Hockaday Changes Uniform Companies

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Students will begin wearing uniforms from Mills Company instead of Parker Uniforms starting next year

STRIKE A POSE Lower school students perform a fashion show showcasing uniform options for the next school year. Photo provided by Charlotte Hoskins

STRIKE A POSE Lower school students perform a fashion show showcasing uniform options for the next school year. Photo provided by Charlotte Hoskins

Hockaday has a knack for balancing tradition and innovation. Just as the old science building will be gutted to build a new one, the Hockaday uniform will be improved and expanded for the centennial year.

Next year, Hockaday will switch uniform providers from Parker Uniforms to Mills Uniform Company, resulting in changes in the fabrics and apparel of the uniform. The transition to Mills will take three years; students may wear both Mills and Parker uniforms through the 2016-2017 school year, after which uniforms must only be purchased through Mills.

When Hockaday’s 30-year contract with Parker Uniforms came up for renewal, Dean of Students Meshea Matthews and former Chief Financial Officer Mary Pat Higgins decided to allow other uniform companies to bid for Hockaday’s business. After meeting several uniform companies, they decided on Mills because of its impressive personal service and quality of materials, Matthews said.

“We stand by every product that we sell, so if there are any problems with anything, we’ll replace it,” Dallas store manager Terri Patterson said.

This kind of personal service influences every aspect of Mills, from the online ordering to the in-store experience. Unlike Parker, the Mills Dallas store, located at Welch and Alpha, is laid out like a regular retail store with a Hockaday section organized by various categories based on grade level and clothing type. The store will also stock HockaToms shoes.

The website, which will start taking orders June 1,  follows the same format but also includes a picture and short description of each item, making the online experience very user-friendly.

Parents, however, may create accounts on the website prior to June 1.

The online Uniform Program Listing (UPL) will be specific to each parent, showing only the options that their daughters may wear based on grade level, Matthews said.

Additionally, parents will receive a bulletin in the summer showcasing the new uniform collection. The bulletin will include larger photos taken by Webmaster and Staff Photographer Charlotte Hoskins to supplement the small photos on the online UPL, Matthews said.

Merchandise ordered online will ship from the warehouse attached to the store, Matthews said, so orders could be received within 24 hours.

The Mills uniforms also offer solutions to some of the issues students have brought up.

For two years, Matthews and the Upper School Student Council listened to feedback from Hockaday students. They took into account “some reports of dissatisfaction for some things from Parker,” Matthews said, as well as preferences for the new Mills uniform options.

Matthews heard many complaints concerning the roughness of the fabrics used for the skirts and sweaters at Parker. She heard from the girls that the skirts are so “indestructible,” she said, “that it takes thousands of washings to get them to the softness they want” and also that the sweaters are “itchy and don’t breathe much.”

The Mills fabric, however, is much softer. Patterson described the fabric as a blend of polyester, cotton and a little bit of spandex. “It moves with you and it does have a very soft feel,” she said.

Even the fabric for the polo shirts will change to a softer blend. Junior Grace tried on the polo shirt as a part of a photo shoot showcasing the new Upper School uniforms.

“The polos are actually really comfy,” Grace said, “so I have no qualms there.”

Although the shirts, sweaters and skirts will be softer, one thing will remain the same: the Hockaplaid.

The Hockaplaid will also be taking on a new role in the form of pants. Though some controversy surrounded the addition of the pants to the Hockaday uniform, Grace, who also wore the pants for the photo shoot, described herself as looking like “a very classy ‘70s golfer,” she said.

Matthews originally decided to allow the pants for those students who “wish they had a little more opportunity to be creative, different, slightly off from the centerline of the Hockaday approved uniform,” she said. Grace agreed that some girls will prefer to buy the pants and wear them a lot.

Senior Marzia, who modeled the pants in the Upper School fashion show, said she hopes the pants will become a new trend.

The Hockaplaid will also be made into shorts. Though students could previously purchase Hockaplaid material from Parker to make their own shorts, the new shorts, based on the J.Crew City Short pattern, will be part of the new uniform collection at Mills.

Other items include a tie, a slouchy grey sweater and a new, more mature straight skirt in dark green.

Though Upper School students will no longer be able to wear the kilt, the Middle School uniform will offer a similar green-and-white windowpane skirt with a feminine-cut top that can be worn untucked. This option will also be part of the new fourth grade dress uniform.

Previously, the fourth grade uniform could only be worn in fourth grade, but now the fourth graders will be able to wear the uniform in Middle School, a decision that both parents and students, Lower School Head Randal Rhodus said, are excited about.

The new Lower School jumper, with a zipper down the front instead of the traditional buttons, also pleases parents, Rhodus said.

“It will be great especially for our young ones who will be able to get in and out of it by themselves,” she said.

The Lower School fashion show on April 8 showcased these new uniform pieces as well as various accessories provided by Mills, which the girls got to pick out themselves.

Hockaday has worked with Mills to take the new uniform pieces and fabrics and personalize them for Hockaday. This includes many custom-ordered items with a Hockaday logo that is both new and old.

Emblazoned on fourth grade dress shirts, the polo shirts and the fleeces, the new shield logo features the 1913 founding date and an “H” for Hockaday. Taken from the uniforms of the 1930s and ‘40s, it will serve as a symbol, an imprimatur of the old tradition on the new trends.

-Mary Clare