As prom season rolls around, many girls scour hundreds of dress options at local department stores like Macy’s, Dillard’s and JCPenney. While the choices seem plentiful, when the dress code from schools such as Stockton’s Edison High School or Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville, Florida, are applied, many of the options become unavailable.
Many schools have a prom dress code, but few are as strict as Edison’s, which went viral on Twitter in March for what some students deemed unreasonably strict and sexist rules. Along with the numerous guidelines restricting which parts of the body are acceptable to show, the code featured constant reminders that skin-toned material was not an acceptable way to cover those explicit areas; also, shawls and jackets are not acceptable ways to cover up inappropriate dresses.
As a result, some female students were forced to pay extra for alterations. Since the guidelines were released at the last minute, many girls had already purchased and put the finishing touches on their dresses.
Following a code similar to Bear Creek’s, students at Joshua High School in Texas are required to take a Breathalyzer before they are permitted entry to prom, but the dress code is less enforced. In the words of Joshua Principal Mick Cochran, the students have “earned it.”
Boylan Catholic High School in Rockford, Ill., led students to form an alternate prom due to what they feel is a body shaming prom dress code. The 21-page dress code tells students: “Some girls may wear the same dress, but due to body types, one dress may be acceptable while the other is not.”
Boylan President Amy Ott defended the dress code in the “Rockford Register Star.” “We think it’s important as a Catholic institution to help our students see that they can be elegant and modest and beautiful at the same time,” Ott said.
However, some students beg to differ. “Somebody needed to step up and do something. We knew this wasn’t right,” Boylan senior and alternative prom organizer Ben Calkins said in an interview with “The Wall Street Journal.”
Archbishop Ryan High School in Pennsylvania requires female students to submit pictures of the front and back of their dress in order to buy tickets, but male students are not required to do the same with their attire.
For many students, prom shopping is a fun experience. However, for students at Stanton College Preparatory School, it only came with the reminder of the restrictions placed upon them.
Signs were posted on school grounds with pictures of four different dresses. Three of them displayed “inappropriate” dresses with the caption, “Going to Stanton Prom? No, you’re not.” The last photo showed a dress deemed appropriate that bore the caption, “Going to Stanton Prom? Yes, you are. Good girl.”
Photos of the fliers were spread via Twitter, and quickly gained attention and criticism from across the country. Many people felt the phrase “good girl” addressed the female students like dogs, and sounded strange coming from the school’s administration.
Students also took issue with the fact that the announcement was very last-minute. “Good thing they told us a week before prom,” Stanton student Lily Willingham said on Twitter. “It’s not like everyone has their dress already.”
Students felt that the fliers insinuated that certain styles of dress made girls “bad” or less than others who dressed more conservatively.
“I was a national merit finalist and my prom dress was backless, low-cut & had a thigh high slit — what is the point Stanton??” Twitter user Lahari Manchikanti wrote in a Tweet responding to the photos.
As for Bear Creek, the dance contract reminds students that the school dress code also applies to dances. Technically, that would mean no bare midriffs, no strapless dresses/spaghetti straps, and no leg slits above a certain point. However, this policy is not strictly enforced and many students say they are appreciative of that fact.
“I’m glad that they don’t enforce [the dress code] as much because it’s a special night for everyone,” junior Talena Vo said, whose dress had dress-code breaking straps. “It’s a one-night thing.”