I decided a long time ago that I would place 7:25 A.M. classes under the category of “Things I Can’t Believe I Did Every Day in High School.” This week, I placed one more thing under said category: following dress codes. Lately, the issue with high school dress codes has been this: some of the rules are so specific and stringent that they seem to be unfairly targeting girls and perpetuating the idea that a woman’s education is worth less than that of a man’s. How so, you ask? Over the last few years, girls have been shamed and sent home for wearing garments that, to be frank, are not problematic at all. To prove a point, I decided to pick three high school dress codes and abide by each of them for one day each. Being a pretty modest person myself, I’ll be honest: I thought this would be easy.
For my first day, I chose a dress code I was fairly familiar with: my old high school’s. I definitely thought that this would be the easiest day. After all, once upon a time, I had followed this dress code every day without any problems. To my frustration, Day 1 proved to be the catalyst for the most annoying three days ever. Most of the rules were standard: to my dismay, of course, no leggings, and no tank tops either. So I chose a T-shirt that, to my knowledge, covered all the bases. I paired said T-shirt with jeans and sneakers.
Seems appropriate enough? WRONG. According to my old high school, the fact that a sliver of my midriff was visible when both of my arms were fully raised over my head (something people apparently do all the time at school) deemed this T-shirt inappropriate. The holes in my jeans would also be a no-no. So, on this particular 80 degree day in Florida, I wore a pair of dark wash jeans without a hole in sight. I paired this with one of my trademark giant T-shirts to create a drab and overly warm outfit. At least I got to keep the shoes.
This may be one of my least favorite outfits ever. I can get over the fact that I couldn’t wear leggings, even though they’re kind of my wardrobe staple. Wearing jeans was a stretch, but I didn’t see much of an option, seeing as most of my shorts and skirts wouldn’t have followed the “Four inches above the knee” rule at my old high school. I definitely remember wearing jeans a lot way back when, but on hot days like these, I really do wonder how I managed.
I’ll admit it up front: My second attempt actually annoyed me so much that I gave up. It was definitely hotter on Day 2 than it was on Day 1, which made getting dressed all the more annoying. Because I was 100% unwilling to suffer through wearing jeans in the heat two days in a row, I opted for a dress. I kept the sneakers from Day 1 – I still wanted to be fashionable, after all. I actually liked this outfit, and so did every one of my floormates.
Seem school-suitable? Apparently not, according to West Side High School. I should have expected as much, seeing as this high school dress code had already stirred up some controversy in the past. According to what seems to be the “revised and updated” dress code, dresses and shorts were permitted, but only if dresses hit at the kneecap, and shorts were “no higher than two inches above the kneecap.” And I though my school was strict! My dress clearly did not meet requirements, as shown by the ruler my floormate is holding to my knee here:
Apparently the ruler thing is not an uncommon practice, though I am not certain whether West Side frequented it. Regardless, the idea of having someone measure the hemline of my shorts or skirt seemed mildly intrusive and embarrassing. I had several questions regarding this dress code: Why were shorts given two inches extra clearance over skirts? Did those two inches really matter in the grand scheme of things? Is there really a need to be so specific? Whether a skirt hits at the knee or an inch or two above the target seems like such an insignificant detail, and one that certainly shouldn’t impede a student’s ability to get an education. I allowed Day 2 to kick my butt, as I was firm on the notion that it was too hot for jeans, and I did not own any skirts or shorts that met the dress code. To be completely honest, I don’t know many girls who own items that do. Most clothing stores don’t typically sell skirts that hit the knee as casual wear for the average teen, and Bermuda shorts haven’t made that frequent of an appearance in several years. So what exactly is a girl to do?
I saved the most bizarre dress code for last: Woodford County High School. They received tons of backlash in 2015 for sending a student home on account of indecent collarbone exposure. You heard that right, folks. Collarbones. My question when I read this article was this: Did they single out every single student, male or female, and send them home regarding this breach of the rules, or did it apply only to female students? The reason I ask is because women’s shirts are often cut in a particular way that causes more collarbone or chest to be visible than the typical men’s shirt. So should girls also be punished for a manufacturing choice?
Woodford County’s dress code permitted leggings, but only if a top that extended past the fingertips was worn with them. Seeing as this is what is typically defined as a dress, I decided against this generous option. This is where the dress code gets frustratingly nitpicky: Necklines were not to “droop any lower than the shortest dimension of a credit card (2.125 inches) positioned at the base of the collarbone.” Yup. The exact measurements of the credit card were provided. Woodford must really love their credit cards, seeing as this rule also applied to the thickness of straps on sleeveless shirts, as well as the hemlines of shorts, skirts, and dresses. Using my Gator 1 for reference, I selected a fairly school-appropriate outfit, which also proved to be a very heat-inappropriate one:
Maybe it was my fault for choosing one of the hottest weeks we’ve had this month to carry out my experiment. Or maybe I’m biased because I love leggings so much. Regardless, I couldn’t see myself trying to follow rules like these at 5 A.M. every morning before class. The biggest problem I had with every single one of my outfits was that there was absolutely nothing wrong with them to begin with. Why were certain articles of clothing so contraband? And is it ever okay to force someone to change because it would “distract” someone else? The bottom line is this: It is everyone’s own responsibility to stay focused during class. Not mine. It is my responsibility to put as much into my education that I possibly can. The fact that my skirt does not hit two inches above my kneecap shouldn’t stop me, nor should it matter to anyone else. Maybe it’s time for public schools to start looking at dress codes a different way.