Dressing for Success

“Students may have been rebelling against school-imposed dress codes for decades, but observers say the fact that those protests are now making national headlines suggests a fundamental shift in social attitudes,” writes Michelle McQuigge in The Canadian Press.

The latest protest to make headlines was an Ontario school’s “Crop Top Day”, organized by student Alexi Halket who was told her cropped shirt was unacceptable school attire. When I first read about this protest, I was glad it was making headlines because, as McQuigge writes, “…individual incidents become part of an ongoing, global conversation about complex issues such as freedom of expression, cultural identity, and sexual consent.”

The global conversation that has ensued has been enlightening, but not in an entirely positive way. Many people have commented on articles about the Crop Top Day, saying that young women need to have self respect in what they wear. A quick Google search tells me that self respect is “pride and confidence in oneself.”

Personally, I wouldn’t have been comfortable – or confident – wearing the outfit that sparked the protest. However, clearly Alexi felt confident and that’s why she chose to wear the outfit. By wearing a crop top to school she did not exhibit a lack of self respect; she did in fact demonstrate self respect, because she wore what she was comfortable wearing.

I don’t want to make an assumption that all of the negative comments were from older people because I’m sure some young people don’t support what happened and some older people do; I will say, though, that for the most part younger people have been fueling a positive discussion about dress codes and the larger issues in society that stem from them.

I’ve seen such conversations on social media and heard them in the halls at school. I believe that in order for change to occur, awareness is the first step. The global awareness that this instance has brought, and the conversations that have accompanied it, make me hopeful for the future of society.

The conversations that have ensued from this particular protest can be difficult, because this issue is incredibly tricky. Of course school attire should be appropriate; but what is appropriate? As the article I linked to above points out, the trouble with promoting business casual attire is that it suggests to students that business settings are the ‘ideal work setting’. There are a plethora of other career pathways, and by suggesting that business casual is the ideal it may be perpetuating that the business path is the ideal one.

There is also the trouble that “dress-coding” girls because their clothes are “distracting” sends the message that girls are distractions to boys and exist to make life easier for boys (by not distracting them).

In my opinion, the message that should be sent to girls is to wear what makes them confident, within what they think is reasonable. I think empowering girls to discover what they are comfortable wearing and what makes them feel like they are dressed for success is a much better cause to support than labeling girls as distractions who have no self respect. What are your thoughts on dress codes?

18 thoughts on “Dressing for Success

  1. I wanted to write a post on dress code ever since I read an article on the same controversial topic, but you’ve been faster than me!
    I absolutely share yout point of view. Girls should wear whatever they’re comfortable wearing. And that being said, there is an over sexualization of female bodies that must cease and it should be learnt from school too — or as soon as possible.

    1. Hi Guilia, I’m glad you share my perspective! I agree that knowledge about situations like this should be taught as early as possible in school so children grow up knowing it!

  2. you are right but dear i don’t understand why people waste their worthy time & life doing useless acts … i mean a dress is a dress , primary to cover our body & look civilized then where did the issues came from , its the empty minds that do nothing and have just become a home of devils who keep doing these things …. this is my view .. i hope you got my point dear …

    1. I think that the facts that clothing and fashion have evolved, as well as the “expectation” that women must look a certain way have both contributed to modern fashion being what it is, and therefore issues such as this one arising. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      1. The colors you choose show about who/ what you are… white reflects you are true to everyone, green resembles friendly nature..pink , violet represents childish….search google you can get more information like this…

  3. Love this post! Go them!

    At secondary school for me, I had to wear a skirt that came halfway on my calfs and looked like a nerd. It sucked.

    I remember we were told we had to wear only nude or white bras in the summer as it was distracting for males in the school.

    They dare say that now…LOL!

    I nominated you for an award BTW! Check out my latest post.

    Happy Tuesday xo


    1. Times have certainly changed! Thanks for sharing your perspective, and thank you so much for the nomination! Unfortunately I have decided not to ‘accept’ awards anymore (make the posts that accompany them) but I do really appreciate it, and congrats on being nominated yourself! 🙂

      1. You’re welcome! 🙂 I was beginning to find that I was only writing awards posts and nothing else, and because my blog posts are usually more like opinion pieces I decided I wanted my blog to focus on that. It has meant losing out on some of the community feeling but has meant more posts about actual things which is good for me!

  4. While I agree that personal expression is important and self-respect and confidence should be welcomed at any age, I do feel that some clothing at certain ages is just not appropriate. I don’t need to see butt cheeks or your thong at work or on 13 year old girls. It is hard to define what is appropriate because it’s not the same for every city, state or country. And it’s not the same considering everyone’s varying backgrounds and childhoods. I have my different styles, some more revealing than others and I know when it’s appropriate to wear each style. That being said, I do think people need to dress for what works for their bodies and not cram themselves into itty-bitty pieces like sausages or wear things just to get a rise out of society. Dress in what makes you feel comfortable and represents who you are. And use some discretion and good judgment for varying occasions and situations. Sometimes you have to dress in less desirable attire and deal with it, like an adult.

    Great thought provoking post, once again!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I agree that it is incredibly difficult to define what is appropiate; I think this is why dress codes, especially in schools, becomes such a challenge.

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