What Should I Wear?

What Should I Wear?

Kate Kelly, Staff Writer

Dress codes are a controversial topic that is hotly debated by students and faculty across many schools. Much like work dress codes, schools enforce dress codes to enhance their image and promote a more serious academic environment. Due to many prestigious schools having an enforced dress code, there is  pressure and  an expectation is created  for other schools to implement a similar dress code. There are many benefits to the dress code. By having these rules at an early age, advocates argue that students are more equipped for the real world and professional settings. Furthermore, having a dress code can reduce social pressure and the need to “dress to impress”. Students are able to worry less about their appearance, and spend more time focusing on academics. Although the idea of a dress code may seem beneficial, the topic continues to be controversial, as it restricts freedom of expression. 

High school is a time for personal growth and finding one’s identity. Dress codes diminish freedom of expression and lead to friction between students and faculty members. Arbitrary regulations on clothing strips teens of their confidence, uniqueness, and individuality. Although dress codes impact all genders, it has a disproportionately large effect on young women. Having a list of sexist rules controlling the clothing they wear can make them feel punished for their appearance. At La Jolla Country Day, there have been several instances of women wearing the same clothing where  one gets dress coded while the other does not. This issue is due to school administration not considering and recognizing the differences in female bodies. An article of clothing can appear “scandalous” or appropriate, depending on body type. Unlike the guidelines men are given, rules towards women often an attempt to desexualize the female body. Child advocate Senior Samuel Park said, “I’ve heard and seen so many women get dress coded for wearing short shorts, but guys wear shorts that are the same length, sometimes even shorter, and no one seems to have a problem with that.” Though the dress code is argued to reduce the need for young women to “dress to impress”, it only surfaces more issues around confidence and body image. For many decades, women have been objectified and sexualized, and have fought to gain respect and freedom of expression. Dress codes show the lack of progress we have made in our society today. 

Thankfully, the Upper School dress code has improved tremendously. However, middle school students still continue to have arbitrary rules, such as the length of shorts, shirts, and how much shoulder can be shown. As mentioned in the La Jolla Country Day middle school dress code, “Tank tops must have two separate straps that go over both shoulders, and each strap must be the width of at least two fingers.” It isn’t healthy for a ten year old girl to have to worry about how her tank top strap looks and whether it will be distracting to her classmates. Being sexualized at such a young age is harming students’ abilities to feel confident and heard. Even after many complaints, students are still being forced to cover up unnecessary parts of their body. If someone is distracted by a ten year old girl’s shoulders, it’s not the girl’s fault, but the fault of the observer for finding an excuse to be distracted. Another factor that is typically overlooked, particularly in San Diego, is the weather. When hot out, there are not many clothing options for women to wear. The dress code should be up for students to decide, and if unfair, faculty can help find a common ground. By giving students this ability, their once-neglected voice can become heard.


Cover image credit: istockphoto.com