August 16, 2010

Updating the Uniform: Students who wear school uniforms are mixing colors, styles and accessories

By Sondra Hernandez, Staff Writer / The Houston Chronicle (hcnonline.com)

Lauren Dacy dosen’t mind wearing a school uniform.

“It’s just a lot easier. You don’t have to think about picking out an outfit, just put something on and go,” said Dacy, a 17-year-old senior at St. Agnes Academy in Houston.

As a St. Agnes student, she has the option of three different button-up Oxford shirts, a gray or blue skirt or navy or khaki shorts or sweatshirts or polos with the St. Agnes logo.

But she does like to dress up the basic uniform every now and then.

“I have a bunch of different shoes like sneakers or flats,” she said. She also likes to wear charm bracelets or frienship bracelets that other friends have made.

According to Brigid Schiro, Dean of Students at the all-female St. Agnes, the girls can dress up their uniforms with scarves, tights or socks of any color and size.

Some wear jewelry and others express themselves through their hairstyles, though the rules state their hair must be neat and of a natural color.

But she says a lot of the pressure to dress up or have the latest fashion trend is off at the all-girls academy.

“I love that uniforms are the great equalizer. I don’t think there’s as much emphasis on how you look,” Schiro said.

“The uniforms allow the students to concentrate on why they’re here, which is to get an education.”

Students have a variety of places to purchase and accessorize their uniforms with Parker Uniforms, Mills Wear Uniforms, the Austin Clothing Company sold at Academy Sports and Outdoors stores and French Toast uniform line that is sold in Houston stores, just to name a few.

While they may be school uniforms, there’s no limit to the colors and styles of clothing sold.

At Academy, white, navy and red are the top three colors for polos and khaki is the most popular color for shorts and pants, according to Academy Sports and Outdoors spokesperson Elise Hasbrook.

She also said polos, flat front pants and shorts are the most popular uniform styles.

Students also have the option of accessorizing their uniforms with colored shoe laces, hair accessories, sunglasses, watches, cell phone covers, colorful backpacks, stickers, shaped rubber band bracelets and more all all students to express themselves in their own way, she said.

“It’s important to note that each school in HISD determines it’s own dress code. Since uniforms vary from school to school, parents should contact their child’s school about dress cod requirements regarding accessories,” Hasbrook said.

Academy relies on customer feedback and research to modify uniform designs from year to year.

“One specific chage we made this year is the length of our boys’ shorts,” she said. “We added two inches to the length based on feedback from customers last year.”

Some schools also require particular type of shoe to go with the uniforms.

According to Hasbrook, some of the most popular uniform shoes are New Balance 623s in solid white or black for $29.99 and the new Nike VXT in solid white or black for $32.99.

Mills uniforms also has three locations in Houston.

The company was founded in San Francisco in 1947 by Sue Mills to service the city’s private and Catholic schools.

“She was a master seamstress and designer and we initially manufactured goods for sale through department stores,” said Suzette Mills-Foley, the founders granddaughter.

Mills now services schools from Honolulu to New York City through retail and on-line stores.

“Mills was the first to incorporate a fashion sense to durable schoolwear with new and custom plaids and colors as well as cotton polos, sweaters, pants and shirts,” Mills-Foley said.

She said current trends include khaki flat front pants and longer shorts for boys paired with cotton polo shirts in white, navy or black.

“A classic Oxford shirt in white or stripes dresses things up for field trips or chapel days,” she said.

She said girls like khaki skorts, Bermuda shorts and box-pleat skirts. They like to pair these with feminine cut polo shirts in white and sky blue, or a stretch poplin princess blouse.

Mills-Foley added that many schools have a signature plaid, which Mills offers in pleated skirts and front-zip jumpers for younger girls.

And all kids love the thick cotton sweatshirts with their school logo or microfleece jackets for colder days.

Mills-Foley said students often find a way to make a uniform uniquely theirs.

“Students also sometimes layer their shirts or buy things bigger or smaller,” she said. “And rolling skirts to shorten them is as popular today as it was 30 years ago.”

St. Agnes started school on Monday and Houston ISD schools return to the classroom on Aug. 23.