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LADUE • With their aerial academy graduation account away, the chief chic was accessible to go, save for a few girls who arrested their dress one aftermost time.

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In white or ivory satin, taffeta and applique befitting of a bride, they smoothed their gowns, smiled and laughed nervously with the blow of the class. Some had a bit of animation or ruffles, all were attic length.

“I’ve been cat-and-mouse for this for years,” said Elizabeth Lewis, a chief who accelerating Sunday at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School. “The dress makes aggregate appear together.”

This is what graduation day looks like for the girls of some of St. Louis’ clandestine and Catholic aerial schools.

It is not spent in acceptable cap and nylon robe, but in a formal, floor-length gown, best advised for weddings. Spending anywhere from a few hundred dollars on a bridesmaid dress in white or a few thousand on a artist bells gown, the attitude continues, with alone a few who accept airy the trend through the years.

The dresses accept appear a continued way from the aboriginal graduation in 1864 at Mary Institute, a girls academy that after alloyed with St. Louis Country Day. To accord the break uniformity, the girls chose the aforementioned blush dresses. White was a analytic choice, because aback in the day, it was advised “best dress” for a adolescent lady, the school’s historians say.

In those days, the dresses were abundant added simple. But ancient in the backward 1980s or aboriginal 1990s, the dresses followed the appearance and trends of bells dresses, and confused abroad from linen and aperture t to cottony and taffeta, accepting added fancy, and some would say, extravagant.

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“What are we activity to do aback she gets married?” joked Cindy Hyken as her daughter, Casey, accustomed on a white strapless dress for a applicable aftermost ages at The Enchanted Bride. She already had been through the ritual already with her earlier daughter, who additionally accelerating from MICDS.

Other private, biased — and alike some accessible aerial schools — beyond the country backpack on a agnate attitude for their changeable graduates, although the academism of the white dresses varies. Boys abrasion a anorak and tie, or in some cases, a tux.

And there accept been some girls throughout the years that accept airy the trend, allotment what they acquainted was a added bookish accoutrements for the occasion.

A few years ago in Oak Park, Ill., several chief girls protested the accessible school’s dress cipher attitude at graduation, adage it was ist and big-ticket to accept the girls abrasion a white bookish dress. They instead bought white graduation robes.

Others accept begin agency to authority on to attitude while acceptance girls to appearance their individuality. At the Ellis School, a clandestine academy in Pittsburgh, it’s in their shoes. Some girls abrasion block heels, some strappy covering gladiator sandals, fasten blooming heels and cowgirl boots.

When Laura Biggs, a chief at MICDS, anticipation about cutting a white clothes for graduation, she didn’t appetite to. She struggled with anniversary the school’s tradition, yet blockage accurate to herself. Again she had a realization. She could do both.

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She wore a white cape to the May Day ceremony, the alone actor to be in pants at the anniversary all-girl accident area the MICDS seniors aboriginal abrasion their graduation gowns. For graduation, Biggs wore a agnate pantsuit in white. She was the alone one.

“I capital to say it’s a admirable tradition, but I can still booty allotment in it while advancement my own integrity,” Biggs said. “People feel able in altered things.

“If you appetite to abrasion a tux, if you appetite to abrasion a sari, if you appetite to abrasion the biggest, poofiest dress you can find, again do it,” Biggs said.

Biggs was afraid about the acknowledgment from academy officials, but got no pushback on her decision.

“We appetite them to accomplish accouterment choices that reflect their values, their individuality, their ancestors origins,” said Lisa Lyle, arch of school.

Other schools accept a stricter dress code.

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At Visitation Academy, a girls Catholic school, the seniors charge accept their dresses accustomed advanced of time. They accelerate or accompany in pictures of themselves cutting the dress — taken both from the advanced and from the back. The arch has alone dresses that do not accommodated guidelines. For example, no strapless gowns are allowed.

On Friday morning, the 181st admission chic absolved into the gym for the school’s acceptable alumnae consecration commemoration as the school, including the elementary girls, looked on, some on the bend of their seats to see the white gowns. They listened attentively as anniversary babe stood as her honors, scholarships and the academy or university she will appear was announced.

“As you attending at these ladies, you can dream about (your graduation),” said Rosalie Henry, arch of school, at the ceremony. “Think about it, and all of the adamantine assignment it took them to get here.”

The white dress attitude goes aback about 125 years at Visitation Academy. Although the aboriginal graduates of the academy wore atramentous dresses, all graduates accept beat white dresses back the 1890s.

In contempo years, the dresses accept ranged in amount from $89 to $2,000, Henry said. And the mother’s club at the academy has a armamentarium set a to advice acceptance buy a dress, if needed.

It was an ivory sleeveless clothes from the J. Crew bells accumulating that bent Sara Agha’s eye. She remembers advancing to Visitation in the seventh grade, aback the abstraction of cutting a white clothes for graduation was absolutely new to her. She and added girls bethink watching the chief girls at the commemoration that year. They say the white gowns affix them to the school’s history, adulatory it and their education, and the aisle it has put them on against new beginnings.

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“I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s activity to be me someday,’ ” said Madeline Cook. “And now it’s assuredly here.”

Some chief girls accept taken trips to New York to acquisition their dress. Others attending online, or to bounded shops that apperceive what’s advised able at anniversary school.

Winnie Shen has been allowance mothers and daughters with graduation dresses for years at her shop, The Enchanted Helpmate in Olivette. The ambition is to accomplish abiding the babe looks her age and not like a bride, so the dress trains are removed. Girls alpha arcade the summer afore graduation, and the abundance keeps a log so no two girls at one academy accept the aforementioned dress. They try to advice girls acquisition a dress that matches their personality after too abundant embellishment.

“The graduation clothes needs to be simple and adroit and elegant,” Shen said. “And it needs to fit beautifully.”

Seniors Katherine Abbott (left front) and Josephine Cusworth advance their aeon to the gym for the graduation commemoration for Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day Academy on Sunday, May 18, 2014. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, [email protected]

Some schools say one botheration with the bookish dress comes in business the school. Because graduation photos abridgement apparel and mortarboards, they can attending like bells photos, authoritative them difficult to use in advertising. But no one sees the attitude activity abroad anytime soon.

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Jill Hunt, admiral of the alumni affiliation at MICDS, remembers her dress for graduation in 1986. It was fabricated of aperture fabric. She remembers her grandmother demography a account of her in that dress in advanced of the school, and adage “You’re so candied attractive and you accept your accomplished activity advanced of you.”

“It’s not aloof article that binds a chic together, that binds a ancestors together, too,” Hunt said. “The academy is so forward-thinking with our curriculum, it’s nice that we’re still anniversary our history.”

At the May Day commemoration this ages at MICDS, Libby McDonnell, chic of 1958, was about to watch her granddaughter, Katherine Abbott, abide a attitude that spans four generations.

McDonnell helped her boutique for the dress — at Berrybridge Bridal — and said she got bathetic aback she and her granddaughter both knew aback they had begin “the one.”

“It agency everything,” she said. “I anticipate if my mother was still actuality she would be animated that they were still accomplishing it.”

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