Wichita Shirley Menk has seen hundreds of thousands of band uniforms pass through the Fruhauf Uniforms plant during her 33 years working there.
But she's liked few more than the Kansas University uniform that will make its debut this fall on the Memorial Stadium football field.
"That's what I'm looking forward to, seeing them on TV," Menk said. "This is a beautiful uniform."
Menk, 70, was busy Monday pressing 300 Jayhawk uniforms, the final touch before they were placed in garment bags and shipped Wednesday to KU's Murphy Hall.
The shipment -- 2,284 pounds of band uniforms -- marks the near-end of a community-based campaign to raise $150,000 to replace the previous uniforms, some of which were 22 years old and held together by duct tape. Only hats and light-weight summer tops remain to be delivered.
The "Feather the Flock" campaign was sponsored by the Journal-World in cooperation with the Topeka Jayhawk Club, School of Fine Arts, KU athletics and the KU Endowment Association.
Murphy Hall, which houses the KU band office, was buzzing with excitement Wednesday after the uniforms were delivered in 26 large wardrobe boxes. Until the old uniforms are removed, the news ones are awaiting storage in the uniform room. Plans call for the old uniforms to be sold as a fund-raiser, though details have yet to be finalized.
"They're just gorgeous," Jim Hudson, director of athletic bands, said of the new duds. "We're excited, and the students are excited. They're like kids at Christmas."
The final uniforms are the result of a process that began last fall with discussions with Fruhauf Uniforms, a family-owned Wichita business since 1910.
KU band leaders had an idea for the look they were after -- a design that combined the traditional KU uniform with the more contemporary style of drum and bugle corps.
The result, developed with Fruhauf designers, was a uniform that includes a removable cape, reversible breastplate and a removable jacket overlay that will give the band the opportunity for several different looks.
"They wanted to come up with a new design that's more contemporary but still had the elegance of the college-type uniform and maintain the flair of the traditional type of uniform," said Richard Fruhauf, senior vice president.
After the design was unveiled in February, some Jayhawk fans decried the use of so much black in the uniform. The pants are black, the bottom portion of one uniform top is black, and the hats are black with a Jayhawk emblem and crimson and blue stripes.
Fruhauf defended the use of black, saying it adds a slimming effect on marchers and draws attention to the jacket.
"This gives you the color up high where it's supposed to be," he said.
Production on the uniforms began in mid-May. Fruhauf President Ken Fruhauf said the first step was the computer-controlled embroidering of the Jayhawk emblems, each of which required 25,000 to 30,000 stitches.
After that was complete, patterns were generated by a giant printer, and an electronically controlled blade cut out the fabric sections of the uniforms.
The uniforms included hundreds of individual parts that were later sewn together. In all, the project required about 4,000 yards of fabric.
By Monday, crimson and blue filled much of the 51,000-square-foot production plant. Workers, some using early-1900s sewing machines, were embroidering the letters K-A-N-S-A-S on capes. Others were sorting stacks of sleeves, and others were preparing the finished products for shipment.
Fruhauf estimated the job required 22,000 to 26,000 hours -- more than for a typical uniform because of all the reversible and removable options.
"A lot of people out there don't have the slightest idea what it takes" to make a uniform, he said. "KU is probably the second- or third-most difficult uniform I've been involved with."
Fruhauf makes uniforms for 10 of the Big 12 universities. The exceptions are Missouri and Texas A&M.
The company, one of three major U.S. manufacturers of band uniforms, also has contributed uniforms to "The Music Man" Broadway musical and movies such as "Ernest Goes to School" and "Austin Powers." It formerly made flight uniforms for the Blue Angels squad and the presidential helicopter crew.
Richard Fruhauf said manufacturing KU band uniforms, which the company has done since the 1950s, was an important part of the company's tradition.
"We have made KU uniforms for as long as I can remember, and as long as my father can remember, we've made KU uniforms," he said. "And it is a distinct honor for us to be able to continue this relationship, to continue this tradition."
KU chose to order 300 uniforms to allow its own band tradition to grow. Last fall, there were about 140 members in the band, and Hudson, in his second year as director, is looking to make major expansions in band numbers after declining membership in recent years.
The band will step up its off-campus appearances this year for recruitment, including a possible appearance at a Kansas City Chiefs football game. Fund raising also is under way for stipends to begin paying band members -- or at least covering their costs.
Steve Hedden, dean of the School of Fine Arts, said he was optimistic the uniforms would be part of the revitalization of the band.
"I think people will be delighted with the visual impact these will have on the field," he said. "We think the uniforms are quite strikingly attractive, and we hope there's that type of reaction from the crowd."