According to a recent feature on Today, some schools take their dress codes so seriously that students have to text photos of their chosen dresses for approval before homecoming dances. Dress codes for school events are highly controversial, usually targeting female students more than male students, and prescribing very personal choices like dress length, sleeve design and neckline.
Does your school have a dress code that restricts your choice of prom dresses?
The most common dress code regulations for prom dresses deal with length. “Dresses should be no shorter than fingertip length” is a typical rule, except at more conservative institutions, which might require knee-length or below-knee-length dresses.
Also common are restrictions on sleeve design. Strapless and spaghetti strap dresses may be unacceptable at more conservative schools. Most also have instructions regarding how much cleavage a dress can expose, or how far down the back the dress can be cut.
The popularity of two-piece dresses has prompted its own set of additions to rules where they didn’t exist before. These deal with amount of stomach exposure (bare midriff) that’s allowed, if any.
Some parents are in favor of dress codes, asserting that teens already have enough pressure to dress provocatively. These parents feel that strict rules dictating what kind of dresses you can wear to prom protect students from making choices that might jeopardize their safety.
On the other side of the argument are parents who feel that dress codes violate students’ freedom of expression. These parents consider the choice of dress an extension of one’s personality, and believe that any restrictions on this expression should come exclusively at the discretion of parents.
Both sides are passionate about their positions, and they aren’t alone. Advocacy groups like the ACLU have become involved and there have been multiple lawsuits defending students and their rights. It’s unclear, to date, how the latest round of lawsuits will be received by courts, but most of the time, legal decisions have favored schools’ rights, while cautioning administrators not to go too far.
Would you feel comfortable taking photos, then submitting them to someone at your school for permission before buying your prom dress? The schools that do this for other formal dances claim that it’s better to know in advance than to find out at the door that you are out of compliance. It’s not always easy to send students home from prom to change, so determining how appropriate a dress is before the big day could be really helpful.
However, many parents feel that there is a whole new violation of personal rights when you are forced to take photos of yourself and send them to administrators. While the school might reassure you that the photos will not be used for anything other than screening, it can be hard to trust that they won’t fall in to the wrong hands.
Whether or not you agree with prom dress codes, it is an excellent idea to be familiar with them so you are prepared before you arrive at prom. Understand your school’s guidelines and stay in touch with administration. Finally, worry not! The rules might seem restrictive, but there are a great many styles of prom dresses from which to choose!