Dress Code Turn Away


Renee Corrao

Here we have pre-formal photos of some of Cathedral’s seniors, in their beautiful dresses. Author, Danielle Corrao (far right), writes about her experience getting dress coded and why she felt that the dress code system was inconsistent and targeted girl students.

Many students may have realized that this year, Cathedral Catholic has become more strict on enforcing the dress code. Teachers are being told to submit dress code violations to the attendance portal when taking attendance at the beginning of every class. Students are unable to get away with a missing polo or wearing faded black jeans, joggers, or leggings. Not only has the dress code been stricter at school, but also dances. It started with Homecoming this past October when girls were grouped together to be told that their outfits were inappropriate. The uproar caused by girls who felt belittled and offended surfaced at school and lasted for weeks.

More problems arose when students were told that if they showed up to the most recent formal out of dress code, they would not be let into the dance. But what did they classify as out of the dress code? Boys were required to wear slacks, a button-down shirt, and a tie; but, they were welcome to wear suits and blazers. As for girls, cutouts, plunging v-necks, cleavage, low backs, or slits more than four inches above the knee, were not allowed. For boys, it is easy to follow the dress code. But the problem with these rules is they don’t mean the same for every girl, because every girl’s body is different.

Some might say the formal dress code was an example of the way girls feel objectified, sexualized, and unheard by adults in authority. Personally, my mom picked out and bought my formal dress with me, and I’m sure many girls can say the same. Why does the school feel like they can override a parent’s approval of their daughter’s dress?

When I showed up to the dance, I walked in confidently believing that my dress fit the dress code. My moment of confidence ended quickly when I was pulled away from my friends because of the length of my slit. I’ve always had longer legs. I’m not too tall of a girl, but compared to the rest of my body, my legs are long. When I was picked out of the group of my friends for my dress, I was mortified. Standing there in front of the door where I saw hundreds of my peers walk in, staring at me while I was ridiculed for my dress, I felt small. I felt like what I was wearing was a problem. I felt like a problem. For the first time in my life, the long legs I always adored didn’t seem so beautiful.

Cathedral had a dress code checking system where they would only let in a group of about 15 kids at a time so the chaperones could check for dress code violations while they also scanned their tickets to be let in. How was it that girls with higher slits, almost to their hips, got let into the dance, but my slit that was about 5 inches above my knee had me waiting outside the door from 6:45 to 7:20? For about 35 minutes I stood by the door, visible to every student that walked in. When I was finally let in to be able to enjoy the dance, I walked past boys wearing turtle necks under their blazers. Per the dress code slides, boys were required to wear button down shirts and ties. The inconsistency of which outfits were allowed and which weren’t, was unfair and thoughtless.

Turning girls away at the door and grouping them off to the side because of their dresses, took the focus off of formal and placed it on girl’s bodies. Whispers filled up the walls of the ballroom with conversations such as:

“Did you hear so and so got stuck at the door?”
“I can’t believe that! Her dress isn’t even that bad.”

Dear administration,
Imagine being a teenage girl, filled with insecurities about your physique or the things you wear because of your mature body.
Imagine being excited about the dress you bought for your formal to match the tie of the guy you like.
Imagine going to photos, looking absolutely stunning.
Imagine walking up to the door with your ticket, only to get pulled aside in front of hundreds of your fellow classmates and friends to be ridiculed for what you’re wearing.
Imagine having to call your parents, crying, because they need to come pick you up from the dance or drive 30 minutes to bring you safety pins because your dress needs ‘alterations’.

We are taught to love the body God gave us and cherish it. But how are we supposed to feel that when our Catholic school is judging us on how we dress?

Whether at school, a party, or a get together, there will always be some guideline for an appropriate outfit. I can’t disagree completely and say all dresses are appropriate for a school dance, but I can confidently say most of the dresses that were questioned should not have been. Many students believe dress codes put a spotlight on females’ physiques, labeling their outfits as inappropriate and distracting. Cathedral’s definition of inappropriate is outdated and subjects all body types to fit into a box we shouldn’t have to fit into.