Have you seen this? This completely unsurprising supposedly-directed-at-both-genders-yet-curiously-female-centric dress code for a prom at a *gasp* Catholic school?
The inevitable discussion is of course all about misogynistic body-policing vs. good and common sense, summarized with one word in the usual way: modesty.
Look, the school absolutely has the right to set the tone they want for the event. So they want a formal, respectable prom where everyone is dressed with taste and elegance? Good for them. But why the single-minded focus on the women? I assume there will be guys there, correct? And there are expectations for gentlemanly dress and appearance, correct?
Oh, wait –
“Young men are expected to wear formal evening attire that would include a tuxedo, suit with a tie, or sport coat and slacks with a tie.”
But the women get pages – pages – of examples?!
“But Athena, there’s just so much more variety in women’s clothing – that’s why the women need the additional focus! And there’s only so many pages because the school is just so generously providing examples so that there’s no confusion about what’s allowed!”
Yes, they are providing examples! Good for them. I have no doubt that those examples were provided in order to make it crystal clear to girls exactly how to follow the dress code. But here’s the problem: all of those models are a size 2. Further, prominently featured in the dress code are subjective statements such as, “Dresses should not be excessively tight,” and “Some girls may wear the same dress, but due to body types, one dress may be acceptable while the other is not,” and even a flat-out admission that “Modesty is admittedly a subjective interpretation.” In short, there is zero guidance for curvier girls regarding the overall look that would be considered acceptable for their body type, which means that there is a lot of room for disagreement between school administration and a student making a good-faith attempt to comply.
“Really, Athena, this is really nothing different than a fashion magazine showing young adults what to wear to job interviews!”
Err … yes it is. In particular, a guide for men’s interview clothing would discuss recommended color combinations, the proper fit of clothes, a provision that clothing should be wrinkle-free, and many other details that, in total, yield a professional, put-together look.
Speaking of detail, it’s time I get to the point of my post, which is –
How to write a dress code for formal dances without being sexist (i.e. in such a way that compliance for women and men is equally burdensome with roughly equivalent ratios of good sense and arbitrary rules)
I don’t think anyone needs my help writing a dress code for women. So let’s skip this part.
- Men are expected to wear formal evening attire that would include a tuxedo or a suit with a tie.
- Jackets should hang off the shoulders in a dignified manner without being too big. Jackets must be worn at all times to preserve the dignity and formality of the event. Jackets are allowed to be unbuttoned while dancing or seated but must be buttoned at all other times.
- Vests are optional, but if worn must be color-coordinated with the tie and the rest of the outfit. Vests must remain buttoned at all times.
- Ties are required. Ties may either be in the necktie or bowtie style and must be properly tied; clip-on ties are disallowed. If a necktie style is chosen, the bottom of the tie must hang to between the top and the bottom of the belt buckle when standing up straight. Neckties may be no more than 3” wide at the widest point, and bowties may be no more than 2” wide at the widest point. Ties must be worn and properly tied at all times and may not be “loosened”.
- Belts are required. Belt buckles may not be more than 2.5” in diameter and should not be ostentatious in appearance. Belts should be color-coordinated with the rest of the outfit.
- Pants should not be oversized nor excessively tight. Pants should hang to the ankle when standing. Pants may touch the top of the shoes but should not touch the ground when standing up straight.
- Dress socks and dress shoes are required. Athletic shoes and/or athletic socks are disallowed. If you have a medical waiver allowing special footwear, you must bring your waiver with you to be allowed into the dance.
The overall look should be formal and tasteful, properly fitted, not oversized, and not excessively tight. Men wearing wrinkled or improperly fitting clothing will not be allowed to attend. Tastefulness is admittedly a subjective interpretation, but one which we have a duty to uphold. Students should therefore err on the side of formality and good taste and not put school administrators in the difficult position of upholding school standards.
Guidelines will be strictly enforced. Students, including guests, not in compliance with the dress code will not be admitted to the dance. There will NOT be a loaner clothing option. Having been specifically forewarned, we expect nothing less than full cooperation from students and their parents on this issue.
We understand that there is a degree of judgment in fulfilling the provisions for good taste and modesty. We further understand that what is acceptable to one school official may not be acceptable to another. Because we reserve the right to strictly enforce the guidelines, yet we want to minimize misunderstandings and disappointment inherent in strict enforcement of subjective guidelines, we are available to pre-approve your outfit. From (date) to (date), text a picture of yourself in your proposed outfit to XXX-XXX-XXXX. If you receive a response of “approved,” simply show the approval to anyone who challenges you the evening of prom.
If you are unable to attend for any reason, your ticket cost will be refunded to you.
There – see how easy that was?