Does what is worn in school matter?

2 Apr

Moi has written about school attire in Dressing for success in school:

There are several reasons I feel that all children deserve a good preschool and a good basic education. Those reasons center around the purpose of education which in addition to individual enrichment are the ability to understand and participate in the political process and the opportunity to acquire skills which will make them employable and able to care for themselves and their families. The Washington Post reprinted a story from the Baltimore Sun about teachers in Howard County Time for Class, Teach; Take Out the Tongue Stud

It was a classic case of what not to wear.

Mary Schiller, a Howard County school system employee, walked down the aisle in a gray T-shirt that read “Yankees Suck.” To accent the outfit, she wore ripped jeans and flip-flops.  “Is this school attire?” Mamie Perkins asked the crowd of teachers gathered in Reservoir High’s cafeteria.

No!” the teachers yelled back.  “Mary calls that her grunge look,” Perkins, the system’s chief of staff, said laughing. “It’s perfect for Saturday.”

Howard teachers are being told to ditch their inappropriate duds in the workplace. Thursday, the system held a fashion show for 200 new teachers that showed them appropriate — and inappropriate — ways to dress in the classroom.

 This year, for the first time, the school system has circulated a pamphlet, “Expectations for Professional Attire,” among employees. The guidelines were devised after officials noticed a decline in professional dress among some teachers.

 The message is that the following are frowned upon: garments that expose underwear; sheer clothes; torn, tattered or disheveled clothes; flip-flops; hats; clothing with obscene, vulgar or profane language or illustrations; clothing with sexual overtones; and shorts for employees who do not teach physical education.

 The expectations also list as inappropriate visible tattoos or brands that are provocative or obscene; and jewelry or other objects that are connected to the nose, tongue, lip, eyebrow or other exposed body part that may be “deemed a safety issue,” the pamphlet says.  “We’re not trying to be the fashion police,” said Perkins, who served as the fashion show’s emcee. “We are a professional workplace. We want to make sure we remain that way in sharing these standards.”

 Howard appears to be alone in its effort. The school system’s committee of teachers, administrators and union leaders, which created the guidelines, did not find any other area system with a similar approach to employee attire, according to Sue Mascaro, director of staff relations. She modeled an inappropriate outfit in the fashion show that consisted of a form-fitting shirt, a denim miniskirt and flip-flops.

Particularly in the elementary grades it is important that teachers model appropriate behavior and appropriate attire. Given the number of children in distressed circumstances in contemporary society, it is important that schools be one institution where appropriate behavior is modeled. Another purpose of a good basic education is to equip children with the skills and the ability to make choices about their life. It has been my observation that many in education, not all, like to “rage against the machine” or what they perceive to be the dominant political dynamic. That is their right during their off hours. If a child wants to grow up and lead JP Morgan Chase, that is THEIR choice and THEIR right as well. The teacher is there to equip the child with the skills to follow THEIR dream. Many children come from families and backgrounds who are not as equipped to nurture and promote the child’s dreams as other families are. All children deserve a chance and a teacher modeling professional dress is an important part of the education of these children.

Moi supposes that after “business casual” probably degenerated into P.J.s and flipflops, banking giant UBS put the brakes on and delivered a dress code to its employees. Huffington Post has a good synopsis of the code along with a link to the actual document at the post, UBS 43′ Page Dress Code Warns Employees Not to Show Underwear:

It would be great if people were judged by what Dr. King described as the “content of their character,” but people are quite often judged by the clothes they are wearing.

Meds Available has some interesting thoughts about clothes in the article, What your Clothes Say about You:

The truth is, whatever reasons you may have for choosing your clothes says you are still trying to make a statement even if that statement is “I don’t care about fashion.”

But clothes is more than just the fashion trends. It is who you are and who you want to be.

Dressing your emotions

How you look on the outside reflects or affects how you feel on the inside. If you know you are wearing fashionably chic clothing, then you feel a little more confident than if you wore baggy ones. Subsequently, if you are wearing an ill-fitting dress, your actions will tell everyone that you are uncomfortable with what you’re wearing, which affects your confidence, performance, and mood.

Dressing for your future

How you carry yourself through your clothes can say who you want to be. For example, if you want to be a respectable lawyer, you would make it a point to dress in professional looking blazers and “power” outfits to serve as a constant reminder of what kind of person you are trying to be.

Dressing to Impress

How others view you based on your fashion sense also affects your mental health. The clothes you wear everyday can be used against you by judgmental people in the society. They use it as a yardstick to determine who they are talking to – whether they are talking to a “somebody” or a “nobody.” It is unfortunate that there are many people who are like that and teenagers are especially aware of the presence of these people that they easily believe they will only be hip enough for them if they are thin and trendy, solely based on the opinions of these people.

The sad part about this is that these teens, in spite of their better judgments, worship these people. They allow themselves to be swept by their mockeries and bullying, which lead them to depression, anorexia, or depression and anorexia. At some point, they may succeed in impressing these people with their clothing size and style, but when the curtains fall, they feel naked because what they are wearing are not their true colors.

Clothing is never a luxury but a necessity but not because it clothes and protects you from environment, but because you simply need to feel beautiful and special. You may or may not love fashion but you have to love what you wear.

Often schools and public authorities are concerned about clothing worn by children at school because it may indicate gang affiliation or gang identity. See, Gang Identity

Andrew Ujifusa is reporting in the Education Week article, Hitching Up Pants Could Become Mandatory in Volunteer State:

Underwear at school could soon have to go undercover in Tennessee.

The House and Senate in the Tennessee General Assembly are set to have full floor votes on legislation that would require school districts to impose punishments on students who wear clothing on school grounds “that exposes underwear or body parts in an indecent manner that disrupts the learning environment….”

The number of states giving serious legislative consideration to “saggy pants” legislation appears to be rising, according to various news reports. As Alabama Live reported, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a similar bill this year that is being considered in the Senate, although it would be a local law specific to the city of Montgomery and would apply to all public places from sidewalks to buses. Unlike Tennessee’s legislation, which doesn’t require a ruler to enforce, the Alabama law specifically requires pants not to fall three inches or more below a person’s hips.

Florida approved a ban on saggy pants in schools in 2011, as did Arkansas. Critics of such laws say the government should butt out of teen dress preferences, and worry that the law encourages racial profiling…

Formal student attire is also under such scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal reported March 29 that schools officials in various states are giving the not-so-glad eye to prom dresses that reveal too much flesh. They are instituting prom dress codes that guard against a multitude of high-fashion hyphenated styles, such as low-slung backs, thigh-high slits, and midriff-bearing cutouts.


Schools should think about how they are preparing kids for a very competitive workplace. Yes, what children are allowed to wear to school matters because school is preparing them for a future where most will have to fit into society.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

3 Responses to “Does what is worn in school matter?”


  1. Talking to your teen about risky behaviors « drwilda - June 7, 2012

    […] Does what is worn in school matter?         […]

  2. Title IX also mandates access to education for pregnant students « drwilda - June 19, 2012

    […] Does what is worn in school matter? […]

  3. Dress codes in school may pay dividends later « drwilda - July 21, 2012

    […] Does what is worn in school matter?                                               […]

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