“Dress Coded”

I remember vividly, my then 4’11, scrawny, 6th grade body scrambling through the upperclassmen infested halls with my best friend of six years and a new friend I had just made in dance class.

We were sporting our best looks from Forever 21 (the kids section of course) and our newest pair of the trendiest boots at the time. I was wearing a polka dot dress that hit just under my knee and my BFF was wearing a plaid skirt and suspenders, #whatalook.

As for my new friend I just met, she was wearing a fluorescent top and some denim shorts. Thinking nothing of her outfit—other than wishing I had it—we continued rushing to the next class, trying to get there in the six minutes we were allowed. All of the sudden, my new friend is pulled aside by a tall male administrator. She is then lectured, scolded, and told that her awesome denim shorts were “distracting” and “not appropriate for school.” That was my first experience with a dress code.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning coming to school in Daisy Dukes and a bra, but a pair of mid-thigh, denim shorts from target, in the middle of an August heat wave—that is I think perfectly ok. In the 6th grade, I was obedient. Well … not so much obedient but afraid that an adult would call me out in front of everyone, take me out of class, bring me to the front office, and make me change into a dirty unwashed t-shirt, worn by maybe 500 kids dressed “inappropriately” prior to me. (Which is what they made you do if the staff “dress coded” you.) So even on the hottest of days I would always stay in dress code. Sweating profusely was so much better than being publicly humiliated. The struggle always remained the same for me though. I am a very tall girl, and I am always growing, and with growing comes clothes that don’t fit so well anymore. Shorts became shorter, shoes became smaller and it got to a point where my family couldn’t spend 200 dollars every three months on clothes that were IN dress code.

So I started 7th grade, and I was fed up. I didn’t feel scared anymore. I felt angry. Over the course of that entire year, I probably got “dress coded” ten times, and I was ok with that because I wasn’t going to dress for anyone else but myself.

When I was in the 5th grade, my school “dress coded” one of my peers and when the principal called in her parents they threatened to sue the school because legally a dress code can be “suggested but not enforced in a public school.” 


I am now in the 9th grade, and I just recently had an incident with a dress code. A few weeks ago the High School I now attend started “dress coding” left and right spontaneously, when prior to that there had been no enforced dress code. This upset many of my peers, and they wanted to do something about it. Not only did female students come the next day wearing crop tops, but so did the males. The boys wanted to support the girls and show that they are not staring at our bra straps and thinking “distracting thoughts.” We are more evolved than that. Some students even taped up signs informing people on how harmful a dress code can be. It was so amazing to see everyone come together and fight for something we all believe in.

My biggest problem with what happened at my high school was the email they sent out after the uproar. The email header stated “NO X-RATED SHORTS TOMORROW!” This was so appalling because what they were saying—what they (the administration) meant—was not only are our fashion choices/statements inappropriate but also pornographic.

Girls are taught at a young age to dress modestly because dressing otherwise is a distraction to boys. Boys have come a long way and those who haven’t need to keep their eyes on their school work. That is entirely their problem, and that should not get in the way of girls being able to express themselves. Quite frankly, I’m tired of having to worry about people viewing me or my outfits as pornographic, and I completely agree that dress codes are perpetuating rape culture. I’m a teenage girl, and if you view me as anything but that, YOU are the issue.


Photo: ©Raegen Gonzalez All Rights Resevered

  1. Paakhi Bhatnagar

    I’ve experienced so many situations that were so blatantly sexist that I couldn’t even believe that the faculty were saying such things. Either dress codes should apply to BOTH men and women equally with no exceptions or there shouldn’t be a dress code. We shouldn’t be teaching young girls to be ashamed of our own bodies, this is only perpetuating rape culture.

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    This was an awesome article. It was so well written and made some very strong argumuments!!! You keep writing Raegan! I want to hear what you’re thinking!!!

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    Thank you for writing this. I shared this on my Facebook page and have had a few back and forth comments. Mostly it was about dressing provocatively is distracting to others including teachers. My comments to this I will share here: This is a larger issue, as, correct me if I’m wrong, but there are no “dress codes” for boys at public schools here in USA other than please wear shorts or pants, and a shirt. For girls it’s NO tank tops, NO spaghetti straps, NO bra straps showing, NO short skirts, NO short shorts, NO leggings (yes that is true). I think uniforms are great, but if there are no uniforms, the schools need to change the focus/conversation because the reason for dress codes in most schools appear to be to keep the boys from being distracted. WTF?

    I agree that parents should teach their daughters to not wear a miniskirt that shows their butt cheeks. However, a friend’s daughter just told me that, at their 8th grade graduation, girls were instructed to show no shoulders and no toes. That was here in Los Angeles. I was shocked to say the least. There are plenty of formal gowns/attire that are proper for a graduation that show shoulders, and plenty of dressy shoes that show toes. Toes. Really?

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