This Catholic School's Prom Dress Code Is 21 Pages Long & Pretty Sexist

Photo: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images.
Prom season is upon us, which means a slew of dress code violations are coming our way. Similar to your everyday school uniform debacle, around this time each year, it becomes our duty to shed light on the injustices in party wear and dressing for the most stylish night of a high schooler's career. But never before have we seen a set of guidelines, or in this case, a full-blown dossier, as meticulous — and down-right sexist — as this. Boylan Catholic High School just released their set of rules about two months ahead of schedule that goes so far as to include photos of dresses students should buy. And, of course, the boys are off the hook.
So, where does one start with a 21-page handbook on what to wear for prom? Let's start with page six, the guidelines for boys, which is comprised of four photos of tuxedos — and that's it. No words, no more pages — nothing. But before they dive in, Rockford Illinois' Boylan Catholic High School wants to make one thing clear: comply, or stay home. "Guidelines will be strictly enforced," it reads. "Students, including guests, not in compliance with Dress Code will not be admitted to the dance and refunds will not be issued. There will NOT be a loaner clothing option." Apparently, the dress code is in accordance with the values of the school, which include dressing modestly. And prom night is no exception.
The pamphlet goes on to suggest over 50 photos for acceptable and unacceptable dress styles, which not only contradict each other in several cases, but are heavily outdated. What really crosses the line, though, is Boylan's views on what body types deserve which dresses. Case in point: "Claims that a dress was worn at last year’s Prom or at Homecoming will not be discussed. Some girls may wear the same dress, but due to body types, one dress may be acceptable while the other is not." That declaration is followed by Boylan's acknowledgement that modest clothing is "a subjective interpretation," but is their "duty to uphold" tradition nonetheless.
For tops...
"1. The neckline of a dress, top, or gown must be cut in a modest way without showing cleavage. Spaghetti straps or strapless dresses are allowed, as long as they are not low cut.
2. The cut of a dress in the back and sides must not be cut below the naval (below your elbow)."
For length...
"1. A dress, skirt, or gown must be longer than mid-thigh.
2. Slits in a dress/skirt may be no higher than three (3) inches from the knee."
"1. No navel is allowed to show.
2. Two-piece dresses are allowed if the space between top and skirt is less than two inches. The top must not show any cleavage or have cut outs (halter top style).
3. The bodice of the dress must not have any fabric cutouts in the cleavage area. If elsewhere, it must be covered by netting and less than an inch opening.
4. Dresses should not be excessively tight.
5. No cover-ups (coats, shawls, sweaters) will be allowed over dresses that do not meet dress code."
It continued: "Students should therefore error [sic] on the side of modesty and formality and not put school administrators in the difficult position of upholding school standards. Having been specifically forewarned, we expect nothing less than full cooperation from students and their parents on this issue," which translates to: We don't want any trouble, so as long as you do what we say, everybody's going to have a good ole time. The dossier ends with an invitation to submit photos of dress options beforehand for administrative approval, which is not a drill. You can read it in full here.
At this point — you know, 2017 — we don't have to explain how damaging this is (especially to the minds of teenagers). Plus, the point of prom is supposed to be having fun, and it's a chance to put one's individual style and taste on display. Sure, we may gawk at old photos come time for our high school reunions, but being told what to wear and not wear on prom night — or really, ever — is a total buzzkill. And forget how many options "boys" and "girls" have when comparing the heteronormative, traditional idea of the wardrobes of each gender: Individuality is in, fashion rules are out.

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