6 reasons why I hate dress codes

Katlyn White, Columnist

Spaghetti straps, short skirts and excessive cleavage are some of the top banned items in a school dress code. In my own high school, wearing short skirts and cleavage was considered “skimpy.” Can you believe they actually put that word in the dress code? 

Skirts and cleavage are targeted more towards young females in the school environment.  These are just two of the common things I see stipulations on. 

A lot of people would argue for dress codes. They teach discipline and structure. Obviously, we don’t want children going to school in their bathing suits or their birthday suits. A dress code supposedly prevents children from coming to school stark naked. But what do they really do?

Sexualize Children, Mostly Girls:

Dress codes teach women, from a young age, that their bodies are to be hidden. To show skin is to be “skimpy.” They teach that young girls’ bodies are provocative and sexy. By banning cleavage and thighs, dress codes teach girls that their bodies are objects and they are a distraction. 

Young girls are viewed as inherently sexual. Short shorts do not mean the same thing to young girls as they do to older women. Young girls just see shorts as a piece of clothing to wear when it is hot. Why do teachers and administration see them as sexual clothing? 

Even as a 19-year-old girl in college, I have trouble wearing shorts to class. I certainly wouldn’t want to distract anyone from their precious learning with my thighs. 

Favor Male Students:

There are fewer stipulations targeted towards men’s clothing. My public school’s dress code had things like muscle tee’s banned but I remember most of the clothing articles being limited to female students. Skirts, cleavage and headwear were banned which generally limited females, not the male population. 

Male students also got away with violating the dress code more than the girls. Muscle tees and tank tops with a certain strap size were banned, but no guy who wore them, that I noticed, ever got in trouble for wearing them. But the moment a girl wears a top that shows midriff when she raises her hand, she is sent home and her learning is disrupted.

Apparently, men cannot control themselves at the sight of a shoulder or a bra strap. Schools cared more about men being distracted than girl’s safety.  When you ban cleavage and tank tops with straps smaller than 3 finger-width, schools are insinuating that the young men in school cannot control themselves. They aren’t feral.

Devalues Female Education:

Being sent home for the dress code is such a self-esteem blow, especially when the male counterparts are not sent home. 

One of the biggest things dress codes teach is that men’s education is more important than that of women’s. Men were not sent home while women always had to be sent home. Why does a woman’s education value less than a man’s? 

Even if they did not get sent home, the reprimand, the changing clothes and being forced to put a jacket on took time out of many girls’ academic time. 

I just want young girls’ education to be valued. It just would be nice to know that the world was teaching men more about how to control themselves instead of blaming women for men’s actions.

Promote Rape Culture:

Dress codes perpetuate the vibes of “women must protect themselves” instead of teaching men to behave themselves and act like decent human beings. 

In her article about dress codes, Laura Bates from TIME Magazine said, “It teaches our children that girls’ bodies are dangerous, powerful and sexualized and that boys are biologically programmed to objectify and harass them.”

We, as a society, should not be teaching young girls and women how to protect themselves from being raped. We should be teaching men not to rape. Dress codes begin early teaching of the opposite of this. Girls must cover up because men could not possibly control themselves. In a twisted way, I think that dress codes also show girls that what they wear can be an invitation for unwanted attention.

Body Shaming:

Let’s be real, bustier, curvier women are really targeted with these dress codes. When you have bigger bust sizes it is harder to hide your curves. There is nothing wrong with your curves. All bodies are beautiful, but dress codes shame women for having a larger bust. 


They teach young black kids that their natural hair is not appropriate. Some schools have a hair policy installed in their dress code. These are blatantly racist because they ban tight braids and dreadlocks among other Black hairstyles. 


For transgender people, I have heard stories of them being sent home for not wearing clothes that conform to their “birth gender.” This goes right along with transphobia and just a general idea of limiting self-expression. 

Lack of Self Expression:

With all the sexism and racism aside, dress codes are just dumb. Sometimes it is super hot in school. Why can the students not wear tank tops and shorts? A lot of schools will not let any shoulder show. They just limit the number of clothing students can wear. They prevent many students from expressing themselves. 

Dress codes subject all children to a form of oppression. I will let Li Zhou from The Atlantic sum this up for me, “Dress codes—given the power they entrust school authorities to regulate student identity—can, according to students, ultimately establish discriminatory standards as the norm.”

Dress codes should be changed to be more inclusive. People of any race, size and gender should not feel discriminated against in a dress code.