Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Guide for Purchasing New Band Uniforms

At one time or another, every band director is faced with the excitement, trials and tribulations and, yes, even the disappointments of budgeting, designing, purchasing, receiving, fitting and issuing band uniforms. This responsibility of purchasing band uniforms is the single most expensive purchase you will be entrusted with, the results of which will be seen by thousands of people over the course of many years. Intimidating so far? What can you do to avoid the many obstacles and pitfalls that await you? The primary purpose of this publication is to help guide you in dealing with this awesome but most important task.

How and Where to Begin When Purchasing Your New Band Uniforms:
You may want to for a committee to assist in the design, evaluation, selection and possibly financial support of your new band uniforms. Suggestively, the committee members should be comprised of the band director (head of committee), an economics teacher, local tailor, principal or superintendent's spouse, board members' spouses, and band booster parents. keep in mind, unless you establish clear objectives and guidelines to begin with, some of the problems you can experience with committees may be dissension, getting everyone together when needed, or creating delays that directly affect your delivery. Below is a list of points to make sure to consider when purchasing your band uniforms.

1. Choosing a Manufacturer (Representative) for Your Band Uniforms:
Even if you have had past experience in purchasing band uniforms, it's always advisable to work with professionals. Keeping you advised on current trends in design, fabric usage, new features, construction/tailoring methods and references is only a portion of their responsibility to you and the company they represent. It is in their best interest to serve and assess your every need, from design to delivery to the fitting of your band uniforms. In other words, they offer expert advice from start to finish. Selecting a manufacturer and representative is an important aspect of getting started. You might start by calling some of your peers regarding their experiences, check through state and national publications for advertisements, or call your state Bandmasters and Music Educators Association for those manufacturers that have been supportive. Select and evaluate the company's representative much like you do when purchasing musical instruments. Choose someone you feel comfortable with and are confident they will work with you from design to delivery for your band uniforms. After all, this is a major expenditure and you want to be certain that every effort in design, quality and appearance will be expended on your behalf.

2. Designing and Preparing Your Band Uniforms:
Your company representative is now ready to work with you and your committee on the visuals, fabric color selections and accessory appointments to achieve the overall visual impact you want to relay.

Areas to consider:
A. Corps Style Band Uniforms - Most prevalent is the Blue Devil look, waist length coats with or without tails, open or closed front. Flashes of bright, contrasting colors and trim are generally utilized. The use of baldrics, capes, gauntlets, etc., accentuate movement. Coordination and overall appearance of the front line units are incorporated in a multitude of colors and styles.

B. Military Style Band Uniforms - The emphasis is on the traditional military look. Seat length or waist length (with or without tails) coats. The regimented "West Point" style has a more disciplined appearance with trim in West Point bars, trefoils or combinations. Variations of front line design relate to a very versatile look.

C. Mult-Use Style Band Uniforms - Commonly known as a "tux-overlay," this style affords the school two uniforms. A formal concert look that is attractive, yet, simple in style. By simply putting on the custom designed overlay, you are ready to compete on the marching field. Depending on your needs, this overlay can range from very plain to very ornate and decorative.

3. Points of Interest:
When designing your band uniform, keep in mind the type and style of music you march to and your competition style. Regarding lettering and trim, if it isn't clearly visible from a distance, is it worth the extra money to apply them on all the garments? You may want to consider including an extra pair of trousers in your budget. This way, it will afford you a different "Home" and "Away" look. Because this age group grows at an alarming rate, it is strongly suggested that you order trousers unhemmed to compensate for normal growth.

4. Band Uniform Sketch:
The company representative will listen, advise, record and exchange thoughts and ideas for your total design package. This information is relayed to the manufacturer's artist, who in turn will prepare a full-color sketch of the band uniform. This sketch will allow you, your committee and company representative to review and evaluate the design. A picture is worth a thousand words -- has the sketch captured and express the visual impact you expected? At this point, you should determine if any minor changes are required, and have them noted and recorded by the representative. Once the sketch is approved, you are ready for the next step of designing the sample band uniform.

5. Band Uniform Sample:
The attention to detail in designing the sample is critical and perhaps the most important step. The feature and benefits of how the band uniform is constructed will be explained and reviewed by your representative. Inner-construction details and quality tailoring methods will dictate not only appearance and shape retention, but also the longevity of the garments. Fabric, materials, trim, accessories and their application will be explained by your representative. Remember, wool or any blend of wool cannot be dyed optic or snow white. Only 100% polyester will allow you a bright, optic white. You can generally utilize a mixture of fabrics to accomplish your final design. Once the specifications are written and approved, it generally takes about two to three weeks for the sample band uniform to be manufactured and delivered for inspection and review.

6. Band Uniform Sample Approval:
A company representative will present the finished sample to you and your committee for a scrutinizing review. it is recommended to choose a student, size 38 regular, to model the uniform. Since you are looking at only one band uniform, but purchasing 50-200 (or more), have the student model and march both inside under artificial lights, as well as outside in natural light. Pay close attention to braid and embroidery. Can you see it clearly? Does it have the impact you expected? If it doesn't why spend the additional money? You should make any changes in detail and have them recorded by the representative at this stage. It is now his job to relay to the manufacturer that this is exactly how you want your band uniforms manufactured. It is also wise to take some photos of the uniform for your records at this time.

7. Band Uniforms Specifications:
Whether or not your school district requires a bid process, it is suggested that the representative submit a bid specifications package, that in most cases, also serves as manufacturing specifications. It should list all for the requirements for the band uniforms (coat, trousers, capes, shakos, plumes, etc.) as well as quantities. This should include drum major, front line and auxiliary units. The representative will advise you on attention to detail (i.e. uniforms to be shipped on hangers, in dry-cleaning bags, a name and number list, some safeguards such as warranty, references, bid bond, care and maintenance manual, and material certificate of quality. If it is necessary to receive competitive quotes, you should be certain that each company is bidding on the same items. Your administration usually has a standard form letter that accompanies each bid, detailing deadlines for receiving the sample band uniform and bid quotations. Exact samples are not required, but you can request a stock sample made according to your construction and style specifications from each of the companies you have selected to quote. Require that sample band uniforms be delivered 5-7 days prior to the bid opening for a proper evaluation.

8. Sample Evaluations & Decision:
Once all the sample band uniforms have been received, and prior to the bid opening, the committee should now evaluate the samples. Using the specifications as a guideline, each uniform should be examined both externally and internally, grading each area, category by category. Don't make the mistake of judging a uniform by appearance only. Examine and inspect the inner-contruction materials and features to determine highest quality for dollars spent. The simplest method is to grade by the point system. Assign points ranging from 0 to 4 in each category (coats, trousers, capes, shakos, etc.). After totalling the points, the manufacturer with the highest point total who also meets the specifications should be recommended for the contract award before the bids are opened. The contract calls for the lowest bid meeting the specifications, not the lowest bidder. On that basis, you can justify awarding the contract to a higher bidder by simply submitting your evaluation and recommendation forms. Remember, it's in your best interest to recommend a manufacturer prior to the bids being opened, eliminating the possibility of compromising yourself or the school district. Other considerations in recommending a manufacturer are the professionalism and services offered by the representative, references, and reputation of the manufacturer.

9. Band Uniform Measurements:
This is a step that requires close attention to detail and organization. Your representative will guide and direct you through the entire process. Here are some brief inputs as to the how, when, where, and who.

How - Exact weights and heights are necessary for each pattern and design. It is best to borrow a scale from the nurse's office or athletic department that allows you to record both height and weight. Have each student fill out a measurement sheet provided by the representative, indicating name, school, whether male or female, and hand it to the person weighing. Other standard measurements such as chest, waist, hips, sleeve length, and inseam will also be required.

When - Time is valuable to both you and the representative, so it is advisable to set up specific times for measuring. Ask your committee to assist in recording measurements, allowing approximately 30 students per hour to be measured. Post a notice in the band room and make periodic announcements to band members as to the date of their measurement.

Where - It's best to measure in a room separate from the weighing. This eliminates any noise distraction, and may also alleviate any vanity concerns that students may have. The location of where you hold this process will be dependent upon the size of the band and your schedule.

Who - This requires some effort on your part. Is the band program growing? How many seniors are leaving? Will the number of sophomores and juniors remain the same? How many students do you expect from the middle or junior high level? Remember that these are adolescents, and they have a tendency to grow 2, 3, and 4 inches or more over the course of just one summer. We recommend measuring current band members only. We have found that when middle or junior high school students are measured, the school invariably has a shortage of larger size band uniforms. Once the measurements are completed, the representative will assist you in transferring them to a size chart and will fill in the stock sizes if necessary. Generally, it is wise to order 15-20% more band uniforms than the number of members in the band. After signing the measurement chart, the final sample approval indicating any changes, and the purchase order, you now can make plans for delivery.

10. Delivery:
Depending on the time of year you place your order, it generally takes 60-75 days for delivery once the manufacturer has the purchase order or deposit, all measurements, and the final sample approval. Orders placed between September and February generally take less time than band uniforms ordered between May and July, as this is the busy season. Occasionally, companies will offer discounts for orders placed during the September to February period, or for either large down payments or full payment placed with the order. Make sure you get all arrangements made in writing prior to awarding the contract. A band booster purchase is treated differently than a school district purchase for obvious business reasons. To avoid the disappointment of your band uniforms arriving later than you anticipated, it is incumbent upon you, your committee and company representative to ensure that the manufacturer has received a complete purchase order, all measurements, and the final sample approval. Once your delivery is made, check the uniforms to make certain they are complete as ordered, sign the delivery packing slip and send it to your purchasing department for payment.

11. Fitting:
Upon receipt of your beautiful new band uniforms, take care in inspecting them and examine them properly. Inventory them accordingly. Members of the committee, your representative and you should now set a time for fitting. Planning and organization is vital to your success in this to avoid frustrations. You can either fit students from the smallest to the largest sizes or seniors to lower classmates, having each student fill out an index card for inventory control purposes. Use your name and number list as a guide. As pointed out earlier, it is recommended that all trousers be ordered unhemmed to allow for better fitting and easier alterations on students who were measured 4 to 6 months ago.

12. Care & Maintenance:
Included with your band uniforms should be a care & maintenance booklet. With proper care exercised, your uniforms should hold their appearance and shape retention for many years. You should read and review the care and maintenance booklet often, because it can be an invaluable guide to assist you in areas such as storage, hangers, washable items, rain, stains, protection, etc. Rain, contrary to normal belief is not water in its purest form. It is laden with harsh chemicals and foreign matter as it falls to earth, causing absolute havoc with fabrics and natural materials, such as plumes. Never store or dry clean uniforms while still wet. Allow them to dry in a well-ventilated room, hanging on wishbone hangers, coats separate from trousers, spaced at least one foot apart. Do not try to remove mud while it is still wet; this will only set a stain in the material. Allow the mud to dry thoroughly, then lightly brush it off, and send it to the dry cleaner. If you have sufficient storage space, never allow the students to take the band uniforms home with them. If it is necessary for your students to store their uniforms at home, be sure that they are aware of their responsibility, both in maintenance and financial obligation. It is also advisable for you to have several local, reputable dry cleaning establishments bid on your cleaning contract and include this in your annual budget.

13. Follow-Up:
From time to time, you are going to have a need for buttons, accessories, major alterations and fill-in orders. We strongly suggest that you appoint at least two band members who will assume the responsibility of checking out and receiving in band uniforms prior to and after each performance. They should report the condition of the uniforms and accessories, and request the purchase of buttons, plumes, etc. The coordination of this step will serve to be a most valuable asset to your organization. Reports should be clear, concise, filed and reviewed at least once a month with you or the members of your committee to make the final determination and decision. It also serves as an incentive in assuming greater responsibility for students.

Conclusion:
This guide was prepared to be a helpful guide to assist you with the purchase of band uniforms. 99% of its effectiveness will be determined by the efforts and direction you will receive from your professional manufacturer's representative. The initial relationship you build will be the beginning of a long-lasting, beneficial, and productive relationship, because once the band uniforms are delivered, the representative's job just begins. Assisting with fitting problems (if necessary), care and maintenance, and future orders for fill-ins and accessories. The best of luck to you in your band uniforms purchasing experience.

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