long sleeve polo with pocket Schools find ways to skirt uniform dilemma
Think you can still spot a Catholic school girl by her rolled up skirt?
Many school administrators are giving up the fight over skirt lengths, either by issuing a traditional jumper or eliminating the argument with uniform pants, depending on what part of the country they’re in.
The stereotypical Catholic school uniform plaid skirts, stiff dress pants and ties is still the standard in the Northeast. But elsewhere in the country, it’s getting a little more comfortable. Hoodies, for example, have replaced sweaters in many schools.
Maintaining a uniform, even a relaxed one, helps keep discipline, administrators say. Students aren’t really complaining, since they always know what to wear.
“I feel so much more free when I wear my uniform,” says Caroline Swaller, a junior at Rosati Kain High School in St. Louis. “I come to school on equal terms with everyone else.”High school students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are wearing almost the same uniforms their parents wore to school and on national television.
“We were so enthralled with watching the ‘American Bandstand’ kids,” says Lorraine Rice, president of Conwell Egan Catholic High School in Bucks County, Pa., recalling the years when Dick Clark filmed the dance show in Philadelphia.
“They would show up in Peter Pan blouses and skirts, and we made our moms go out and buy them. Then I moved here, and I found out it was the West Catholic (High School) uniforms.”
Conwell Egan’s uniforms hark back to that more modest era. The school recently switched back from a skirt to a jumper for its girls uniform, and from a polo shirt to a button down shirt and tie for boys.
“We found the girls were rolling the skirts up, and it was not at all modest,” Rice says.
The length of the navy blue jumper has changed at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School in Philadelphia, but not much else. It’s still worn with a Peter Pan collar shirt, knee socks and saddle shoes. Louis sounds simple: a polo shirt with a khaki or plaid skirt or khaki pants. But the school’s 400 girls still have options. The shirt is available in five colors, with a sleeveless option for warm weather. The khaki skirt and pants can come from any store in any style, so long as they meet the color and length requirements.
The girls lobbied for a plaid skirt after the movie “The Princess Diaries” came out in 2001, principal Sister Joan Andert says. But even when they wanted a dressier skirt, they wanted more comfortable shoes, Andert says. The girls now have the option of wearing Birkenstocks and athletic shoes.
Most high schools in the St. Louis Archdiocese let students wear sneakers and other casual attire, archdiocese spokeswoman Sue Brown says.
“Parents don’t want to go buy their little ones something they’ll wear only to school. We try to be sensitive to price issues for parents,” Brown says.
Miami, Fla., students are not at the beach, but they’re not wearing skirts, either. Officials at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Miami began phasing out skirts four years ago in favor of pants or walking shorts paired with tucked in shirts and loafers.
“Our top priority is comfort,” says senior Alexa Lopez. “We like our pants a little bit baggy. Sometimes the administration complains that our pants drag.”
The flat front, navy blue pants may not be trendy, but at least they’re flattering, other girls say.
“They look a lot like Dickie work pants,” says senior Annie Sullivan. “The pockets are very flattering, in the front. They don’t protrude on the side of your body, not like they would on the hips.”
St. Brendan High School in Miami also did away with uniform skirts and gave up requiring boys and girls to tuck in their shirts.
“We did away with skirts, because the skirts would shrink as the year went on,” says Brother Felix Elardo, the principal who oversees St. Brendan’s 1,200 students. “We had a battle with keeping the shirts inside, so we got shirts to be designed to be worn inside or outside the slacks.”An Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., spokesman said “What uniforms?” when asked about the policy for its high schools. Its principals have focused on other aspects of school life, but the attitude isn’t exactly laid back.
The mantra at De La Salle North Catholic High School could be “dress for success.” Each of the school’s 250 students works one day a week at a corporate internship that requires business appropriate attire. Administrators demand business attire for regular class days, too. That means shirts and ties and shined shoes for boys, and collared blouses with a skirt or pants for girls.
“If you come to school, you will see a school full of these young people who look like they’re going to work in downtown Portland,” says Tim Hennessy, the school’s vice president of development.