Spoiler Alert: Graduation’s New Look

Graduation, the holy grail of unchangeable Hockaday tradition, is going to be a little bit different this year. With TOMS instead of heels, the whimsical, flowing dresses, and even some new hat decorations, the class of ‘11 is creating a buzz.

This year’s dress, a graceful, taffeta number, differs dramatically from previous heavy, satin dresses. Debra Miller, mother of senior Isabel Miller, headed the committee to pick the perfect dress.

According to Miller, this process begins very early. Hockaday alternates between Neiman Marcus and Stanley Korshak bridal departments each year; this year was Stanley Korshak.

The Director of the Bridal Department proposed many dresses to Miller, her co-chair, and their daughters that met Hockaday’s strict guidelines—appropriate coverage, reasonable price, correct shade of white, and suitable straps.

“Some of the dresses were just too similar, so we eliminated one of the two,” explains Miller. “Some were just too dowdy, and those were easy to cut. You have to be able to envision the dress on all body types.”

Miller highlights one of the most important aspects of picking out a dress for over 100 girls: the dress must flatter everyone. And this year’s dress does just that.

“I think it’s beautiful,” says senior Irene. “It looks good on every single person, no matter what their body type.”

Miller immediately loved a dress with an empire waist, intricate detail, and a reasonable price, but it was strapless. No problem. Straps were attached, and the dress was made in white. This dress, along with many others, was voted on throughout the preliminary elimination process.

After the committee narrowed the dresses down to the top five, they went before the panel of judges tougher than Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum: the senior class. This dress gathered a whopping 85 percent of the votes in the first round—a clear win.

“I was delightfully surprised that we had such agreement,” says Rebekah Calhoun, the senior sponsor in charge of counting the votes. “It was just really fun to me that there was an overwhelming preference.”

The designer, Watters and Watters, is a local company started by two sisters 26 years ago.

“All the girls were thrilled that their class was supporting a local company,” says Miller.

But the girls were also thrilled with the dress itself, representing a new style for Hockaday graduation.

“Typically the dresses presented to the senior class are satin, A-Line shaped dresses, which are not forgiving,” says Miller. “The luminescent taffeta is very light and it also looks beautiful when you sit in it.”

“It’s not that ugly fabric that’s really hot and doesn’t move,” explains senior Kathryn Shin.

Senior Emily, while excited to wear the new dress, is also trying out a new style for her hat. Known for her artistic prowess, Emily is creating duct tape flowers to put on her hat along with the more traditional live floral arrangements.

She has made boutonnieres for all of her Homecoming and Winter Formal dates out of interesting materials like ribbon and tissue paper, but the duct tape one was her favorite, and so she chose that design for her walk across Graduation Terrace.

“The duct tape one looked really good, so I thought it would be cool to make it for my hat,” says Emily.

Dan Pierce, owner of Wild About Flowers, has created quite a few interesting graduation hats over the years, between 10 and 50 annually to be exact. Requiring roughly 250 blooms a pop, these hats are no easy feat. Not to mention, Pierce must accurately reflect each Hockadaisy’s exact requests and personality, an even harder accomplishment. Pierce recalls one flamboyant Hockaday alumna.

“She had a really outgoing personality, and she wanted it to just scream on top of her head,” explains Pierce.

After the hats are created, each girl drops by on the morning before graduation to make sure the decorations are up to par. According to Pierce, an array of brightly colored tropical flowers was not enough for this Hockadaisy.

“She wanted even more, so the flowers ended up going over even the crown of the hat,” Pierce says. “That one definitely stands out in my mind.”

While the usual larkspur, delphinium and red roses will continue to dot the stage, Emily will definitely be turning heads with her avant-garde decorations. And in their light as air dresses, the class of ‘11 will be cool, calm and collected sitting on the legendary steps of Graduation Terrace. At least until the last song.

—Allie