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Girls Sacrifice Dress Code for Fashion

Like many incoming Deerfield students, I loved the concept of a dress code. Who wouldn’t approve of students looking presentable at all times and appearing to take their education seriously? What I failed to realize at that point was the frustration and anxiety that Deerfield’s dress code would eventually cause me.

Walking around campus today, we can easily distinguish the criteria for boys’ dress code, but it is nearly impossible to discern distinct rules for girls. Boys keep it classy in blazers and ties, but girls wear clothing infinitely less formal than their male counterparts. A quick peek at DA to Z reveals a reasonable-sounding, appropriate dress code for girls. It shouldn’t be too much to ask of 300 intelligent high school girls, but unfortunately, it is.

At the beginning of this year, female students were implored to dress responsibly and follow the dress code. The fall term saw relatively few violations; this spring has been atrocious. Backless dresses, white jeans, blue jeans, and way too much skin in general have become commonplace.

Two years ago, many DA students and parents fought hard against an untimely dress code change, propsed late in the summer after many families had already done their back-to-school shopping. The change had good intentions but unrealistic propositions. One proposal was to eradicate low necklines by requiring t-shirts under revealing dresses. This rather extreme proposal was vetoed, but our school is still in need of a change.

A young Deerfield woman today must fulfill four clothing criteria: clothing she likes, clothing that fits, clothing in her price range, and clothing that adheres to the dress code. The last is unfortunately the one compromised most often. Because the girls’ dress code is not black and white like the boys’ is, there is room for girls to be influenced more by what is cute and fashionable than what is written in the rulebook, an issue only perpetuated by inconsistencies in faculty enforcement of the dress code.

There is a viable, though not necessarily fashion-forward, option that could make the girls’ dress code airtight: conservative dressing that is of similar level to the boys’ attire.  There do exist skirts long enough and blouses covering enough to be at the same formal standard as the boys’ conservative and professional look.  Fashion should not be the main concern.  Deerfield could benefit immensely by prioritizing the intellect and character of a student and de-emphasizing his or her appearance.

Like many, I am tired of the dress code discussion.  I know my last three years would have been much less stressful had there been more consistency with the faculty and better attitudes, leadership, and integrity on the part of the female students.  As I leave Deerfield behind, I hope the tradition of class dress will remain, though we need a more transparent set of rules and a renewed respect of these rules from the female students.

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