Graduation Attire

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

List of 14 frequently asked questions.

  • What has Hockaday decided about graduation attire for the Class of 2022 and beyond? 

    Hockaday has decided to make a modest change to the attire options available to our graduating seniors. Hockaday will continue our longstanding tradition of the graduating class collectively voting on the single white dress that will be worn at graduation. Beginning with the Class of 2022, in addition to the white dress chosen by their class, seniors will have the option to graduate in a traditional white academic graduation robe and mortarboard in addition to or as an alternative to the graduation dress. 

    This decision will apply to the Class of 2022 and future graduating classes at Hockaday. We believe this option will enhance the experience for individual students while still honoring Hockaday’s traditions and values. 

  • What was the process used to reach this decision? 

    Hockaday’s decision was based on thorough research and reflection by a Graduation Attire Work Group. Dr. Karen Warren Coleman, Eugene McDermott Head of School, convened the Work Group in June 2021, and the group worked throughout the summer and fall to examine Hockaday’s history, survey peer schools on their practices, and review other resource materials on this topic. The Work Group consulted with and kept the Board of Trustees apprised throughout its process, and the Board supported its recommendation. School leaders also consulted with the Senior Class dress moms, the Alumnae Association Executive Committee and members of the Board, the Hockaday Parents' Association Executive Committee, the Leadership Team, faculty members, and members of the Class of 2022. 

  • Why was the Graduation Attire Work Group formed? 

    In spring 2021, shortly before the Class of 2021 graduation ceremony on May 15, two graduating seniors requested an exception to the graduation dress. After thorough discussions with the Executive Committee and the full Board of Trustees about the options available to School leaders, the Board supported School leadership in allowing the two students to wear a traditional white academic graduation robe and mortarboard provided by the School.  
      
    As a follow-up to these discussions, the Board requested that Dr.  Coleman, Eugene McDermott Head of School, convene a small, internal working group to consider whether Hockaday should allow exceptions to the graduation dress in the future and, if so, what the nature of those exceptions should be. 

  • Who was involved in the Work Group? 

    The group included Dr. Coleman, Eugene McDermott Head of School; Dr. Laura Leathers, Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs; Amy Wintermeyer, Assistant Head of School for Student Experience; Lisa Culbertson ’96, Head of Upper School; and Dr. Tiffani Kocsis, Assistant Head of Upper School. This fall, the Group’s membership expanded to include Jessica Epperson ’96, Director of Development and Strategic Initiatives; Holly Hook, HPA and Benefit Liaison; and Amy Spence ’87, Director of Alumnae Relations.   

  • What is the history of graduation attire at Hockaday? 

    The white dress and hat that Hockaday students wear to graduation are a longstanding and valued tradition. Having all the girls wear the same attire is a symbol of their unity as a class. Historical photos and narrative are available in the Centennial Anthology graduation pages. This dress history pictorial shows that the style of the dress, including length, has changed considerably over the years, often reflecting the style of the time.  
     
    The flowered hat and shoes worn by Hockaday graduates also have changed over the years. Students are measured for hats at the fall dress fitting, at which time they also select their hat color (pink, purple, yellow, orange, blue, green, white).   

    The Hockaday School, An Anthology of Voices and Views (1913 – 2013)
    Lee, S., Cullum, B., Leuschel, J., Ards, A., & Muldoon, M. (2013)
  • What is the current process for selecting graduation attire? 

    Each year, the graduating senior class selects the single dress that will be worn at that class’s graduation ceremony in May. The dress selection process is supported by volunteer Hockaday “dress moms” who begin working with our dress vendor each summer to identify a selection of dresses appropriate for graduation. The final selections are reviewed with the Head of Upper School and the Head of School. About 6-8 options are typically presented to students at a Style Show in September, and the entire class votes on the dress they will wear at their graduation ceremony in May. Students then go through an initial fitting, and dress orders are placed by the School. The girls have another fitting with the tailor to determine if alternations are needed.   

  • What will happen with this year’s process for selecting and ordering graduation attire? 

    This year’s process is proceeding as it always does. The Senior Style Show was held in September 2021 and the Class of 2022 selected its graduation dress. Girls were fitted and dress orders have been placed for graduation in May 2022. 

  • What is the history of Hockaday students requesting exceptions to graduation attire? 

    Hockaday receives about 8-10 exception requests per year, with the majority of requests relating to either religious or body image concerns; the remaining requests have varied in reason. Additionally, we know that some students do not voice their concerns, and the School finds out about their discomfort with the dress after graduation.  
     
    Often, modesty panels or sleeves/caplets are added to the dress for concerns that arise after the dress selection is announced. Typically, body image concerns arise during the tailoring process when alterations become much more difficult due to the dress’s boning, rouching, and fabric type.  
     
    More significant exceptions, such as allowing attire that is different from the selected dress, were not allowed until May 2021. The result has been that in recent years, one or more graduating students did not feel comfortable wearing the selected dress and were not able to participate in their graduation ceremony or did so under duress. 

  • What is the rationale behind the Work Group’s recommendation? 

    The Work Group based its decision primarily on what it learned about student well-being and peer practices. All of the girls’ schools researched by the Work Group allow students some degree of choice in their graduation attire; Hockaday is the only girls’ school included in the research that did not, prior to the exception allowed in May 2021. In addition, for students who have body image concerns or other reservations about wearing the dress, being forced to choose between being deeply uncomfortable and not being able to participate in their graduation ceremony is a destructive decision that does harm to our students’ social and emotional health.  
     
    Our students’ graduation day should be one of the most joyful occasions in their young lives. Offering this option removes a significant burden for a small number of our students.  

  • What did Hockaday learn about graduation attire practices at peer schools? 

    Hockaday researched 44 schools, including five co-ed schools. All 39 of the single gender schools for girls surveyed by the Work Group allow students some degree of choice in their graduation attire, indicating that Hockaday is an outlier among its peer schools. Many allow graduates to wear white attire of their choice, including pants, jumpsuits, and tuxedos at graduation. There is a growing movement toward the traditional academic graduation regalia as a more fitting symbol of serious academic achievement. 
     
    Click here to see a list of peer schools included in Hockaday's research. 

  • Summary Data from Peer Benchmarking 

    Attire Policy  
    Number of Schools 
    Single White Dress (no exceptions) 
    1 (Hockaday) 
    Single White Dress (with exceptions; i.e. graduation robe and mortarboard) 
    2 
    Any white dress (students’ choice but must be approved by school) 
    1 
    Any White Dress, students’ choice (pants permitted by exception) 
    1 
    White dress, chosen from 10-15 options 
    1 
    White attire (dress, pants, suit; students’ choice) 
    20 
    Non-white dress (student’s choice) 
    1 
    Robe & Mortarboard (white) 
    8 
    Robe & Mortarboard (other color) 
    4 
    Total 
    39 single gender schools for girls 
     
    Click here to see a list of peer schools included in Hockaday's research. 


  • How does this decision support student well-being? 

  • Who else was consulted about this decision? 

    The Work Group consulted with and kept the Board of Trustees apprised throughout its process, and the Board supported its recommendation. School leaders also consulted with the Senior Class dress moms, the Alumnae Association Executive Committee and members of the Board, the Hockaday Parents' Association Executive Committee, the Leadership Team, faculty members, and members of the Class of 2022. 

  • Is this decision consistent with Hockaday’s mission and values as a girls’ school? 

    Yes. Hockaday can make a change to the attire options available to our graduating seniors while remaining fully committed to our mission and values as a school that educates girls. In addition, we believe this decision is consistent with our aspirations as outlined in The Hockaday Difference strategic plan. 
     
    Our first goal in “The Hockaday Difference” is to be “the recognized leader in education and a model for how to educate girls — developing creative and divergent thinkers who are prepared to lead lives of purpose and impact in a rapidly changing, complex, and connected world.” Our current policy does not encourage divergent thinking by our girls, nor does it acknowledge the rapidly changing, complex, and connected world in which they are graduating.  

    Hockaday remains committed to our mission: “Believing in the limitless potential of girls, Hockaday develops resilient, confident women who are educated and inspired to lead lives of purpose and impact.” We believe this change allows us to live our mission more fully. 

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