The Great Dress Code Debate

Lately, there’s been a lot of press about ever-changing middle and high school dress codes across the country–specifically, the new restrictions being placed on today’s young women….And a popular ThinkProgress post that highlights the issue is getting thousands of Tumblr reblogs. From short skirts to yoga pants, school administrators everywhere are banning “seductive” clothing, deeming it inappropriate for public (AKA school) consumption. Reactions to the coverage, and the aforementioned policies, has been mixed: Many parents favor the new dress restrictions–meant to keep girls from “distracting” the teen boys–but some find them, to quote Cher Horowitz, totally bogus. From arguing that life doesn’t come with a dress code, to going as far as calling the new policies “slut-shaming”, the great dress code debate is a seriously hot topic–no matter what side of the issue you’re on.

…But are dress codes really so terrible? And haven’t there always been school dress restrictions? To me, the current dress code controversy does seem a bit sexist, but I don’t think that makes it illegitimate. It’s just been positioned incorrectly! Perhaps, for example, if anti-dress code parents were told that the new restrictions weren’t based on what’s “seductive” or “distracting” but rather simply on what is appropriate for the occasion (CLASSES) they would be more open to them. Is it that difficult, or that terrible for that matter, to have to put on a pair of jeans and a cute top? To not have a whale tail? Or to leave the bandage skirts for Friday nights? No. No it’s not. Schools need to work on that PR!

I went to a high school (and middle school/elementary school–it was all the same school) that had a fairly strict, mostly enforced dress code. We weren’t allowed to wear tank tops, shorts or skirts that didn’t pass the finger tip test, sweat pants, ripped jeans, crop tops, flip flops, cleavage-y shirts, whatever. The idea, I think, was that we should look relatively proper, polished, and put-together. It was fine. The whole leggings-as-pants trend or Lululemon craze hadn’t emerged by the time I graduated, but I’m sure our school’s administration would have had no problem banning those styles as well. A few times during my high school career, all of the female students were summoned to the theater for a dress code lecture–the most memorable of which, at the time, felt like a lesson on our civic responsibility to prevent our male classmates from getting b1ers. We were all pretty pissed. After all, why did the responsibility lie solely on our shoulders? Why couldn’t they lecture the boys about not being pervs?

Not allowed. Image Credit

Not allowed. Image Credit

Years removed from that situation, however, and I can actually kinda see where the administration was coming from: dressing like that is distracting. To any gender. And that’s not really what we’re going to school for now is it. Maybe this is just the 23-year-old in me, but I for one am SO sick of seeing little girls–we’re talking tweens here–in tank tops and yoga pants running around! It’s not age appropriate. It’s not sexy – even if that’s what they’re going for. It’s just weird. We know you’re not going to the gym! Besides, all things considered, the look is rather sloppy, and it opens them up to creepiness and unwanted advances–and not just from guys their own age. No bueno. Is that on them? Of course not! But these things do happen. So I’m pro-dress code. I don’t think that the focus of school dress code restrictions should be to shame or limit girls from wearing whatever it is they deem cute in an attempt to keep the boys from being “distracted”, but rather that there should be at least some level of modesty involved in dressing for school. You can (and should) wear whatever you want. But for every outfit, there is a time and a place. Female or male. Child or adult. But of course, that’s just my opinion.

How do you feel about the dress code issue? Is this sexist? Do you think that students should be allowed to wear whatever they want whenever they want? When I was in high school and we would attempt to rebel against the dress code, we were told that if we didn’t follow the rules, we could just all wear uniforms…Maybe we should just resort to that! Let me know how you feel!


Liza, Editorial Director


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