Monday, November 9, 2009

The Dress Code

There’s a decent article in the New York Times on dress codes in high schools that ought to be of interest to YA writers. One gets the feeling that the Times could create a Mad Libs version of this article and just fill in the new fashion trends every few years.

I’m inclined to believe that certain dress codes can be a kind of generally harmless restriction that is actually more valuable to self-expression than a policy of total acceptance of any wardrobe. I suffered no lasting consequences from “fascistic” no-hats policy enforced in my high school, but I certainly benefitted from my fruitless efforts to overturn the policy. (In retrospect, it’s a pity there was no policy that prevented me from sporting an Amish-style beard for much of high school.)

On the other hand, I can see a dress code becoming part of larger program of suppressing individuality in harmful ways. If a dress code has the effect of stripping away the element of individuality that is giving a marginalized kid the strength to get through the day, then that dress code is doing much more harm than good. Wardrobe can be a kind of armor, it seems to me.

Also interesting to me was this bit about the “traditional black drape” for girl’s senior yearbook photos”

At Wesson Attendance Center, a Mississippi public school, just that sort of fight erupted over senior portraits. Last summer, during her photo session, Ceara Sturgis, 17, dutifully tried on the traditional black drape, the open-necked robe that reveals the collarbone, a hint of bare shoulder.

I’d never heard of this, so wasn’t entirely sure what to picture. until I did some Googling. Sadly, it’s less dramatic than I was picturing. And here's an interesting and detailed policy for senior photos.


Sharon Mayhew said...

I was an advocate of the mini skirt in the 80's. I got a petition signed by enough of the student body and presented it to the school board. I was shot down, but eight years later...I wore a mini skirt to teach in that same district.

Now as a mother of a thirteen year old, I like the no three B's... rules. Funnily enough, I won't let her wear shorts that are above her fingertips by her side....

Venus said...

The public school in my district does not have a dress code but they highly encourage uniforms because of the amount of gang symbols and colors that the kids wear. I went to private school and wore a uniform and I am glad I did. That way no one saw that I was poor. I wasn't singled out because I didn't dress cool (I didn't have much fashion sense at the time). I think it sends a bad message to teens to imply that they are what they wear. Hopefully, they are still the same person whether they are wearing a polo shirt and tan pants or they are in the latest CK Jeans and expensive shirt. You can still be an individual even in a uniform.