Leslie's Guiding History Site


Rainbow Uniform

Rainbow Uniform

Rainbows started in 1987, but before there were Rainbows, there were Bunnies.  They existed in Ulster Guiding from the 1960s, and expanded in the late 1970s - but in spite of that were almost unheard of in the rest of the UK.  

In the mid-1980s a proposal for a younger section before Brownies was launched.  Various pilot groups were set up in different localities, and each faced the question of uniform.  As the units often met after school, a full change of clothes was not convenient - hence most of the groups opted for some form of tabard to wear over the day-clothes.  

When the time came to launch the new section nationally, the experience of these pilot groups led to the decision that coloured tabards would be the appropriate uniform option for Rainbows, and a range in four colours was introduced at the launch of the section - Red, Yellow, Green and Blue.  (A few years later Orange and Violet tabards were introduced to the range).

March 1988 - Publication of "interim guidelines for Rainbow Guides".  These include "The section is known as the Rainbow Guide Section but individual groups may choose their own name within this section name."  "The minimum age is the current statutory school starting age."  "The minimum number of girls in a group is six and the maximum 15"  Uniform - "This consists of a tabard which may be in any colour of the rainbow, each group deciding on it's own colour."  "Designs for a cloth badge and other allied uniform matters are still being discussed,"  "girls in the Rainbow Guide Section will make a simple Promise as follows: I will do my best to love God and to be kind and helpful."  "The ratio of adults must be one adult to every five children.  Normally there are two adult leaders known as the Ranger Guider and the Assistant Rainbow Guider.  Within the unit they may be addressed by an alternative name.  Where there are 11-15 girls in a unit, a second Assistant Guider is required.  There must not be more than four adults except with the District Commissioner's permission.  In each unit one of the Guiders must have attained the age of 21."
March 1988 - The following Rainbow items will be available mid-end March.  "Rainbow Tabards, ready-made, two sizes - small and medium, red, blue, green or yellow only.  Tabard Pattern for home dressmakers.  Rainbow Badge for girls to wear on tabard - centre chest."

The Promise badge had originally been triangular, worn stitched against the binding in the middle of the tabard's neckline.  When Guiding moved to having matching Promise badges in January 1994, this was replaced by a Promise badge in the same style as the other sections, but with green infill.  

However, there was one difference to the other sections - the Rainbow Promise Badge continued to be produced in cloth only, whereas other sections had pin badges - this was stated to be on grounds of safety, as Rainbows could be injured by pin-on badges.  

This decision wasn't the only source of upset, for with this new design, the Rainbow Promise Badge no longer featured a rainbow on it, so a decision was hastily made to manufacture curved badges featuring a rainbow, which could be sewn above the Promise Badge, and this was issued from February 1995.  Although this resolved one issue, it didn't deal with the pressure from Rainbow Leaders, who wanted their girls to have a uniform like the other sections, and a pin-on Promise Badge like the other sections.

For by this time, too, there was pressure from Rainbow Leaders over uniform.  The uniform changes in 1990 hadn't affected Rainbows, who retained the tabard introduced three years before when the other sections 'went mix-and-match'.  

As a concession, a few months after the main uniform launch, it was announced that Rainbows too would get a baseball cap, in green, and it launched in October 1990.  

Soon after, some other optional leisurewear for Rainbows was produced, also in green - a t-shirt, and a pair of shorts.  But as these did not count as uniform, and besides, were only suitable for wearing for a few weeks in summer, sales were not extensive, and they were only available for a limited number of years.  

In 2002 another range of Rainbow leisurewear was tried, a sweatshirt in pink and white, and a purple jacket - but again, with this being leisurewear not uniform, few families invested.  

August 2004 - New Rainbow uniform, designed by Ally Capellino.  "The existing tabard will become an optional item - however the yellow and orange tabards will no longer be available due to a lack of sales."  The items are a Rainbow hooded jacket in red with light blue trim, polo shirt in pale blue with red collar and sleeves, cycle shorts in red with light blue trim, joggers in red with light blue trim, and red baseball cap, all with the new Rainbows logo.

Eventually the pressure paid off, and a range of Rainbow uniform was introduced like the other sections.  There was a hoodie, joggers, shorts and a polo shirt, all in light blue and red.  With them came a new Promise badge - and again, now they had a metal pin-on badge just like the older sections did, with a pale blue enamel.  

And at time of writing in 2022, the uniform introduced then continues to be current.