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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UTM chapter.

My high school had very strict rules on what students could and could not wear. Before I became a student there, the administrators implemented a strict polo dress code in which students could wear only collared shirts with three or fewer buttons. All bottoms must reach the student’s knees and must have a button and a zipper. In other words, no t-shirts or cute tops, leggings or shorts.

When I was a sophomore, the rules changed. We were allowed to wear crew neck t-shirts as well. Thought this meant we had some freedom, we still couldn’t wear cute tops, dresses, skirts or shorts. That doesn’t mean that some students didn’t break the rules, of course, but those were the rules.

Gearing up for college, I started buying tops, shorts and dresses that I couldn’t wear in high school. I was so ready for that freedom. All the dress code did was limit my creativity in outfits. Now that I’m in college, I’m finding that creativity again.

The shame that my high school dress code gave me still hasn’t gone away. Three years out of high school, I still feel a little uncomfortable when an authority figure sees me in shorts. I’ve gotten better about this over time. I’m still learning that wearing shorts and a t-shirt to class doesn’t make me unprofessional or less serious about my education.

Like many people, I have times when I don’t love my body. I’ve struggled a lot in recent years. When there are times that I truly love my body, I want to show it off. I want to wear sleeveless tops and cute dresses, so I do.

I talk about these issues with my friends, and the comments high school teachers and administrators make about our bodies never go away. We are made to feel like distractions, and it causes shame. We can’t help that. We were punished because other people can’t handle us wearing shorts.

The world is changing. It’s slow, but it’s happening. I hope that when I have kids and they want to wear dresses to school, they can.

A vague dress code isn’t a bad idea. Putting limitations on offensive language and pajamas at school is a rule I can get behind. Putting strict limitations on whether or not a girl can wear a v-neck shirt, though? Telling her that she can’t wear it because her body is distracting?

We’re at school to learn. We aren’t distractions.


I am a sophomore broadcast communications major and theatre minor at the University of Tennessee at Martin. When I’m not in class or participating in events on campus, I spend my time reading, doing yoga, working out, or petting my cats.
I am a pre-vet major who loves to laugh (especially at myself), drink coffee, and spend time with my dog, Cora. I moved from Massachusetts to Tennessee to attend college at UTM and compete for their division 1 rifle team.