Students prefer shorter, old skirts instead of new ones
Sophomore Mae Zimmer walks into school on her first day, complete in her uniform of a white Mills shirt, all-white shoes and her favorite ESD-plaid Parker skirt that she has owned since fifth grade. She enters the first period to see her friends, some of whom have likewise held onto their skirts from years back, either from sentimental value or because it is their favorite to wear.
What she might not be aware of, or perhaps chooses to ignore, is that these older skirts may sometimes be in discordance with standard uniform policy.
This sensation of girls wearing skirts from years prior is not an isolated experience. Many prefer the look and feel of older skirts.
“My Parker skirts that are from fifth grade are my favorite,” Zimmer said. “They fit me the best and are the most comfortable to wear.”
In 2018, a major supplier of uniforms for private schools Parker School Uniforms closed its stores across Texas and other states. The abrupt shutting down of the stores was due to a rough patch in customer service and other internal issues. The company was soon replaced in Dallas by other uniform companies such as Lands’ End and Mills Uniform Company.
But although some girls still miss the discontinued skirts, they can cause a problem when they begin to come up too short.
“I prefer Parker skirts because they are softer and the button on them is nice over just a zipper,” sophomore Katelyn Hurt said. “But sometimes I can’t wear them because I have outgrown them, and they are too short.”
An Aug. 2 email from Head of Upper School Henry Heil addressed discipline and uniform standards for upper school students.
“This year, there will be a stronger focus on both how we present ourselves on campus, especially in regards to our personal appearance,” Heil wrote. “Tucking in shirts, wearing the appropriate shoes, shirts, and outerwear, ensuring skirts are of a length you would be comfortable wearing in a professional setting and shaving regularly are all important components of our uniform policy that need attention.”
While Zimmer agreed that placing a stronger attention on the presentation of the student body through uniforms can help students feel more unified, the email had her pondering the meaning of having a “professional” skirt length.
“Having a professional length to me means that nothing inappropriate is revealed,” Zimmer said. “So making sure your shorts are not showing under your skirt or your fingertips can reach the bottom of the hem is good.”
And ESD is not alone when it comes to the required skirt length. The Ursuline Academy of Dallas, first established in 1874, is a private all-girl school that shares a similar sentiment with Heil on the importance of uniforms in a professional setting at their school. The Ursuline plaid skirt is also legendary and a time-honored tradition for the school. The design by Hope Evans Verhalen ‘48, a renowned fashion designer, was introduced to the student body in 1971 and according to Ursuline’s Parent-Student Handbook, the red, white and blue plaid skirt hem may not be more than 3 inches above the knee.
“A uniform is not about being modest, about body shaming or about being anti-feminist, it’s about illustrating the appropriate attire for an educational “professional” setting,” Communications Associate at Ursuline, Aubree Auletta, said. “It reflects the values and mission of the school, and for the uniform to actually be the uniform.”
Along with Ursuline and ESD, the Parish Episcopal School agrees that wearing a uniform signifies membership in the student body. Their uniform includes certain styles of outerwear or colors based on Lower, Middle and Upper School, with skirt and short lengths no more than 3 inches above the knee.
“For Parish, uniforms are a part of the School’s tradition as a community that values a sense of spirit and unity within our inclusive Episcopal community, whose members are from a variety of backgrounds,” Director of Strategic Marketing & Communication at Parish, Heather Mills, said. “Having a common uniform is but one representation of that community.”
Dress code violations, however, are a present issue in schools that have uniforms. Auletta has seen the most infractions issued for dress code violations at Ursuline pertaining to skirts being too short.
“Students think it looks ‘cuter’ or better [to wear a shorter skirt] than wearing a longer skirt,” Auletta said. “Fashion also dictates a lot of this, too. It’s ‘in style’ or ‘trendy’ to have shorter skirts, dresses, shorts, etc.”
This trend in fact started decades ago. An article was published in 2021 by Jacqueline Vu of L’OFFICIEL USA, a French fashion magazine with a USA edition, on the evolution of girl’s school uniforms. The quintessential “schoolgirl” look that we recognize today was fortified in the late 1940s and ‘50s with an introduction by Christian Dior in 1947.
“I feel like the patterned skirt is iconic and usually associated with schools that wear uniforms,” Hurt said. “They’re definitely a classic that will probably be around forever.”