Prom season is here and it has started to bring back memories from my own junior prom experience. If you went to a catholic school, you probably experienced strict dress codes that made no sense at all. As if it wasn’t enough that you had to follow rules everyday about the way you dressed, they try to establish even more guidelines for prom night. Reading through the dress code, it was clear that they wanted us to cover up and not show skin that they felt was “inappropriate.” The restrictions go as far as the placements of straps on the body. Yeah, it’s ridiculous.
I recently came across a set of rules from this year’s prom from my old high school and it seems like they added even more restrictions. Speaking from experience, this is how the process would go. First, they release the dress code so you can go over it before you bought or had a dress made. Like the majority of the people at my school, I had mine custom-made. But, the designer’s sketch had to be approved and signed off by the school first.
Here are some of the rules we had to consider:
– Tube tops may only be worn if a bolero is worn at all times
– No pants, jeans, or slacks
– No body-fitting skirts/dress from the waist down
– The hem of the dress should be no more than three (3) inches above the knee, and no longer than three (3) inches below the knee
– No rubber shoes, sneakers, slippers, or sandals
– No excessive jewelry
And the list goes on. Honestly, if they are going to list down all of these restrictions, they should have just given us uniformed dresses to wear. Why? Because instead of giving us a chance to use this one night in our high school lives to wear something that reflected our personalities, we still had to try to fit in a box they created. Reading through it, Catholic school should try and be more progressive too. No pants? I’m sorry, but I don’t think you should be forcing girls to wear skirts and dresses if they don’t want to. We should stop thinking that dresses are the norm. Girls can wear trousers and top combo to formal events too, including prom.
If you think it ends there, you are mistaken because they also have a dress code for the girls’ date:
– No makeup
– No ascots
– No unnecessary jewelry
– No unbuttoned buttons
Now, let’s go back to my personal experience. After meeting with a designer, the sketch for my two-piece prom look was approved. Let me try and paint you a picture of what I wore. The top was a leatherette and mesh corset top—yes, I wore one before Kylie Jenner did. Mind you, I did follow the rules. I had no cleavage showing and my boobs were not on display. The bottom was a white tulle skirt that had just the right length according to them. Even if everything was pre-approved, we weren’t safe just yet. Even at the prom itself teachers were going around checking if students weren’t showing any skin. If you were, they handed you a shawl to cover up. To my surprise, I was one of those girls and a teacher handed me a sad-looking brown shawl and asked me to cover up. I obliged, but I wasn’t happy about it.
However, I know that it isn’t just my high school that had these rules. Some even went as far as to refuse students entry if their dress didn’t follow the dress code. Schools need to realize the problem with these rules. You’re already having students wear uniforms every day, so why can’t you give them this one chance to wear what they want?
There is also the bigger problem here. This somehow teaches girls that they need to cover up and be modest. Now, there’s nothing wrong with modesty, but there is also no shame in wanting to show off your body a little. I mean, this is high school so they should also trust that their students know what’s appropriate and what isn’t. This also teaches girls that their bodies are the problem when they’re not. No, our bodies don’t distract boys. No, our bodies aren’t what cause sexual harassment. It really is surprising to see that this is what they are trying to instill in young girls.
Personally, I find fashion and dressing up as one of my outlets of expression. Planning outfits brings me so much joy so this experience was very triggering. I also didn’t let that situation brainwash me into thinking otherwise about the way I dress. So, excuse me while I plan my next outfit featuring a scarf tied as a top. Spoiler alert: It’s super cute.
Art by Marian Hukom
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