The Clothing Calamity

Students shares experience and opinions regarding dress codes

It’s a tale as old as time; A teenage girl being pulled aside amid educational activities so that she can “cover up,” change her outfit entirely or alter her appearance in some other way to meet the often archaic clothing policy of the school. Sophomore Charlotte Warren experienced this firsthand in an encounter with her gym teacher not long ago. 

“She comes over and she’s like, ‘Can you put your jacket back on?,’” Warren said. “I was on the exercise bike, and it made me so angry. I got up and started walking on the treadmill, and then I just stopped doing activities altogether.”

Though Warren does not consider herself to be revealing or outlandish in her fashion choices, she attributes the occasional dress code rebuke from teachers to a significant age gap. 

“You look at old movies or TV shows and they’re wearing shorts that literally go to their knees,” she said. “Even ripped jeans — they don’t like to wear something like that. The older generation has, I would say, more modest values when it comes to this.” 

Despite its pitfalls, clothing restrictions do have some merit in Warren’s eyes — after all, she said, “you can’t show up to school naked and expect not to be reprimanded.” In this way, the dress codes help promote a more productive learning environment. 

“There are some things I find distracting, like dog collars and choker spikes and fishnet leggings with holes,” she said. “I personally think it’s sort of ridiculous, but I understand how some people have different fashion senses.”

Warren continued this thought to say people still have the right to wear whatever they like, and her ability to learn is seldom hindered by her neighbor’s choice of shirt, jacket or shoes. It’s this laissez-faire perspective on clothing choices that makes it difficult for Warren to accept the gendered justifications for rigid dress codes in many schools across the nation. 

“It’s sexualizing girls, and it’s honestly a big rip on the guys — like, ‘Hey, you can’t control yourself,’” she said. “It’s degrading the girls too because you think that they can’t control themselves either. I think it’s necessary, but they could modify it a little.”

Perceptions like these, Warren argues, lead to societal ramifications far more pressing than the width of a tank top strap or the length of a skirt. 

“It allows for phrases like ‘boys will be boys,’” she said. “Women are being taught that you have to protect yourself from it rather than men being taught that you cannot do this, and that’s not right.”


Graphic by Kaitlin Green