Are You For or Against the Dress Code?: A Look at Both Sides

PRO: Kavya Ravichandran CON: Lizzie Poulos


We all seem to think that HB’s dress code is oppressive and closed-minded. We can’t wear jeans or sweatpants or leggings or, really, anything comfortable. I mean, it’s kind of ridiculous, too, that they ask young women to stifle their personalities, since all of our personalities are directly dependent on the approximately three pieces of clothing we’re not allowed to wear.

In reality, it’s fairly easy to still express oneself while remaining within dress code. One of the goals of the Upper School dress code is for students to “[learn] about appropriate clothing choices for different occasions.” While sweatpants and leggings may be comfortable, they are simply not appropriate for formal situations. If one showed up to a job interview at a traditional company in sweatpants and a t-shirt, they most likely would not get the job. You can argue that there’s no intrinsic reason for them to be “informal,” but something too comfortable is not conducive to working. Also, the argument that comfort is the most important thing falls flat when you consider the shoes females wear for dressy and formal events. I mean, don’t tell me that those stiletto heels or those really cute high-heel pumps are more comfortable than pants with zippers. I’ve heard enough complaints about walking in heels to know otherwise.

We don’t just pop out of the womb knowing how to dress well. (If we did, though, think about how much of this angst could be avoided!) Whether or not we like it, we need to be taught how to dress appropriately before we enter situations where dress is, for better or worse, a significant factor. This is quite an important aspect of “learning not for school, but for life.” By aligning our dressing style with what the situation demands, we are showing respect for the situation, not compromising on our ability to express ourselves. Even while dressing for school, we have so many options regarding how to express our tastes and style. Yes, pants have to have zippers, but there aren’t any restrictions on what color they are (except blue jeans). Yes, shirts can’t have words on them, but most of the shirts I see when I go shopping don’t, either. Plus, you can add a cute piece of jewelry or an accessory that’s just you. The dress code is meant to reflect expectations of dress when we go to work in the real world, and as far away as that may seem, it really isn’t.


In a school that prides itself on encouraging self-expression in its students, I find it hypocritical that our dress code promotes the exact opposite in our student’s wardrobes. As teenage girls, we are all going through big changes in our lives, both emotional and physical. Part of these changes involves discovering new things about ourselves, and finding a unique identity that suites our individuality. Our current dress code restrains our ability to experiment with clothes, new fashion trends, etc., and to express our identity through our clothing. The code is holding us down instead of lifting us up, as one would think it would intend to do.

Putting an emphasis on “modesty” and “appropriate attire” also sends subliminal messages about what is truly important in our collective goal of education. In a school, the ultimate goal from day-to-day is not to look proper and presentable (unless you freely choose too), but to be comfortable and learn as much as we can. If our school cannot bequeath us with an air-conditioned environment, we should be able to wear tank tops so we do not overheat. There have been too many times where I have found myself distracted in class because I am so hot, wearing a sweater, and it is in the 80’s outside. By emphasizing the importance of dress code, we sacrifice the opportunity of physical comfort in the name of being presentable. For example, let’s say that a student finds leggings much more comfortable and easier to wear walking from class to class or while taking a test. Our priority should not lie in how “presentable” or “inappropriate” some might find the student’s attire, but rather creating the optimal environment for the student to learn and succeed.

Finally, advocates of dress code argue that it is considerate of the feelings of male teachers, who may feel “uncomfortable” with the way students presents themselves. It is my opinion that the responsibility of this issue lies with the teachers and not the students. Human beings have a right to wear what they want and to present themselves however they like, and if male teachers feel uncomfortable with their students wearing leggings, that is their problem, not the students’. Some may go as far to say that leggings are objectifying, but the reality is that the person wearing them is not self-objectifying, merely the observer is interpreting the attire of a person as an explanation of their understanding self-worth. We must respect each other’s right to personal expression and respect our own bodies enough to not feel uncomfortable whenever we see each other’s shoulders.

Let us also look beyond HB: many high schools don’t have any dress code, and no colleges have them. Why? Because these schools understand that restraining people’s attire to create a better school environment is counterintuitive. To have a better school environment, we must encourage self-expression and emphasize the importance of comfortable learning over dressing in a way others find “presentable.” In conclusion, I ask the school administration to reconsider the dress code, and the importance of self-expression at HB.

So What Do YOU Think after seeing both sides? Comment Below!