Dress Code: Necessary or Controlling?


Andrea Martin, Advertising Manager

“You’re just really pretty…I just don’t want you to give people the wrong impression.” Those words were said to me because of the shirt I was wearing. I was wearing an off- the-shoulder, long sleeve, pink shirt. Just that morning the entire school had gone over the dress code in the first hour of the school day, and no longer was off the shoulder against the dress code. 

“The wrong impression;” what do those words even mean? What ideas am I projecting to the world by showing my bare shoulders?

Far too many times, girls have been told to change parts of their attire because it violates the student code of conduct. It can be their clothes or even their hair. It has been proven over and over that school dress codes are marketed towards female students; limiting their opportunities, such as an education, all based on what they are wearing.

In Edweek.com’s article “Do School Dress Codes Discriminate Against Girls,” a study was conducted and all girls interviewed “reported experiencing or witnessing dress-code enforcement in their schools.” Punishments for these violations included, “missing class time or facing suspension” all based off their “hair, makeup, or clothing styles that were deemed inappropriate.”

It is not uncommon for girls to miss class due to their schools’ dress codes, and many of these schools go viral for their strict codes. Neatoday.org’s “When School Dress Codes Discriminate,” reports that ways some schools enforce their dress codes include “asking a student to put duct tape over the holes in her jeans, suspending a student for a skirt that was too short,” and “sending a student to the office for not wearing a bra.”

Neatoday.org also quotes Shauna Pomerantz of Brock University as saying, “It’s saying the male response is your fault. Your body is causing negativity.” Schools have set a certain standard for their male students. “It is offensive to men. It suggests they don’t have the ability to talk to a female student without going wild,” adds Pomerantz.

Most female students have heard of the “Fingertip Rule.” The rule states  when shorts or skirts have to be the same length or longer than your middle finger. This rule, in theory would seem okay, but it does not take into account different body shapes. “Students and parents report for some, it’s impossible to find clothing that complies with the rule,” states Neatoday.org. Girls that are taller struggle finding clothes that are cute and fit this policy, while girls with curvier bodies have to find clothes that cover their breasts or butts that are additionally age appropriate. 

On top of ridiculous policies, most dress codes typically target minority groups, specifically black girls. “Many dress codes can cause black students to fall behind academically, according to a 2018 National Women’s Law Center study,” says Neatoday.org “The report found that three in four D.C. public high school dress codes say [that] students can be pulled out of class or school for dress code violations.”

Neatoday.org also reports that in Madie Reeser’s public school, “it’s the black girls at her school who are the most frequently dress coded,” yet her “white friends rarely get sent to the office.” 

A simple solution? Pomerantz recommends “giving students lots of leeway to express themselves with fashion.  If something truly crosses the line, there’s a way to tell them, without enforcing victim-blaming.”

Here at North, it seems like the dress code has changed, no longer focusing on gender. In the Student Code of Conduct meetings during Eagle Halftime, the administrators stated if anyone is seen wearing shirts that show mid-drifts, excessively ripped jeans, etc., they will be properly punished.

This is a good step forward. The dress code is no longer directed or mainly focused on teen girls and their outfits. However, it seems like some staff members here still haven’t quite caught on that shaming girls for their outfit choices does not make them any better.

“I just don’t want you to give people the wrong impression.” I think I am giving the impression that I am a confident girl, who does not believe in tearing down others for what they want to wear. I am happy with how I look in what I wear.