paisley culotte one piece that require an advanced degree in physics to figure out how to pee in were bad enough.

So no, no nostalgic love for Girl Scout uniforms here, and I've gotten into arguments with other leaders about it. There is no part of me that will ever make the girls in my troop wear the uniform (especially now that it's a white polo and khakis, god, how bland and dorky). My girls always look adorable. Girls fashion is an explosion of color right now--rainbow zebra print skirts over purple leggings, hot pink sparkly shoes, t-shirts with surprisingly tasteful rainbow glitter prints on them--stuff that makes me jealous, and I can't tell you how friggin cute they all look when they're wearing their sashes. They look like little girls and they look like individuals, all participating in something the love together. No one is uncomfortable and I don't feel like I'm in command of a dweeb army.

I'm not really a uniform person anyway, so it works out.
posted by phunniemee at 6:18 AM on October 11, 2015 [10 favorites]

These catalogs don't ring any bells for me . . . I remember my mom buying my uniform from JC Penney's - they had official uniform stuff on a special display there, including the tassel socks. I never ogled over the additional gear, though, because we couldn't afford it. I probably should have guessed there was, but I didn't even know you could buy other Girl Scout gear besides the smock/socks/sashes. Very interesting!
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:39 AM on October 11, 2015

oh how I hated the shitty brown polyester jumper dress, it was hot and scratchy and always, no matter how many times we cleaned it, smelled faintly of old hot dog water. But I really miss those brown woolly tights and I'm mad that it seems virtually impossible to find them in adult sizes.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:12 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

The cost of the uniform was the main reason my mother gave me for not letting me join the Girl Scouts. But I got the 1963 and 1964 catalogs in a box of used books, and I used to sit and pore over them. This is bringing back a lot of good memories.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:50 PM on October 11, 2015

I was a Girl Scout from 68 to 73 and yes, I still have my sash somewhere-- I made First Class!

I do remember getting these paper dolls and loving them. It seemed to me that all of the other countries had better uniforms then we did.

The best thing about scouting for me was the summer camp and I realize it was a bit of a financial hardship for my parents but gosh it was great. I'm 58 and the stanout memories of my childhood mostly have to do with scouting.

In the late 60's and early 70's it was still very popular and in my elementary school we had three different troops I think. You wore your uniform to school and no one made fun of you. Then in the mid 70's it stopped being cool and even though I wanted to still be a scout there was only one Senior troop in Long Beach and the meetings were too far away for me to walk or bike. By then my mother had gone back to work and so I had no way to get to the meetings. I was so upset because I had been looking forward to becoming a camp counselor and being in camp all summer instead of just 2 weeks.

I still have regrets.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:29 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I still have regrets.

pssst...you can be a troop leader. Poor neighborhoods need you.

posted by phunniemee at 4:36 PM on October 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

you get to go to summer camp and everything
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:19 PM on October 11, 2015

And museum sleepovers are the best! I became a leader firstly and nobly because our town had a shortage and existing troops were super selective about who they took in, but really, honestly, because it meant going to the Boston Museum of Science sleepover. Which I did a week and a half after getting my appendix out, because it is so worth it.

I've been a troop leader for six years, and I was feeling kinda burned out and unsure if I wanted to do it again this year, but, oh, this thread, and reminiscing about museum sleepovers has energized me!
posted by Ruki at 6:54 PM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Fizz: I don't know about historical Boy Scout handbooks, but there's a wiki for Boy Scout merit badges, both current ones and discontinued badges (e.g., Blacksmithing, Masonry, and Taxidermy).
posted by bentley at 8:31 PM on October 11, 2015

I remember in the 70s, seeing girls my age who were wearing girl scout uniforms with lots of badges, and how envious I was. I never had a uniform; they were too expensive. I had a green sash but who wants to wear a garment that brags about the cool things you've done, when there's nothing on it? The girls I saw that had all that stuff, were never the girls I knew. We saw them on TV, where they were altogether fictional, or we saw them walking around the mall, or in places we went on field trips. Always complete strangers.

There were handbooks with lists of what you had to do to earn a badge, but some adult had to track what was done, jump through the hoops to actually acquire those badges, keep track of who was supposed to get them, and hand them out when they arrived from the mysterious council authorities. Somehow it never got done.

Now I am old and I know the real story. When you see a troop with any badges at all, that means there's someone in the troop leadership who is organized enough to do it. And if you see a girl with lots of badges, that girl has helicopter parents who make it a priority to get that girl into the "good" troop, and who monitor the girl's progress and sign off on checklists. It's not about the kid at all; it's about the adults around them. The kid might as well be Girl Scout Barbie.
posted by elizilla at 10:46 AM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

And oh did I want to be Girl Scout Barbie, when I was ten or twelve...
posted by elizilla at 10:48 AM on October 12, 2015

oh man that 1997 catalog is giving me such intense nostalgia. i guess i was a brownie by that point but i still distinctly remember my daisy bib thing and this little activity/coloring book that we got at that age too. my troop eventually disbanded when we were around the cadette level since we all started playing competitive soccer and that sorta sucked up everyone's time, but i bet i still have all my vests etc somewhere at my folks' house. yay girl scouts!
posted by burgerrr at 2:45 PM on October 12, 2015

> It's not about the kid at all; it's about the adults around them. The kid might as well be Girl Scout Barbie

That's a gross way to put it and I'm sorry that was your experience. Since there are troops that meet in prisons, homeless shelters, and therapeutic residential homes, it's pretty clear that having a "helicopter parent" isn't a requirement to be a Girl Scout. Girl Scout leaders have a slogan: "Educate, don't decorate." Overly-involved parents and under-involved volunteers can be a problem, but if you saw the vest of one of my Scouts and presumed she was a "Girl Scout Barbie" dressed up by some adult -- and that she hadn't earned those badges by doing hard, fun work herself -- I'd be pissed.

> I never had a uniform; they were too expensive

Some of the girls in my troop get financial aid from our council and it covers a sash or vest, dues, a big chunk towards summer camp, and other things.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:52 PM on October 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

elizilla, as I said I had a sash full of badges and far from being a helicopter parent, my mother went back to school when I was in elementary school and then got a job full time.

Getting a badge was like doing homework and while there were lots of badges I couldn't get because they required equipment or access to things I didn't have, some of them were like "Bake a Cake." You followed the recipe, baked a cake and shared the result.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:57 PM on October 12, 2015

Disclaimer: I don't think "Bake a Cake" was an actual badge but there was a cooking badge. While I could not get the sailing badge because I didn't have access to a sailboat, I could and did memorize the semaphore flags for a badge.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:04 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was a Poor Kid of a Single Mother, and my experience was pretty similar to elizilla's. Which isn't to say that I don't think girl scouts as an association are fantastic and I had the best best time at Camp Hoover, but less of a good time in my girl scout troops, which were usually lead by the moms of the popular kids and devolved into arguing about which of the beauty-oriented or snack-related badges we would try to earn with me whining that I wanted to go hiking, damn it, and do some of the outdoor badges but being ignored. I'm pretty sure I got a free sash via financial aid (because I got everything via financial aid) but the other girls had the full uniforms and it was a pretty funny, out-of-place feeling. My sister had the full Brownie uniform because she was in it before my dad died, but it was outdated and all wrong by then.

It's like how I had the free lunch at school, which was great, because I got fed, but also you had to wait in line before school and had a lunch card while the other kids paid cash so it was a little embarrassing. You feel that kind of difference pretty deeply as a kid.

I think troop leader makes a big, big difference. I was actually never in a troop where the leader wasn't the mom of a rich, popular girl, which created a weird dynamic.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:04 PM on October 12, 2015

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