Unpopular opinion: That Boylan Catholic High prom dress code is actually fine.

A few examples of dresses not welcome at prom, because the school is sexist.

The internet is terribly upset because “A Catholic high school in Illinois was so concerned about the modesty of their female students, they made a 21-page manual directing the girls at the school how to dress.”

According to a Scarymommy article, “It’s so perfect that this dress code exists. Because it proves in great detail why dress codes are so unbelievably sexist and ridiculous.”

No, it doesn’t.

First, let’s clarify: it’s not precisely a “21-page dress code manual,” which brings to mind a glossy, multi-page volume of draconian minutiae plus a bonus look book of modest and immodest gals. Instead, the school wesbsite includes “dress code guidelines,” accompanied by a slide show with examples of what their dress code looks like in real life. The copious illustrations are what makes it one of the more sensible, rational dress codes I’ve seen. More about that later.

Let’s take the objections in turn.

Hey, this dress code is all about girls, and not much is said about boys! That’s sexist!

Possibly, but probably it’s just practical. Boys’ clothing is generally designed for style and comfort. Girls’ clothing is generally designed to be provocative. (See this essay in the Huffington Post, which rightly calls Target to task for the ways girls’ shorts are designed and sized.) When prom clothing is concerned, this discrepancy is magnified times a thousand. Boys are still wearing more or less what they’ve worn for the last hundred years: Long pants, a dress shirt, and a jacket. Sometimes the pants are super tight, and that’s no good. Beyond that? A suit is a suit.

Scarymommy says:

What if they decided against sleeves? Can they were[sic] those 90’s style cropped tuxedo jackets with a tail? What if they wear flip flops? Will that work? Oh, you don’t care?

Nope. Those clothes would look silly, but they wouldn’t be immodest. And that’s the purpose of the dress code: Not to crack down on girls, but to crack down on anyone dressed immodestly. It is almost always girls who are turning up dressed immodestly; therefore, the manual is directed mainly toward girls.

Now, I can easily imagine a future where boys start turning up at prom in skin tight, shiny pants that cling to their testicles, or filmy skirts that barely cover their butt cheeks, or strapless bodices made up of transparent netting, or pants with cut-outs designed to draw attention to their penises or asscracks. These styles could become popular, and when they do, I suppose there will have to be guidelines addressing that kind of thing.

But, folks. Boys don’t have as many sexy parts as girls do. Even if a boy did turn up wearing a stripper costume, he just wouldn’t have that much to show off. A man’s exposed or semi-exposed chest may be sexy, but it’s not sexy in the same way as a girl’s exposed or semi-exposed breasts. File under: How Does One Explain Things That Any Cat Would Understand?

Second objection: They want girls to dress modestly, and that is stupid because modesty is stupid!

The writer assumes all right-thinking people agree that immodesty itself is an arbitrary standard people apply to girls just because they like jerking girls around, and not because modesty is an actual (if subjective) standard we ought to expect from our kids and ourselves.

Here’s a screen shot that Scarymommy shares as evidence of . . . something or other.

Scarymommy is incredulous that girls are not supposed to show cleavage, because, it snarks, “God doesn’t like cleavage.” I don’t see the school bringing God into it, actually. (I suspect the military also disallows cleavage, and it’s not because it will upset God.) And anyway, if a religious school does design its rules based on what God likes, where is the freaking problem with that? If you think Catholicism is oppressive and God is lame, maybe don’t go to a Catholic school? I promise you, a ban on thigh-high slits is not the hardest thing you’ll encounter in God’s law.

As I read through the guide, I was amazed at how permissive it is. A top shouldn’t be cut below the navel, and we’re supposed to be outraged? They allow spaghetti straps and strapless dresses. They allow slits and mid-thigh skirts. They even allow two-piece dresses that expose midriff skin. I’ve seen far more restrictive dress codes. Scarymommy is just upset there is such a thing as guidelines at all. And that is bonkers.

Objection #3: They are bringing actual inches into it! This objectifies girls and reduces them to bits of meat that can be measured and weighed! More sexism!

Scarymommy shares the next section of the guide


and says

NO NAVEL. And we’re bringing a ruler, so don’t even try to show more than two inches of your midsection. Dresses should not be excessively tight, so good luck if you’re girl with actual curves. And no cover-ups are allowed over dresses that do not meet dress code. You can’t hide your immodesty with a sweater, ladies!

Let’s pick this one apart, thereby giving it much more thought than Scarymommy did.

Using rulers, or even giving specific numbers of inches for this and that, can be a tricky game. There is something intensely dehumanizing about laying even a hypothetical ruler on a girl’s body. But if they don’t get specific, then girls will claim they had no idea their little scrap of sequin-encrusted lycra could possibly be considered inappropriate.

So the school is in a bit of a bind. If they get too specific, they look petty, and appear to be objectifying girls, as if their fittingness as human beings can be reduced to how many inches of flesh they reveal. But if they don’t get specific, some girls will show up dressed like strippers. Or, even worse, if they don’t get too specific, some overzealous monitor will tell a specific girl that, in his or her judgment, her dress has crossed a subjective line — leaving everyone to conclude that (if it’s a man) he has the hots for that girl, and is a pervert, or (if it’s a woman) she is just jealous because she’s old and fat.

So that’s why the school gives these specific guidelines. It can lead to heartache for girls with very long legs or girls with especially big busts, but what is the alternative? Subjective standards? No standards?

That is Scarymommy’s soluation, I guess. Many kids and parents and readers will say that it’s always wrong, always sexist, always objectifying, and always body shaming to apply standards to girls’ clothing.

I can only ask you to ask my cat, which I don’t have, to explain these things to you.

(I don’t understand the part about no cover-ups. Probably they have noticed that girls wear a little jacket to get past the door, and then take it off to dance, and then someone has to worm him way through the crowd and shout over the blaring music, “Marissa! Marissa! Principal Horace J. Patriarchy says you have to put your jacket on! I said put your jacket on, Marissa! Your jacket!” and then next thing you know, the Huffington helicopters of outrage are circling the gym and Marissa is crying because it’s really hot in the gym, which puts a damper on the party. )

Objection #4: The same dress can look very different on different girls! This is body shaming, and just proves how ridiculous it is to even try to impose objective standards!

Scarymommy riffs, “Dresses should not be excessively tight, so good luck if you’re girl with actual curves.” (I’ll just proactively deploy my meta-anti-shaming comment here and say that girls without curves are “actual” girls, too, okay, Scarymommy? Check your reverse body positive privilege, sheesh).

Guys, I am a bona fide fatty, and I have an enormous bust. A lot of the clothes I try on are too tight. What I do then, see, is I get the next size up. 21st-century America is actually a really, really good time and place to “have actual curves.” There are options for proportionately-sized clothing that were unheard of when I was shopping for my own prom dress, where you had to travel (by car! No internet!) to a specialty store to find clothing above a size 14.

All they’re saying is, different dresses look different on different girls.

My potential cat is getting exhausted here, with the explaining.


Scarymommy splutters:

Translation: if you weigh a little more, there are a lot of dresses you can’t wear. Because, curves. Sorry. They don’t make the rules. God does. Oh, wait. They totally make the rules. Never mind.

Um? The guidelines are pretty clear that it is, indeed, the school making the rules, and they’re trying to do so in cooperation with the kids and parents. And the school didn’t even mention weight. Maybe they’re talking about girls with short legs and long torsos, or girls with huge boobs and tiny hips. My cat thinks the Scarywriter is projecting a little bit, but my cat is, well, kind of catty.

And now we’re getting down to what is actually the best part of this dress code.

So many dress codes behave as if you’ll be fine if you just follow some very specific, numerical guidelines; and so many others behave as if you’ll be fine if you just decide to be less of a slutburger for once, what with having not one but two breasts and all.

Instead, this dress code acknowledges that any modesty guidelines are going to have shortcomings, because of what a subjective thing modesty is, and it does girls and parents the favor of asking them to “not put school administrators in the difficult position of upholding school standards.”

In other words, it asks them to think about and uphold those standards themselves. To behave as adults, and not to throw a temper tantrum over their sacred civil right to have a cut-out heart on their ass. “We’re all in this together,” is the basic message, “So please help us have a nice time at the dance, rather than turning this into one more exhausting battle over stupid stuff.”

No dice, Boylan Catholic. The internet chooses temper tantrum every time.

Now, let’s talk about why the internet is mad about the idea of a dress code. There is actually some reason for it. 

In some places, especially in some religious circles, modesty really is something people only care about if they are interested in making girls feel bad, or if they believe that boys are ravening beasts who just can’t stop themselves from rapin’ everything that insists on exposing its – gulp – knees.

There are really are people, including some Catholic institutions, that say “teach modesty” when they really mean “teach girls that their bodies are dangerous and shameful, and any time a boy does something bad to a girl, it’s because the girl wasn’t following the Very Clear Rules.”

There are people who really do believe girls and women are, by their nature, always at fault, because if they didn’t want their pussies grabbed, then why’d they have to go out in public with female bodies? What did they expect?

I get it.

I know that people abuse the idea of modesty. I know that some dress codes are sexist. I know that some people treat girls badly. I know that, every year, nice girls show up to prom and get harassed by weirdos with hang-ups, even though their dresses are perfectly modest and pretty. I know that there are problems with many dress codes.

But it does not follow that any dress code is, by definition, sexist and oppressive and worthy of jeers and outrage. If girls are going to turn up wearing intensely sexual clothing, then the school is going to have to respond in some way.  

And boy, is it tough to get it right.

If they make objective rules, they’ll be mocked for reducing girls to inches.
If they make subjective judgments, they’ll be excoriated for shaming individual girls, or for projecting their own personal issues onto girls.
If they tell girls to use their common sense, girls will show up wearing inappropriate things.
If they set down rules and turn away girls who don’t follow the rules, they’ll be raked over the coals for humiliating kids who paid for the right to be there.
If they ask girls to submit photos of their dresses ahead of time, so there’s no embarrassing surprises, they’ll be vilified for holding an inquisition and not trusting girls.

And that’s where the much-maligned “21-page manual” that provides dozens of examples of actual dresses comes in. It’s not some kind of freakazoid Scrapbook of Shaming put together by “two women with way too much time on their hands,” as Scarymommy claims. It’s an acknowledgement that it’s hard to just describe what is and is not acceptable. It’s an attempt to be as clear as possible about how the standards of dress look in real life, so we can avoid unpleasantness and just spend the prom, you know, dancing, or crying in the bathroom, or whatever.

Scarymommy concludes with turgid sarcasm:

We’re really doing a great job inspiring confidence in our young women, America. As if being a teenage girl isn’t hard enough — now they have to shop with a manual in their hands to make sure that dress that shows their back (the horror!) doesn’t show too much of their back.

It is hard to be a teenage girl. I remember. And I have three teenage daughters. It is hard. But we’re not going to make life easier by telling them anyone who helps them make decisions is just out to get them. That’s not how you train people to be adults; that’s how you treat people to be perpetual victim babies. Girls should be shopping with a manual, in their heads and hearts, if not in their hands.

That is part of growing up: learning that there are boundaries. There are some things you want to do that are not acceptable in certain settings. I refuse to be outraged that there is such a thing as boundaries, even when those boundaries are called “modest dress.”

Another objection: But what if this dress code is just a symptom of a larger problem, and girls really are being treated unfairly?

I know nothing about this particular school. I hope with all my heart they are also teaching boundaries about other sorts of things, especially to boys, who tend to lag behind girls in figuring out where boundaries are.

I hope they are teaching boys there are clear standards of behavior toward girls (and toward other boys). I hope they are teaching boys it’s okay to say certain things but not okay to say certain other things. I hope they are encouraging boys and their parents to do their part in learning how they behave, so they can have a prom (and a locker room, and a science classroom, and lunch) without being perpetually at war with each other.

And I hope they are teaching all these things to girls, too. I hope the kids don’t graduate thinking that anything goes, except when it comes to prom dresses.

For all I know, these modesty guidelines are the tip of the iceberg, and the school is positively riddled with sexism and injustice and oppressive patriarchal garbage. Maybe it is. But this modesty guide is not evidence of something wrong. It’s just evidence of a school trying to teach kids how to act decent, because no one else is telling them.

Final objection: But it’s so hard to find a dress that meets these guidelines. 

If it’s really so hard to find dresses that fit these not-excessively-strict guidelines, then why be angry at the school? Be angry at fashion designers, who are hell bent on turning girls into sparkly little buffets.

And be angry at the nitwits at Scarymommy, who are teaching girls to think that sexy is the only kind of pretty, and that rules are inherently oppressive.

Good luck building a happy life after learning those lessons from hell. I’d rather take my chances with a dress code.

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29 thoughts on “Unpopular opinion: That Boylan Catholic High prom dress code is actually fine.”

  1. I’m all in for modest dressing and my heart rejoices when women dress modestly. On the contrary, my heart is broken when I see young girls and married when exposing themselves for reasons known to them. I’m also against idolatry and all lies of Satan.

  2. Late to the party, I know, and perhaps you won’t read this at all. But I hadn’t seen this particular article when originally published and I am looking at articles about this for a specific gender studies assignment. After reading, I think you lack one major point. One you couldn’t be aware of but I am, because I went to this school. This high school put significant value on boys in comparison to girls. Especially athletes. In my freshman year, I was pushed against walls and humped for fun. Nothing was done. I accidentally wore pants that were corduroy instead of khaki (they were tan and I was 15) on a “jean day”. I was deemed unfit, asked to change into a strangers skirt from the lost and found without the tights I usually wore to cover my legs. The dean thought it was “much more lady like.” I was bare up to my mid thigh (skirt was too short). We were measured publicly in gym to assess our body fat. The men’s swim team wore nothing but their racing suits for their team photo. The girls wore “appropriate team shirts” over their suits.

    Your assessment lacks the most important thing. An understanding and value for the female body and self esteem at this particular high school. It isn’t high.

  3. Upbringing.
    This is mostly caused by the way the child is revised and what she is exposed to at an early age. As we know, the biggest influence on kids is television. Most parents don’t both to control what their kids are watching and learning. For instance some music videos are not appropriate for children because it has become a nude affair, and since it is played in the minds of these kids, they begin to think it is normal and acceptable especially when no adult is preventing them from watching and telling them it is not right.
    Parents and older siblings also have to be careful with their own dressing because kids tend to emulate the old ones. Another thing that worries me is that fact that some mothers are actually the ones who buy these clothes for their young daughters. They are the ones that even tell then the names like, daisy dukes, tank tops, halters, strapless, British cores, hipster, low waist jeans that shows the crack of the butt e.t.c.

  4. Scarymommy is just feeding off the usual internet click bait. Lots of companies have dress codes, as girls soon entering the workforce will know. Mayo Clinic is one, and they have a multi-page manual with photos of do’s and don’ts. I don’t hear any noise about that…

  5. You have a lot of very good points here, but I especially want to thank you for calling out the comment about “actual curves.” I’ve seen/heard a whole lot of, “Body-shaming is so inappropriate! Real women are fat and have big boobs!” and it’s painful to those of us who are categorized as unreal–especially when it’s a matter of inherited body type rather than crash dieting, etc. Now that I’m in my forties, have stretched out my waist with two pregnancies, and am 20 pounds heavier than I was in high school, I’m finally *sometimes* able to find clothes that fit in the department labeled “women” instead of in the “junior” or “missy” sizes. I hate the labeling that seems to categorize thin and/or small-busted women as not really adults, and I hope that the movement to stop separating “plus sizes” will lead to all the sizes just being in the same department (like they are for men, by the way).

  6. For the record, my public high school also had a dress code, just for every day life. The dean of students would get on the morning “show” (announcements over the TV) and tell us what was and what was not acceptable. This was 1996-2000, so this wasn’t *that* long ago. I don’t remember any specific dress codes for prom, but then again, I did nine years of Catholic school, so appropriate skirt length was embedded in me (we also did the kneeling thing!).

  7. Perhaps it would be less sexist if the booklet said, “Ladies AND Gentlemen should not wear thigh high slits, backless dresses, etc…”

    I really appreciate this topic. I recently wrote something with the same thesis, and hope to see more voices on it. Dress codes aren’t sexist, clothing manufacturers, and everyone who insists that girls dress this way are.

  8. Okay, this had me laughing because I went to a Catholic HS where we had to get our prom dresses approved beforehand (thick straps, below the knee, etc.), and I CANNOT BELIEVE how lenient the guidelines for Boylan are! Haha, those people getting up in arms would have a real field day if they knew dress-codes of other schools.

  9. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for defending my Alma-mater. I’m so proud of them for setting these standards. I know many other institutions have done the same, just not many have received the national attention that this has.

  10. Let’s face it: if parents spent more time teaching these things, schools would need to spell out a lot less. Everyone should be grateful that someone bothered to give them visual examples , instead of whining.

  11. There have been so many responses from the media vilifying Boylan High School over this policy. THANK YOU for demonstrating in a clear, and humorous way, why these attacks are ridiculous. As a parent of a daughter and son at Boylan, I support their policy (which has actually been in place for two years).

  12. My son recently graduated from Boylan. It is a very strict school, for both boys and girls. But families are very aware of this going in. As far as dress code for daily class, the school is actually more lenient on girls than boys. Boys must wear ties, suit coats. Boys are required to keep hair above the collar and be clean shaven. Many young men, my son included, were sent to the office to shave because they had too much facial hair. My husband and I were very happy with the education he received. Frankly, children need to learn self discipline and respect for themselves and others now, versus being forced to learn the hard way as adults.

  13. When I was a youth minister, I had to put together a dress code for their Confirmation mass (a big affair in the cathedral). I used pictures of ‘ok’ and ‘not ok’ dresses in it, and also brought a stack of sweaters with me to the church just in case. It is a struggle.

    We did talk about modesty, and I explained it as ‘dressing in a way that’s considerate towards others and the occasion’. In other words, in a way that doesnt draw undue attention one way or the other (not too sexy or too dowdy…Dressing like a slob can be immodest too). Imperfect, but it seemed to resonate with them, so hopefully it helped…

    1. Where you went right, I think, was explaining it in a way that makes modesty something that everyone needs to think about, not just girls. And it’s a broader concept than just covering yourself.

  14. Once you need to make a 25 page manual, I can’t help but think that you’ve already lost the battle on some huge level. Parents need educate their children, but alas, we have become a nation of Honey Boo Boo. It’s like waking up and realizing that Donald Trump is your president.

    When I was in the 8th grade we weren’t allowed to wear earrings that went below the lobe, our skirts had to be a few inches above the knee…no makeup, no nail polish, etc. Some of us pressed the envelope to see what we could get away with. It generally put us into a surly and defiant mood. They lectured us, threw in some shaming yadda yadda, yuck, yuck, yuck. Now that I look back I realize that all of that negativity contributed to the throwing out of the baby with the bathwater. Most of those girls don’t practice the faith any longer. The faith should never be reduced to or associated with endless lists of rules. Teenagers are particularly prone to taking those reams and reams of rules the wrong way. (Hormonal insanity, remember?) The gray matter between their ears may be temporarily compromised, but making a huge deal beyond a simple list on one side of a piece of paper for both sexes just plays into the teen persecution complex.

    Looking back, I realized that one of the mothers in my 8th grade class did something brilliant, (and at the time it didn’t seem like it was in response to the girl who wore charcoal colored eye shadow that ruined it for everyone.) She brought in a beauty consultant to talk about fashion, personal style, products for the face and skin, posture, and how to sit and walk elegantly. The class was optional, but we all took it enthusiastically.

    Walk down the streets of any European capital, and you will find that as a whole, European women have a greater sense of style than American women. American women clearly could use a little boost of positive culture.

    I would argue that a balanced, positive sense of modesty come forth from the natural law.

    In the show “Project Runway” nobody needs to use the word modesty. Good taste and creative ingenuity carry the day. Bad cliches and Ho’s generally get laughed out of the room. Can you imagine if there was an endowment for the arts that allowed Tim Gunn to come into high schools to open up a whole new world of good taste to poor fashion victims who look to Kim Kardashian for inspiration? I’m inclined to think they would trust him over a smug dean of students or imperious Mrs. Wildebeest who needs to boss people around to feel alive. I’d like to think there is still hope for the little ninnies (even if their parents voted for the tackiest human being to ever sit in the oval office.)

    1. I think plenty of immodest stuff gets applauded on Project Runway–just not the very worst of it. We can’t set the bar where the world wants to set it.

      I would like to see style/fashion taught as a positive in school, rather than just having a list of prohibitions. Maybe teaching that certain outfits reek of desperation for attention would be a good deterrent. Unfortunately, kids are going to need to know there is a firm set of rules to guide them, or they will have a few kids ruining it for everyone. Every high school has that kid who thinks he or she is the first one to discover postmodern literature, Hippie hygiene, or rebellion for the sake of rebellion.

      1. I haven’t watched the show in a while, but I remembered Tim Gunn being a voice of reason and taste when giving advice. He didn’t clobber the designers with his opinion. I Googled Project Runway images and wasn’t offended by any of the designs, though some aren’t appropriate for teens in H.S. Girls can be coached on that aspect of fashion also.

        My daughter wore vintage gowns that she found in used clothing stores. She tailored of them herself. They fit like a glove but she didn’t look poured into them. The small amount of cleavage showing was normal and tasteful. She looked lovely.

        I only went to two full years of H.S. and didn’t go to any prom. I’m told I didn’t miss anything! The three formal H.S. dances I attended were quite unmemorable with a side of awkward.

    2. I think you’re on to something. I made an observation when my daughter was in high school that I don’t know how to say without sounding like a terrible snob. At my daughter’s school and at just about every other private Catholic girls’ school in our area, there’s a saying that goes: “Girls will be girls, but [our school’s] girls will be ladies.” The importance of making a good presentation is stressed from day one. Of course, generally speaking, private school=rich. These girls have been exposed to a much wider world than many of the diocesan and public school kids – more travel, more experiences, more interacting with very successful adults, etc.

      Prior to my daughter attending her prom, we got a quick paragraph about remembering appropriate dress and how it would be a shame to have to turn someone away at the door. That was it. On prom night, these girls were stunning. Not slutty looking at all. And that’s not to say lots of them didn’t spend nearly every weekend drinking beer and hooking up in Fairmount Park with the boys from the Jesuit high school. They just happened to have had enough social awareness to present themselves with good taste and grace when the occasion called for it.

      But the outfits on some of the girls from schools where they haven’t had those advantages are very often appalling. And some of these schools have much stricter, more explicit dress codes. And I’m pretty sure the public and diocesan girls are not hanging out by the kegs in greater numbers.

      One final thought. When shopping with my daughter, I very quickly learned that Kohls, Macy’s and JCPenney MIGHT have one dress which would be acceptable to her AND to me, but Nordstrom and Bloomingdales would probably have dozens which would acceptable to both of us. Of course, that meant we were often (but not always) spending more money to dress her. It’s a shame, but I do think that for a large portion of society, dressing immodestly (or inappropriately) equals maturity and worldliness. And I don’t think it’s so much a character flaw or poor upbringing as it is a lack of instruction and experience.

  15. I went to an all-girls’ Catholic high school (loved it) and we had, for the first three years, odd old fashioned uniforms–sack dresses with three box pleats, front and back, made for us by local seamstresses (we provided the material, and it could not be silk, metallic or see through, but anything else was fine), with a cloth belt made of same material. We attached Peter Pan collars with an appropriate pin (no bad language on it). We were allowed to wear sweaters and socks, provided they were solid colors and matched (sweaters had to match socks). This was the uniform the school had had for decades, I guess. It was certainly distinctive!

    Skirts had to hit your knees. Many girls tried to hike the skirts up and keep them there with the belts; quite a few of the nuns who taught would have all students kneel on the floor before classes started. If your skirts didn’t hit the floor, and you had hemmed the skirt permanently to that position, demerit. If your collar wasn’t pinned straight, demerit. Non matching sweater/sock combo, or a patterned sweater? Demerit. My favorite nun employed a fantastic disciplinary measure; if your uniform wasn’t correct and you tried to talk to her, she wouldn’t talk to you until you figured it out and fixed your uniform (if you could). Or apologized.

    Nowadays I’m sure the Internet would call this abuse. It was what it was–a set of rules to make our uniform code proper. My senior year the school switched over to a “new” uniform, more like what all the other Catholic girls’ schools used: navy pleated skirts, button down shirts, a few sweaters to choose from. Much easier.

    Sometimes my five year old objects to being told to follow Mom and Dad’s rules. I remind him that following our rules is going to help him learn how to follow God’s rules, which we must follow to live good and holy lives. Maybe rules in high school are good for us because they help us learn how to follow the bigger rules when we hit the world outside high school—silly rules like “Don’t show up to work wearing pajamas.” “Don’t drive on the railroad tracks.”

  16. I REALLY like the guide! I like that it is specific. Nobody could come to that prom and say they didn’t know, and make the monitors they bad ones for telling them they can’t come in. I wish more Catholic schools did the same! I also appreciate the fact that the guide takes the pressure off of the parents who want to impose standards. While it is our job to do that, sometimes we get tired!

  17. Great post. It is too bad people get offended by things like this. I ave seen dress codes that are sexist (they include the sexist language in the code), but this one is legit.

    It i a tricky subject, that I am not sure how I will handle, as I have 5 young daughters. How does a parent guide any child into adulthood, and the realm of looking sexy/looking beautiful? At what point does a bra go past flattering, into inappropriate/immodest? Most clothing that “fits” or “looks good” or is “flattering” is usually accentuating the bust and hips of girls, or the chest/arms/butt/calves of men. Sports bras for all? Frumpy clothes for all? Should adults dress sexy ever in public?


    Yes, I have no fashion sense in the least.

  18. Thank you for this! Just as important as calling out true body and slut shaming is calling out the false accusations of the same. I found it ironic that the four organizers of the alternative prom listed in one of the articles are all boys!

  19. It’s got a boys’ section! Very specific, but boys have fewer objectionable choices within “formal wear with jacket and tie.” I think you make a good point, and as hard as modesty is, it’s a thing for a reason.

    I wonder now, too – wedding dresses aren’t like this. Brides are expected to look lovely but not sexualized. I wonder why teens are pushed to dress with these crazy slits, but adult women declaring their permanent sexual partner get full skirts.

    1. I think more and more brides are wearing slits and looking more sexy than innocent. It has gotten to the point that I have to prewatch Say Yes to the Dress before my teen and tween watch them because the dresses are toooo…. You know. It’s so sad.

    2. Err … I think you mean the boys section is NOT very specific. I think that’s one big mistake they’re making – if they’re truly concerned about the overall tone of the event, then they need to set a high standard for the boys as well. Also, it’s less likely to come across as sexist that way.

    3. The boys’ section is less specific because boys’ and mens’ formal wear just isn’t designed to show off their bodies in the way womens’ formal wear is. Unfair, but true. I have four boys and it is so much easier to clothes shop for them, because in general, a t shirt is a t shirt, not a frilly cap-sleeved affair drenched in glitter.

      My brother went to an all-boys’ Catholic high school and gritched about the rules about his hair. Hair could not touch the back collar. It could not be dyed, or shaved in a mowhawk, nor could they wear beards. And at dances they were expected to wear at the very least a sport coat, a button down shirt (buttoned to the top, maybe the top button could be left undone), and a nice pair of slacks. Nothing ripped or sagging, the priests would have turned them away at the door.

      1. Karen – and to me, that’s an excellent example of how a dress code should be, well, codified and enforced. With an actual compliance burden on the guys (not just the girls) and an actual risk of being turned away at the door.

      2. Right. Men’s/boys’ formal wear means one thing–suit. Girls’/women’s formal wear has a RIDICULOUS amount of options. If you’re looking for a suit for a guy, you really can’t go too far off the beaten path of acceptable. I could see them saying “boys must please wear pants at their waist, instead of down around their knees”, but that’s about as ridiculous as I’ve seen boys’ fashion go.

  20. Thanks for posting this! A great way to think about dress codes, and encouraging to not be so hard on school administrators, who are so often caught between a rock and a hard place with trying to form the kids they serve.

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