High School Dress Code Promoting Professionalism?

High School dress codes have recently become a topic of controversy.

There's been debate about the true purpose of dress codes. Supposedly, dress codes are designed to prepare students for professionalism in the work place. However, students and professionals alike disagree.

"we had uniforms. girls used to wear skirts, but they were hemming them so short that they changed the rules to where girls and boys had to wear the same khaki shorts. they couldn't be shorter than two inches above the knee," says Madison scarpino, who went to a catholic high school.

Meet Kristin Chirico

Photo provided by Kristin Chirico

Kristin is a senior editor at Buzzfeed. Last year, she decided to do an experiment of her own with the dress codes of various high schools.

Photo provided by Kristin Chirico

Chirico decided to pick eight high schools, and follow each of their dress codes once every day for a week without adding to her current wardrobe.

This was the wardrobe Chirico had to work with for the duration of her experiment. (Photo provided by Kristin Chirico)

For every day of her experiment, Chirico gave a photo of her outfit and what items of her wardrobe weren't allowed under that day's dress code.

On the first day, only 6 out of her 40 wardrobe items were disallowed. By the last day, Chirico could not wear 35 out of her 40 pieces of clothing.

Throughout the experiment, Chirico described feeling humiliated and demoralized. She even had to get down on her knees one day so her boss could be sure her dress was "no shorter than six inches off the ground while kneeling."


In the fall of 2015, a campaign surfaced at Charleston County School of the Arts in response to sexism in dress codes. Students brought back the Scarlett Letter to protest dress code discrimination towards female students.

Photo provided by The Post and Courier

They wore their red A's and created the hashtag #IammorethanAdistraction to protest the unfair leaning of attention on female students when it comes to dress code.

dress code is often seen as sexist, and girls are often told to "Cover Up" so as not to distract their male classmates.

"Male teachers would comment on girls wearing colored sports bras. it was really uncomfortable, and they never commented on how short the boys' shorts were. They let the guys wear boots, but girls couldn't wear anything but tennis shoes," says Abbey lindsay on her private high school's dress code.

This video, uploaded to the Popsugar Girls' Guide YouTube channel, discusses cases with sexist dress code rules. Many female students are told that their clothing is inappropriate for school. They are told to change so as not to be a distraction. They are, essentially, told that they are the problem.

"here's a radical idea: Rather than punishing girls, how about we educate boys that sexual HARASSMENT is not OK?"

So says the narrator of the video. This is a common argument when it comes to sexist dress codes. Popsugar Girls' Guide maintains that girls should not be held responsible for the actions of boys. The argument is that the responsibility should be placed on boys to not be sexual harassers instead of teaching girls not to become victims on sexual harassment.

"When I was in third grade, I got sent home because I had one hole on the knees of my favorite jeans, while the little boys around me were in shorts because it was Mississippi, and it was 90 degrees in April. i missed at least two tests that day. Tell me why does my learning experience not matter as much as a boy's experience?" says savannah kelly, a graduate of a mississippi public high school.
Photo provided by Buzzfeed.com

Meet Stephanie Hughes of Versailles, Kentucky. She was sent home from school for wearing this outfit because it exposed too much of her collarbone. When she tried to correct the dress code violation with a scarf, the school administration told her she wasn't tying the scarf the right way.

In theory, dress codes exist to prepare students for professionalism, to "Dress for Success," if you will.

The reality is that dress codes have become more than setting students up for life in the workplace. Administrations impose rules that have nothing to do with professionalism. They often focus more on girls than boys and interrupt a female student's education to ensure that a boy is not distracted from his. As more students begin to stand up against unfair dress codes, schools will likely be forced to review their policies.

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