There have been a lot of news stories popping up lately, relating to young women in high school breaking the rules and wearing clothing deemed inappropriate for their educational environment. You can see a few of these stories here:


I graduated high school in 2007. During that time, I was told to haul up my shirt a few times because I was showing too much cleavage. Believe me, I never did this on purpose. I’m just not that type of girl. I’m one of those girls that went from being flat-chested to having big boobs overnight. So much so that a couple junior high “friends” assumed I was stuffing my bra and made one of their group ask me. That was a very awkward conversation.

As all women with cups that runneth over can attest to, some types of tops tend to slip down during the course of the day. The girls just want to be free! But having a teacher point out that you’re showing too skin in front of the whole class? THAT IS DELIGHTFUL.



I never got “in trouble” for my clothing choices. But do you notice something about my three yearbook photos (in order from grade 10 to 12)? I’m wearing a jacket in every damn one. Probably because I’m wearing a tank top or a shirt that showed my shoulders and I didn’t want to get in trouble. I’m a good girl at heart. I just wanted to do my time and get the hell out of there. (Notice how my hair went dark in grade 11? I was dealing with some shit, especially at the beginning of the year.)



I always had a really hard time finding tops that were school appropriate, so cute little jackets became my best friend. My aforementioned boobs made shopping even more difficult. That extra layer was needed because, I’m told, bare shoulders are not school appropriate. I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHERE THIS CAME FROM.

I’m guessing some middle-aged man who has never gone shopping in a store for female/teen clothing but got all hot and bothered by clavicles chose this rule and it just spread from school to school. And keeping bra straps out of sight? Forget it. They have a mind of their own. I still have a hard time keeping my bra straps hidden, and I’m 27!

Clothing designers who make clothes for teen stores really need to have a meeting with the people that choose the dress code. Here are two screenshots from two teen-ish clothing websites I chose at random. I don’t think any of them would pass the dress code.


Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 7.53.18 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 7.53.37 PM



As the weather gets warmer, people adapt. For many students, that means sun dresses, tank tops and skirts. In the news stories above, the schools didn’t care for their fashion choices and the girls were punished. Society teaches young women to wear flattering clothes and when they do, they are punished. Wonderful.

Most of these dress code rules are ridiculous. It’s their reasonings for these rules that I disagree with the most.

dress-codeMoncton student Lauren Wiggins was told that displaying her shoulders and back while wearing an adorable maxi dress was crossing the line, and she was suspended. She was called a “sexual distraction” by a faculty member.

Let’s unpack that for a second. The word “distraction” is brought up a lot when young women decide to bare a little more skin at school. This young woman was just told that by showing her arms and back, people around her may be so distracted that they won’t pay attention to their work.  The fact that the word “sexual” was added this time made me want to throw up a little. The arms, shoulders and backs of a young woman are now sexualized.

What about her hair? A lot of guys are attracted to women with long hair. Should she have to hide her hair or put it in a bun so other students are distracted? What about her face? Does she need to hide that too? Hell, some guys are into ankles. No sandals for you!

Not only is the whole distraction thing demeaning to young women, it’s demeaning to guys too. Sending a girl home because her male classmates might be too horned up to concentrate at the sight of her… Jesus. That’s just a weird thing to expect! If that were to actually happen, perhaps the guy being gross should be dealt with.

Other Things That Can Cause Distraction in the Classroom Besides A Woman’s Body

  1. silly clothing
  2. being too warm because of over-crowded classrooms and the fact that it’s hot and it’s not like the school has good air circulation
  3. being tired
  4. friends
  5. attractive people
  6. ugly people
  7. noise from outside the classroom

My point is this: students will always be distracted by other students in class. Stop using the word “distraction” when explaining why young women should dress a certain way. You know what’s a lot more distracting than bare shoulders in the classroom? Getting suspended.



Another BS line I’ve heard is this: students need to wear clothing that is appropriate for an office environment. We are preparing students for what it is like to be a working adult.

Alright, calm down.

1) Lots of offices allow bare shoulders. In fact, more and more offices are becoming more casual as more and more Baby Boomers retire. (I work in an office. I wear graphic tees and could probably get away with wearing a tube top if I wanted. I keep a cardigan in my desk drawer for client meetings.) I think high school dress codes are much stricter than most offices.

(Note: I was once told to cover my bare shoulders at a previous job, but I think that’s only because someone from head office was doing an inspection that day.)

2) Where are all these super strict workplaces students are being prepped for? My last year of high school was one of the best years of my life. I had some wonderful teachers and I know that my education helped me become the person I am today.

But high school does not prepare students for an array of professions. It is preparation for college. And to get into college, you need to not be a complete moron. And unless you’re a complete moron, you know that to live, you need a job and get paid.

People will dress differently if they are paid to be somewhere. That might involve a uniform. That might involve a super conservative suit. That might involve graphic tees with a cardigan kept in the desk drawer. But I would hope a student would figure out what they should be wearing at their job during their college years.

Even if a student doesn’t go to college after high school, it’s not a huge leap to assume that they can probably figure out what they need to wear for their job.

Let teens be teens while they have the chance. It’s far from the real world.



I’ve seen a few people on social media say that students should be allowed to wear whatever they are comfortable in.

Mmmmmm. Maybe not? Pajama pants in public come to mind.

As I write this essay at my desk at home, I’m not wearing pants. (There. I said it.) I’m comfortable not wearing pants. Should a student be allowed to go to school without pants/shorts/a skirt on? Uh…. no.



Some think that uniforms are the way to go and I disagree. Uniforms are expensive. A mass of students dressing the same also doesn’t prepare students for work place appropriateness. When I was going through a hard time in grade 11, I expressed myself via my dark clothes and emo-esque accessories. It was therapeutic for me.


Plus, nobody has ever sexualized school uniforms, right?

Considerations have to be made for the styles available. Teens aren’t just going to start shopping in the “old lady” stores because arbitrary rules are put in place. Teens can access porn on their smartphone in about 15 seconds. The bodies of women are used to advertise just about everything. The sight of a bare midriff shouldn’t shock anyone- it’s nothing new or mystifying and it shouldn’t be treated as some kind of deviance.

Most of all, school faculty have got to take a chill pill when it comes to shoulders and backs! Everyone has them. Dress code rules should be loosened. Or school faculty may just have to think of more excuses for why they are doing the whole body/slut shaming thing.

No more suspensions for wearing inappropriate clothing. That’s just idiotic. Fashion choices don’t hurt anybody. Just… chill out, okay?


What’s your opinion on school dress codes?

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Jillianne Hamilton is an author, crafter, hobby addict, history enthusiast and graphic designer in Charlottetown, PEI on Canada's beautiful east coast. Her debut novel, Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, was shortlisted for the Prince Edward Island Book Award in 2016. Her fourth book, The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII, will be published in 2018.


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Hi, I'm Jill! I'm an author, a Lazy Historian, a web/graphic designer, a bookworm and a hobby addict. I live in Charlottetown on Canada's beautiful east coast. Learn more.

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