Dress-code dilemma

Posted: December 7, 2011

The Dress-code dilemma

Finding school approved clothing gets challenging

By Jorie Schwab, Talon staff writer 

Let’s face it, for girls, high school has always been a fashion runway, but sometimes that runway can be highly restrictive. Almost all of Minnehaha Academy’s female students agree that finding dress-code approved clothes at popular teen clothing stores can be an adventure in itself. When thinking of back-to-school shopping, many girls remember feelings of dismay at all of the racks filled with dress-code violations in their favorite stores.

This abundance of inappropriate clothing isn’t that surprising. One-third of the clothes at teen/tween stores available online are designed to be “sexualizing” according to a study conducted by the Kenyon College in Ohio.

The definition of “sexualizing” is clothing “that revealed or emphasized a sexualized body part, had characteristics associated with sexiness, and/or had sexually suggestive writing,” according to the leader of the study, Sarah Murnen, a psychology professor at Kenyon.

Of the two-thirds of clothes left, according to M.A freshman Jenn Mrozek, most are not “in style”.

“It is very hard to find shorts and skirts that comply with the mid-thigh dress code and are also ‘in style’,” Mrozek said.

However, Mrozek doesn’t blame the stores.

“[Right now] short-shorts are what is in style, and stores have to be as up to date with fashion as possible,” she said. “So the store can’t really carry that many other types of shorts.”

Sophomore Anna Woronzoff agrees.

“It’s ridiculous to have mid-thigh length be the dress code,” she said, “because almost no stores carry shorts that long because that isn’t what is selling right now.”

According to freshman Preston Hannula, who works at PacSun, the reason for this lack of appropriate clothing is that the store “has to appeal to both kids and adults.” Hannula also insists that stores, PacSun in particular, do try to “keep clothes appropriate.”

“It’s hard for [stores] to please everyone,” Alaina Gall, a Charlotte Russe employee, said. “There’s always going to be someone who is unhappy with our clothing, but we do try to make as many people as happy as possible.”

But do stores even have a choice in the matter?

“Whatever is in style the store will sell,” Eric Landers, a former floor manager at Abercrombie and Fitch, said. “The people and companies who control fashion are trying to make as much money as possible, they are not trying to keep their clothes in-line with schools’ dress codes. The stores don’t care if you never wear their clothes. All they care is that you buy them.”

Managers of both Forever 21 and Delia’s said that their stores try to be as age-appropriate as possible, but they have to appeal to a large range of ages and backgrounds. What is appropriate for a college-aged adult is not always appropriate for a teen or tween.

Abercrombie and Fitch in particular has dealt with lawsuits in years past because of their overly “sexualizing” teen/tween clothing. For example, an aggravated parent sued them over selling kid-sized thongs that said “wink wink” and “eye candy” on the front.

When approached, the employees of Abercrombie seemed very nervous to answer questions, though they all were adamant that Abercrombie is now carrying much less sexualizing clothes in an attempt to be more teen friendly.

When asked about people having problems finding dress-code-approved clothing in their stores, they stated that they also have to appeal to older teens and adults, which means that they still do sell a lot of clothes that are not dress-code friendly, but this “cannot be helped,” according to a 16-year-old employee Jared Strauman.

Even though finding them is a struggle, stores such as Forever 21, Delia’s, Charlotte Russe, Abercrombie and Fitch, and PacSun do carry shorts and skirts that are longer than mid-thigh and tops that do not show excessive amounts of skin. Even if these clothes are not “in style”, they are an option for all of the teens/tweens who shop at these stores and are willing to spend some time searching.

While a long-term solution to this problem “may never come,” according to M.A freshman Emma Tyler, a short-term solution comes with the arrival of winter. The racks of these stores are filled with dress-code-approved clothing such as skinny jeans, sweaters, and long sleeve tops.

With a new dress code and fashion always changing, staying “in style” at all times may be a perennial problem for middle school and high school age students forever

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