Community / Featured

Another Chapter in the Ongoing Dress Code Story

Throughout the past few decades, dressing down in the workplace and in school environments has become increasingly acceptable. Dana Hall’s dress code has also a changed throughout time, and it has experienced notable modification within the past 10 years. Just on Monday, April 30th in morning meeting, student council announced its latest revision of the dress code.

“It’s better to operate based on as who we are as a community and what our beliefs are rather than saying you can wear this, but you can’t wear that because that makes it feel like you are putting a judgment on someone else’s choices,” says Ms. Ryan, Dean of Students and Student Council supervisor, stating the mission of Dana Hall’s dress code. Mrs. Corrigan, Dean of Residential Life and International advisor, points out the dress code is really “guidelines.” In the words of Ms. Corrigan, “we try to respect the rights of each student so they can have their individuality, but also have guidelines to follow.”

As trends and society’s acceptance toward more casual clothing have evolved over the passed 10 years, so has our dress code. For starters, the “4B’s” (body parts that are to be covered) used to be the 3B’s before backless shirts became a trend. In this sense, as trends have evolved, so has the Dana Hall dress code.

Dana Hall’s student council comprises school members who this year helped to re-create the dress code. Student Council hasn’t worked to prohibit every scandalous trend, rather they have seen how students dress and created policy based on their observations. Visit the dress code section of this year’s handbook: you will find a list of prohibited items, one of them being any clothing with references to sex, violence, or alcohol. While to students today, it may seem unreasonable and unlikely for anyone to wear that to school, according to Ms. Ryan, many administrative members grew up when T-shirts with ads for Absolut Vodka on them were a commonly worn items. “I think that some of those trends certainly inform this bulleted list,” she says.

Leggings themselves have been an interesting topic in our student dress code throughout the decade. As the trend progressed in the fashion world, leggings increased in popularity at Dana. The rule that was initially enforced when students started wearing them was that they had to cover their rear with a shirt that reached fingertip length. That later changed when leggings were on the list of things not allowed to be worn until last year, and the word “legging” was changed to “skin tight clothing” in reference to body form dresses, but also encompassing leggings.

Before she was Dean of Students, Ms. Ryan worked in the admissions offices, organizing the tour guides that Blue Key offered. To preserve the image of Dana Hall for prospective families, many of the people in admission, and also Ms. Ryan, believed that tour guides should not be wearing clothing with logos or words at the seat of their pants, for example, the word “Juicy” on the bottom of sweatpants–a common fashion trend toward the early 2000s. This idea to represent and maintain a respectable public image influenced the decision to include that on the bulleted list of no no’s.

Sangavi Muthuswamy ‘20 wears a comfortable outfit that now adheres to the revised dress code.

Dana Hall’s lax dress code is somewhat out of character for a private boarding school, which has resulted in two main attitudes toward the dress code from parents and teachers. Some parents do not allow their own kids to wear leggings at home, so they have a more negative attitude toward the dress code and what it allows students to wear in their school. However, the majority of parents and administration have offered “a lot of support in terms of asking for feedback, and they support going this route, rather than having the laundry list of going through things that are not acceptable to wear,” Ms. Ryan describes

From the international/boarding perspective, because many students are coming from schools where uniforms or stricter rules are enforced, it may seem like parents of international and domestic boarding students have a fairly prominent opinion on how their daughter is now dressing their school. In reality, Mrs. Corrigan has not heard too much from parents, which is a good thing because that means they aren’t mad. While it is quite shocking for them to believe it at first, at the end of the day, these “parents are trying to support their daughters and their individuality” said Ms. Corrigan. She also has not seen much trouble from international students in terms of adjusting to Dana’s environment because of the dramatically different changes in clothing worn at school. She says, “there are lots of things that are challenging during students’ transitions to Dana, but personally I think that students adapt to whatever environment they’re in, and I think kids will adapt to the dress code wherever they are. International kids have said they have struggled in their transition for different reasons, but adjusting to dress code hasn’t been one so far.”

“I don’t want to have a rule for the sake of having a rule. I want a rule that makes sense in our community and students, which is why we brought it to student council to make sure the students felt like they could consider why it was appropriate or reasonable.” Ms. Ryan stipulates. The new dress code that is underway will be more of a blanket statement of the mission of the dress code. It will address the main idea that clothing that is not acceptable or is too revealing shouldn’t be worn in Dana halls.

Tenth grade day representative Anna Dzhitenov ‘20 says that the revised dresscode “is meant to be more liberating” and an attempt to loosen the guidelines because much of the concrete policy isn’t exactly adhered to. “Everyone realizes the fingertip rule isn’t really effective and it isn’t appropriate with the kinds of shorts and skirts that are being made and sold nowadays,” Anna admits. In this light, trends have not only informed student council and administrators on different committees who create dress code policies, but also the students at Dana who are wearing these trendy items. “Originally, the idea was to make it a lot vaguer to basically state that people should come in dressed appropriately for the public learning setting that they are in,” Anna recalls.

Student council plans to remove the bulleted list, or at the very least shortening it to basic restrictions that should be enforced in any school such as the wearing of clothing items with hate speech/elicit references, etc. “The things about the measurements of straps or shorts are probably going to be taken out as well,” Anna reports. The main concept of the 4B’s will continue to remain the law of the land, included in the blanket statement that the dress code will be changed to.

Ms. Ryan and Anna both emphasize that the dress code that the student council enforces at Dana is meant to be more than a list of things that are prohibited. The main goal of the framework of the dress code does not revolve around the fact Dana doesn’t want others to be distracted, rather to be a learning experience and have respect in the atmosphere.

Ms. Corrigan’s hopes for the dress code are: “In the next ten years, I’m sure fashion will come and go and change again. I hope that we will be working to make sure that the guidelines we have not only is respectful of individuality, but also sets the tones for the school community as well.” All three, Mrs. Ryan, Ms. Corrigan, and Anna have a similar outlook on what our school’s guidelines will look like in 5 or 10 years. “Hopefully it’s doesn’t change much. You can’t really go a lot farther than ‘please dress appropriately’. It’s hard to make an even more liberal dress code,” Anna pointed out. “My hope is that it will really capture what we believe as a community to have as our dress code,” Mrs. Ryan anticipates.