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Constance Alexander: Always prepared, Girl Scouts embrace fashion update, seek ‘something cooler’

Today, when a Girl Scout opens the door to her closet, she is not greeted by a sea of green. As a result of a recent fashion update, official Scouts-branded apparel now includes blue denim, black leggings, and a khaki utility vest with a notch collar, epaulet shoulders, and a gently cinched waist.

With input from dozens of Scouts, a three-person team of Fashion Institute of Technology students learned that young women “wanted something cooler” for their official attire. Pockets, for instance, were a must. Not just any pockets either. They had to be large enough to fit the largest model iPhone.

A former 5-year employee of the Kentuckiana Girl Scout Council, Ronda Dalton Gibson, welcomed news of the fashion updates. “I think opting for a more contemporary look is a very, very wise move,” she said, “especially incorporating items likely already in their closets.”

While most former Scouts welcome the new look, others cling to the oldies. Toby Shapiro still has all her badges and other paraphernalia that went along with the uniform. She cherishes memories of her New Jersey troop and applauds the concept of designing a new Girl Scout look.

“I think it’s fine that they are changing uniforms. Why not?” she asked. “Change is good.”

Jenni Hopkins Todd and Robyn Pizzo, from Murray, intend to pass down a few of their Scouting accoutrements to their own daughters. Ms. Todd reported that she still has a Brownie jumper and brown and white button-down shirt, along with, “The brown socks and these weird sock-holder-up thingies with orange tassels, and my Brownie sash.”

Ms. Pizzo saved her Brownie knee socks for her little girl, Hazel.

Cynthia Torp, owner and president of Louisville’s Solid Light, Inc., credits her mother — a scout in the 1920s and 30s — for inspiring her interest in Girl Scouts.

“I loved her uniforms from her childhood,” Cynthia said. “And when I was a Girl Scout, I was very proud of my uniform. I worked very hard to make sure I filled my sash with badges, which I sewed on myself.”

Gingy Flora Grider treasures a photo of her Brownie troop from the mid-1960s. She got hooked on scouting then, and her interest lasted into her high school years. When she lived in Bindlach, Germany, she stayed involved and even served as the Girl Scout Neighborhood Chairman for the post.

“We didn’t order cookies,” Ms. Grider recalled. “We received what cookies that were left over from the States and we sold them. They didn’t last long.”

Alums of Troop 50 in NJ recently reunited on Facebook to wax nostalgic about their camping and hiking adventures as Scouts, with no mention of what they wore. Karen Jensen Kier will never forget making a vagabond stove device for preparing single meals.

“I still have the scar from my buddy burner,” she said.

She also reported breaking her arm when she tried to jump over a creek on a Scouting hike. “Once a ‘Lucy’ always a Lucy,” she remarked.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

With 40 years of active participation, Karen Olson has been a Scout, a leader, trainer, and a nominating committee member for the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana. Quick to point out that the skills learned in Girl Scouts last a lifetime, she described a fool-proof process for building a fire that came in handy all over Kentucky during the ice storm of 2009.

“Grab a handful of dryer lint,” she advised, “and then pack it into a leftover toilet paper roll for kindling.”

Cynthis Torp also recognizes the lifelong, practical benefits. “Girl Scouts taught me that I could do most anything I put my mind to,” she said. “I learned how to build a campfire — which I still do on a regular basis today — and all kinds of outdoor skills. But more importantly, I learned to be a leader. Girl Scouts is the preeminent girls’ leadership organization in the world, and a large percentage of today’s women business owners and leaders were Girl Scouts.”

Ms. Torp leads by example. On the board of the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana for six years as Fund Development Chair, she is a lifetime member of Girl Scouts as well as a member of the Juliette Gordon Low Society, which means that she has pledged a planned gift to the organization. Solid Light, her Louisville-based company, is currently working with the organization to renovate and upgrade the visitor experience.

Recent retiree from Murray State University, Debbie Bell looks back on Scouting rituals with nostalgia. “I certainly remember wearing my Girl Scout uniform with pride, especially with a sash filled with badges that weren’t easy to earn. My church helped sponsor my troop, and on Scout Sunday two lines of adolescent girls marched in toward the front of the church all wearing the Kelly green dress, green knee socks, and our little matching green tam hats.”

“In the back of the church,” she went on, “stood my mother with a pin cushion, needle, and green thread in hand because someone always had a hem to men or a popped button to replace. Downstairs, where we met for meetings, stood an old ironing board and a worn-out iron used to press the green dresses into starched perfection. We did look awesome.”

For a link to the Juliette Gordon Lowe Birthplace, in Savannah, Ga., go to juliettegordonlowbirthplace.org.

A link to a New York Times article about the Girl Scout uniform updates is available at www.nytimes.com.

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