Nearly every school maintains its own school dress code. While elementary school wardrobe guidelines tend to be less restrictive, students entering middle school and high school tend to have to pay more attention to the dress code.
While some schools, both private and otherwise, maintain school uniform requirements, there are a good amount of schools that do not. The benefit of opting for a dress code instead is that it allows students a certain level of self-expression while maintaining appropriate dress.
Less restrictive than outright school uniforms, students still sometimes struggle with the concept of school dress codes. However, these codes are most often put into place for the benefit of students.
School dress codes ensure that students will not dress inappropriately. Many times, younger students can be unaware that their clothes may cause a distraction for other students in their school. Not only that, but hyper-focusing on the clothes one wears to school can distract the student themselves.
Many fashion trends have no place in the school environment, as they are often too revealing or risque to promote a focused academic environment.
Students can feel a sense of jealousy and competition when they are confronted with ridiculous fashion standards. Many students cannot afford to keep up with these standards, leading to an increased sense of inequity between students.
Instead, keeping the acceptable wardrobe basic and non-distracting helps students feel accepted by their peers and helps to keep them focused on their learning.
10 General School Dress Code Rules
1. Hair Colors
Most schools prefer students to maintain natural hair colors, although each school may have its own definition of what is acceptable.
2. Holes in Jeans
While this has long been a fashion trend, many dress codes have stipulations against holes in jeans. Some schools ban them outright, while others have specific rules as to how large the holes can be and where they can be placed.
3. No Pajamas
Although it seems it should go without saying, many students will try to wear anything that isn't expressly banned in a school's dress code. Because of this, many schools have banned pajama bottoms, slippers, etc.
Many schools may allow students to wear leggings; however, most schools forbid students from wearing these as pants.
While wearing leggings as tights or with a longer top may be acceptable, it is best to use your better judgment and refer to your school's specific dress code when considering wearing leggings.
Schools may either ban hats or bandanas outright or allow students to wear school hats.
6. Profanity or Slurs on Clothing
Nearly any school will take offense to items of clothing with inappropriate or hateful speech. It may seem obvious, but these items are inappropriate to wear to school.
7. Skirts, Dresses, and Shorts Length
Schools will often have a specific rule regarding the length of bottoms. Schools may wish these items to reach the mid-thigh or hand's width above the knee.
8. Sagging Pants
Pants or any other item of clothing that exposes undergarments are typically prohibited.
9. Exposed Midriff
As with sagging pants, shirts that expose one's midriff are typically considered to be too revealing for a school environment.
10. Spaghetti Straps
These shirts often expose one's undergarments or are simply too revealing for a learning environment.
How to Dress Properly at School or College
Finally, it's time to style.
With many stipulations as to what is not acceptable to wear at school, it may not seem obvious what exactly one should be wearing to school. Are you feeling at a loss because of dress code restrictions?
Luckily, there are a few rules of thumb that can have you dressed perfectly from your head to your toes.
Sweaters are a kawaii and stylish way to stay within your school's dress code while remaining stylish. Often, cardigans and other open sweaters can help you work items that may not otherwise be appropriate for school into your wardrobe.
For example, a tank top that might not otherwise be acceptable for school suddenly falls within your school's dress code when paired with a cute cardigan.
T-shirts are a timeless way to remain stylish while still being comfortable at school. While we often want to look good when dressing for school, comfort often becomes an overlooked priority.
Something like a t-shirt or pullover sweater is a great way to stay comfortable and stylish. School hoodies never go out of style, just as cute patterned blouses stay breathable and appropriate for school.
If you want a more feminine style, try pinks, purples, reds, and pastels. You will also want to look for tops with lace, embroidery, floral patterns, or sheer areas.
Once you have the shirts, it's going to be really easy to find pants or skirts that fit.
Maintaining a good selection of basic denim that fits well and is comfortable is essential for school. A good pair of jeans will match nearly anything and will keep you in style. What's more, the right pair of jeans will be just as comfortable as pajama bottoms.
Skinny jeans are in, so be sure to have a couple of different washes. Otherwise, leggings are actually a great addition to your wardrobe when worn appropriately. Pair them with a dress or different skirts and you'll look cute and comfortable even in the coldest of weather.
Shorts are also another viable option, although it can be difficult to find shorts that meet your school's dress code while remaining in style. If you're lucky enough to find a pair that you like and are allowed to wear to school, be sure to keep it in the rotation in order to craft the perfect summer wardrobe.
Accessories can be a tricky part of your school wardrobe. While items like hats and caps will likely be banned, you still have a few items that will be acceptable.
Scarves and wraps are a great addition to your winter wardrobe. A scarf with a cool pattern can drastically improve even the most simple of outfits.
Jewelry is another great way to express yourself at school. Simple items such as hoops and cuffs have long been in style. Feel free to branch out with fast-fashion items such as bold earrings or rings - these items help to give a great impression of your personality!
The same can be said for bracelets and necklaces, belts, etc. While some schools may have more specific rules for jewelry, you usually can't go wrong if you use your best judgment when selecting these items.
Nail art and manicures are always a large part of fashion. However, some schools ban overly-long nails. These can dangerous and impractical, so be sure to get a more mild manicure if you usually put some extra care into your fingernails.
The Dress Code Debate
While there are many benefits to school dress codes, there have long been debates as to the efficacy of school dress codes. Many, in particular, cite these codes as being unfair toward girls.
Many of these codes focus on items of clothing typically worn by girls. In addition, the language of these codes typically frames these codes as pertaining specifically to girls.
To remedy this, many schools have worked toward incorporating more gender-neutral language into their dress code policies.
Other arguments against dress codes express concern over the idea that girls are being told to cover themselves up in order to not distract male students. By policing the way girls are dressing, dress codes seem to blame girls for distracting boys.
In a way, this leads to the idea that dress codes focus on body shaming young girls by telling them not to wear clothes that expose or accentuate certain parts of their bodies.
A More Body-Positive Dress Code
While this discourse is important, it is also important to remember the purpose of school dress codes. These codes are put into place in order to help promote a safe and focused learning environment for all students.
Current fashion standards sometimes fail to avoid sexualizing fashion. School dress codes help to relieve some of the constant pressure facing young women and focusing on their bodies.
Instead, the hope is that by promoting more modest fashion at school, school becomes a safe place for young women where they can be free of society's ideals and instead focus on promoting friendships and learning.
The goal with these dress codes should be to promote equity among students rather than shame, and modern school dress codes are working toward reflecting those values instead.