27 September 2010 – Dress Code Blues

September 26th, 2010 § 73 comments

Dress Code Blues, originally uploaded by academichic.


  • Top: Banana Republic
  • Belt: Banana Republic Outlet
  • Pants: Banana Republic
  • Shoes: Ciao Bella via DSW
  • Fire Opal Necklace: my design
  • Silver Bracelets and Ring: gifts

End Notes:
Following close on the heels of E’s recent post about skinny trousers, here I am wearing my go-to skinny black pants. Like many of you, I am apprehensive about the whole “jeggings” trend. I agree with E’s statement that I have no problem wearing skinnies on my own time, but I do question how professional it is in front of a classroom of impressionable youths. Dress code at my school is something that definitely needs work, and I find myself on a daily basis rolling my eyes at the distasteful ways in which these teen-age girls are parading their bodies around for all to see (please see my addendum and the comments on this post for an apology for this phrasing and further clarification and thoughts on this). I guess I am more old school than I thought, but I have strong opinions about what is proper and what is improper school attire. For me what it comes down to is material. I too have the ponte pants that E was wearing, but because the cut and material are clingier on me, I feel uncomfortable wearing those to school, but I frequently wear them for traveling because of their flexibility and weight. However, the pants I have on here have even more structure at the bottom to avoid a comparison with leggings, and the thicker fabric also helps to combat the nearly-naked feeling of the leggings, spandex, and even tights that some of my students chose to wear. While I am not a huge fan of the whole leggings-uggs-tunic ensemble, for me tightness is less of an issue than length. The skirt length my students seem to favor is about 1” below the behind, which I think is appallingly too short. However, my rant against skirt length is for another day. Today I’d like to talk about tightness.

Dress Code Blues, originally uploaded by academichic.

What is too tight? As one reader noted, pencil skirts are just as snug, but seem infinitely more work appropriate. Likewise, well-fitted tops and tailored trousers are certainly acceptable. So why the rage against the skinny? I guess what it comes down to for me is trendiness. There is a fine line between looking nice and looking like you’re ready for a night out on the town. Especially when it comes to black pants, I’d like to avoid seeming like I’m ready to hit the clubs at a moment’s notice. I agree that there are ways to play down the tightness of a pair of pants – either with a longer shirt or some layering on top to balance – but for me the litmus test is: If I’d wear it out for dancing, I will not wear it to school. Perhaps harsh, and certainly there are pieces that can span a transition between work and drinks or a nice dinner, but on the whole, if it looks too evening chic, I leave it for after 6:00pm. To make this outfit Friday-night worthy I would have opted for my wide patent leather belt, patent leather wedges and some sparklier jewelry. As it was, I went for a matte black woven belt, my black flowered flats, silver jewelry and a necklace made from an Australian fire opal pendant that I picked up when I was there in 2005.

Black Belt and Silver, originally uploaded by academichic.

Opal Necklace, originally uploaded by academichic.

Now that I’m writing this I’m realizing what a fine line this is in my own head. I guess the answer is really “to each her own.” As for me, I’m more comfortable professionally wearing tight pants than I ever will be wearing a short skirt. I’m proud of my body, and I love my athletic curves. I do not think that tight clothes are the sole realm of those who are stick figures. Seeing as how E, A and I all shopped for the same Anne Taylor skinnies together, I’m interested to see what A has to say on this matter. You’ve probably noticed that all of us at Academichic have different opinions on these things and these kinds of questions are exactly the way in which sartorial choices can spark debate. Do you feel differently about tightness versus length? Which do you play with more?

Author’s Note:I apologize for not choosing my words more carefully and appreciate those who commented in response to this post. I can see how the phrase “parading their bodies around for all to see” could be interpreted, and I’d like to clarify my point. First, I am a feminist. I also teach in a secondary school (grades 9 – 12) and think that young people, girls and boys, should learn what is appropriate to wear in certain situations and what is not appropriate. The boys too need to learn things like taking off hats indoors, wearing dress shoes instead of athletic gear, and the value of tucking in their button down shirts. This does not mean that I am not a good feminist. Women and men should be allowed to wear what they would like. HOWEVER, and this is where my old-school side kicks in, I also believe that there are situations in which a very short skirt or a baseball hat are not appropriate and school is one such situation. Like it or not, what you wear dictates a great deal about how you are received. As our guest poster Sally McGraw of Already Pretty put it, “although we flex our creativity through our choices, we still dress within the bounds of social acceptability.” I would never pass judgment on a student’s character or intelligence or anything else about her based on what she was wearing, but I do find it within my boarding school teaching duties to help educate students about appropriate ways/times for self expression when operating within a school community. Because this is a residential school, the faculty technically act in loco parentis for these students. If these were my children of course I would want them to love their bodies, be unselfconscious, and express themselves as they so chose. However, I would also teach them when it is the right time and place to wear certain kinds of dress and when it is not. I see these same students day-in and day-out and what I am talking about here is just during the class day. Despite the fact that we are all on campus all the time, I don’t care what they are wearing on Saturday night, or at dinner, or over the weekend, or before breakfast. I also dress down at these times, and they see me wearing jeans, hooded sweatshirts, Ts, flip flops and any number of other casual elements. However, when the class day begins at 8:00am, I expect that they will be wearing clothing that is appropriate for the classroom and not distracting to themselves or others. I am not advocating repression, but I am proposing that certain guidelines should be followed in an academic setting.

~ L.

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§ 73 Responses to 27 September 2010 – Dress Code Blues"

  1. Aussie says:

    I love that blue top, really pretty. And the skinny pants are a great cut, I think they are really flattering (even more so than the ponte pants). I’m with on tightness vs length: something about too short anything (skirt, shorts, dress) is just wrong. Not just for work but in general. I’ve never thought about that before but I’d go for skinny pants long before I reached for a mini-anything.

  2. kathrin says:

    I’ve been following this whole “what-to-teach-in” debate for a while now. Although I agree that it’s certainly inappropriate to be teaching in pyjamas or mini skirts, I believe that in the end the quality of what and how you teach is so much more important than what you wear as long as you feel confident.

    If that includes skinny pants, fine by me, if you rather wear orange corduroys, be my guest. Some of my best professors have worn outfits that others wouldn’t even have considered for weekend wear, and while you might argue that your professional attire reflects your overall attitude towards your job, I couldn’t care less about clothing if I’m giventhe opportunity of learning from brilliant individuals who – for whatever reasons – do not care about what they wear.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that being aware of your fashion choices is a bad thing, I’m just sometimes thinking that twisting and turning every little piece of our outfits can result in thinking too much about what to wear or not to wear.

    And by the way, I absolutely love your shoes. :)

  3. I find myself on a daily basis rolling my eyes at the distasteful ways in which these teen-age girls are parading their bodies around for all to see,

    A, I’m really disappointed to see a feminist blog like this perpetuating the condemnation of young women and their bodies. Bearing in mind that these are *students*, not professional women, what on earth is wrong with them wearing what they feel comfortable in to class? Your comments on body exposure imply that there’s something *wrong* with a woman’s body being visible – or more visible than you want it to be. Given that you’ve concluded with a principle of “to each her own” regarding teaching wear, I would hope you could extend the same sentiment to your students.

  4. peacheater says:

    I agree with highlyeccentric. I’ve always been impressed with the thoughtful way academichic has handled these issues in the past. I was truly shocked and disappointed to see that line.

  5. Jen says:

    To each her own… unless you’re under 25. Yeah, no thank you. Color me disappointed. Isn’t there enough body shaming in the world already?

  6. Ms. Studious says:

    I have the exactly same top in another color. Mine is beige. This top has drape and knotted sleeves which I like about this top. I also wore it with my fitted black pants to class teaching before. (http://omissstudious.blogspot.com/2010/08/bow-sash.html)

  7. eyots says:

    I’m delurking to add that I agree with peacheater and highlyeccentric. It’s upsetting to see that kind of statement from a (progressive?) blog like academichic. I had to read that line twice to be sure I wasn’t misreading.

  8. philosophotarian says:

    I’m a feminist and I think A’s comment is appropriate. Expressing displeasure in the clothing choices made by many young women is not automatically body shaming or anti-woman or anti-feminist. Since when does being a feminist mean that one can’t be critical of what other women do?
    A didn’t say she was going to rip the clothes from peoples’ bodies and replace them with ones she prefers. She didn’t say she planned to publicly humiliate those who wear things she doesn’t like. She didn’t say they’re deserving of less respect or esteem.
    Her statement about students’ clothing choices is fully consistent with “to each her own”.

  9. dg says:

    I just have a couple comments on the outfit. First off, I think that A has a very nice figure (in fact very similar to my figure). However, I think that this particular outfit is not flattering on A’s body type. I think the outfit would have worked a lot better if A untucked the shirt, and used a skinny belt to belt around the smallest part of her waste. As is, it kind of gives a muffin-top look.
    I love the shoes though!

  10. citydock says:

    I haven’t ever commented here but I have to chime in on the whole “parading” thing. Obviously, anyone can wear whatever the heck they want. It makes me sad more because there are many young women on campus who all look EXACTLY the same and they are obviously SO influenced by media and how they are supposed to look. And the fact that they dress like super sexy clones of the girls on MTV just makes me feel like these aren’t free choices but choices which are heavily influenced by how they think they are supposed to look, what gets them attention, and the media.

  11. I think it’s valid to be concerned about the appropriateness of attire that students choose to wear. Part of what we are educating them is in socialization and professionalization. However, I admit that I’m very disappointed that you would perpetuate the critique of young women’s sartorial choices here without addressing those of your male students. Are they to a one dressing in a professional manner that you would consider appropriate? Would you judge baggy pants in the same way? I fear that posts like these that gender the appropriateness of attire – whether valid or not – perpetuate unfortunate stereotypes.

  12. joceline says:

    it looks like the “muffin top” is an artifact of the volume created by the tuck, and I actually think the volume is offset nicely by the skinny pants. And coincidentally Sally from Already Pretty just had a post about black pants and bright tops, but I think you make it work with the fun accessories!

    Also, I do think there is a line between being a feminist and saying that you can’t judge any other woman, ever. There are lines of appropriateness, definitely–I think the hard part is defining them.

  13. Alice says:

    While I usually enjoy the sartorial choices of Academichic, I find A’s outfit today unflattering and very dated. The belt + “blousing” of the shirt is very reminiscent of 90s fashion. The pants look like Mom jeans as well. The outfit choices, coupled with the derogatory comments on students attire, make for a post we could have just as easily done without today.

  14. keelan says:

    As a feminist and a former high school teacher, I understand where A’s comments are coming from. When teenage girls are wearing clothes that show their thongs, butt cracks, or a substantial amount of cleavage, it’s inappropriate for school… Just as it is when boys’ pants are too low, their boxers are showing, or they have hats on. At the school that I taught at, these were dress code violations but they were inconsistently enforced.

    I now teach undergraduates who are seeking K-12 teacher certification. There have been a couple times that I needed to speak to a young woman about her clothing choices, generally because their tops were too low cut. Were they stylish? Yes. Did they look good? Yes. Were they appropriate for a third grade classroom where teachers often need to bend over to help students? No way. Our role as teachers is to help our students think critically about the world around them and their role in it. Clothing choices are a part of that.

  15. Sara says:

    I think this poster is L, not A. And anyway, I thought that you, L, were a graduate student a la E and A (and the now gone, S) and that your teaching responsibilities were at a university level. Can you clarify?

    • admin says:

      Hello all –

      I hope that those of you who posted earlier today will have a chance to come back and read my addendum. I am glad this post is sparking debate. However, I do hope that people have not misconstrued my point, which was that there are appropriate and inappropriate clothes to wear in an academic setting whether as teacher or student, male or female.

      A point of clarification – My name is L. and I was a graduate student with E. and A., but I have since completed my degree and began teaching at a small New England boarding school this fall.

  16. Vee says:

    I too was made uncomfortable with the way you phrased things; I was glad to see an apology. I think it’s important to distinguish between being dismayed that young women dress in what is frequently impractical and uncomfortable clothes (such as a thin jean jacket in the middle of the winter) and expressing disdain for them. After all, some of those choices are prompted by very very insidious societal patterns.

  17. eyots says:

    to @philosophotarian, @keelan, and L’s addendum –

    L, I appreciate your apology in the addition and for clarifying what you meant by “appropriateness”. We can probably all agree with you that there appropriate standards of dress for any occasion (the classroom, the workplace, a cocktail party, etc.).

    What you haven’t addressed yet, and what bothers me (still) about your remark is that you framed the girls as “parading their bodies around for all to see”, as if they were knowingly displaying their bodies for the other students, and flaunting their sexuality. It’s the emphasis on their clothes as a tool for parading bodies that is so upsetting.

    There are some clothes that aren’t every appropriate, as you say, (think ripped jeans and shirts, anything on anyone of either gender that is too tight or too short), but because the clothes you saw that are inappropriate are worn by teenage girls, you apply an aggressive, sexualized intent to parade and to be looked at. If you’re not familiar with the “male gaze”, this might be a good place to start: http://www.tulane.edu/~femtheory/journals/paper7.html

  18. harrytimes says:

    I have to say, I think teenage and college women are the only ones who CAN get away with just-below-the-butt skirts and legging/jeggings/tights as pants. Once you’ve had kids and/or passed the age that rhymes with purdy, these choices are most unfortunate.

  19. A.S. says:

    I see nothing wrong with what L. said about teenage girls parading their bodies. Because that’s exactly what they do! I won’t apologize for what I’m about to say, but it is NOT feminist to condone the dressing of women in a way which causes their bodies to become objectified. I remember in high school how many of my female peers would come to school wearing thongs that you could see from the tops of their pants, wearing low-cut shirts, tight clothes, and short skirts which were NOT appropriate for school at all. I remember how once in a math class a girl had her sweatshirt unzipped very low and her cleavage was showing. The teacher took one look at her and promptly said “zip up your shirt, please.”

    I think it’s really stupid that people were insisting that L. needed to apologize for what is simply the truth. Personally, that’s why I wholeheartedly support strict dress codes and uniforms in schools. Then again I’m old-school and very modest where I don’t think it’s appropriate for women to be wearing certain clothing choices anyway. The same thing holds for men, but unfortunately we see more women than men wearing inappropriate clothing.

  20. Sara says:

    “Your comments on body exposure imply that there’s something *wrong* with a woman’s body being visible – or more visible than you want it to be.” – From another commenter

    While I agree that there shouldn’t be anything wrong with a woman’s body being visible, I don’t think that was your implication at all, and I have to agree with you that teenage girls are far too often these days show too much skin in a way that does imply “parading around” in order to get attention. Part of it, of course, is the sheer availability of these skimpy clothes, but it’s become a cultural thing to see armies of girls with tiny tank tops and shorts who are barely old enough to be going to high school, let alone driving or buying alcohol. The thing that bothers me about it isn’t the aspect of whether women should be encouraged to wear what makes them feel good, but whether girls should be encouraged to wear what makes them feel good if that “good” feeling is from the sexual attention from males. THAT, in my opinion, is completely inappropriate for a girl that age, and should be discouraged!

  21. [...] I would go minimal in both my wardrobe and my posts (and thus will not currently be commenting on the conversation L. started about dress codes, modesty, and high schoolers). I thought that the best strategy for getting dressed this week would be limiting my options. And, [...]

  22. I’m going to agree with eyots here, and I think LHdM makes a salient point, as well. You’ve written in your clarification that “I would never pass judgment on a student’s character or intelligence or anything else about her based on what she was wearing,” but your earlier statement does, in my opinion, pass judgment. You didn’t merely state that you find the attire of these young ladies inappropriate or immodest; your phrasing suggests that they’re wearing immodest clothing with the intent of drawing sexualized attention to themselves. While this may be true in some of their cases, it is still a judgment you are applying to them based upon how they’ve chosen to dress themselves. None of the points of contention you draw with your male students in your addendum (hats, untucked shirts, athletic shoes) reference male sexuality, and that leads me to believe that you haven’t quite thought this one all the way through.

    I get the sense that you feel attacked here, and I’m sorry for that. I hope no one means to suggest you’ve “failed” as a feminist by using this phrasing, but I do think I and the other commenters are encouraging you to evaluate whether your comment, and the judgments about young ladies that it seems to betray, is consistent with feminist objectives.

    • admin says:

      Ok, second attempt at a response to the comments coming in about this. I am new to blogging and thus am learning to be more careful with my words and am trying not to feel attacked. I appreciate that you all have called-me-out, as it were, on this flippant turn of phrase. I obviously did not think it through before I published this piece. For that, I apologize.

      Liz, thank you for your comment on this post. Your concerns address what the root of this debate is, which it seems (correct me if I’m wrong) is that I wrote that these young women were “parading themselves around.” Eyots also points out that the male gaze (as discussed by Laura Mulvey in her pivotal essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema) plays a role in this conversation as well. I can see how the words I chose to use were loaded. I think the reason I feel so strongly about this, and thus am taking everyone’s criticism to heart, is because it makes me upset to see young girls wearing these types of outfits as a matter of conformity, following movie stars and trends, rather than as a pro-active statement of their individuality and femininity. Certainly some of these girls are very strong and are simply expressing themselves. If that is the case with these students, I return to my comments about appropriateness. However, some of these girls are wearing these clothes because of the positive attention it garners from boys and because “that’s what everyone else is wearing.” I’m talking about 14 to 18 year olds here. It is those girls who I hope I can reach out to in my position in loco parentis and help them to question whether they are dressing for themselves or for somebody else. It is true that boys at this age are not usually dressing in a manner that attracts sexual attention, and my comments in this post were only about the female students at my school. Again, I apologize for singling out girls in this way, but while boys need to learn what is appropriate to wear they simply don’t have the stylistic opportunities that girls do to arouse (perhaps unwanted) sexual interest – at least not that I have seen thus far. At this age I want them to ask themselves the tough questions, help figure out their stances on things, form opinions and personalities. I can’t tell these kids one way or another – I can only lead by example and ask that they dig down deep into their own hearts to answer the myriad questions that arise while one is growing up.

      Again, thank you for your comments on this and for making me re-think my word choice and the direction of my argument.

  23. Aussie says:

    Pish posh, L can be both a feminist and a free-thinking woman who has an opinion. Surely the two aren’t mutually exclusive? Surely there’s better response to someone’s differing opinion than righteousness? No need for her to apologize/clarify from my point of view – like it or not the clothes maketh the (wo)man so the rest of the world will be forming judgements on those students based on clothing style, peircings, tattoos etc. For what it’s worth we have school uniforms here in Oz so the question of appropriateness of student clothing is a non-issue. I remember pimping mine until it was as short as possible, along with every other girl in the class. I wish my thighs were still so forgiving.

  24. A.S. says:

    As a teacher, L. has the right to make judgments as she sees fit for her classrooms. Teenage girls wearing skimpy clothes is not only distracting for other students, but it *is* sexualizing for the girl whether she likes it or not. It’s unfair, but our society sexualized young girls long before L. was teaching, and *that* is not consistent with feminist objectives.

  25. Star says:

    I was a little bothered about your usage of the words ‘good feminist’ in the addendum.

  26. issyme says:

    Hi L! I also don’t believe in repression or censuring, but I do believe in appropriate clothing/self-presentation for one’s situation ,environment, respect and safety. School should not be an exception. In fact, maybe school is the place to learn this.

  27. Alex says:

    My heart kind of sank a little bit reading that. I guess it depends on your approach to feminism as to whether you deem it okay to single out girls for their (sexualised) appearance. Personally, I think we have enough of that already, and I read feminist blogs to get away from it.

    At least there was an apology, though.

  28. Nicole says:

    I would love to know if any of you actually have children in this age group. I have a 14 year old daughter. She has a lovely figure. I want her to feel comfortable in her own skin and confident in herself. But I don’t want her to have her boobs hanging out. Go ahead and slam me for my language but I’m saying it. Intentional or not, revealing clothes attract sexual attention-they just do.

  29. T. says:

    Good heavens, some of these personal attacks on L are completely uncalled for. Alice in particular seems very catty with her opinions on today’s outfit, and that is just mean-spirited and unnecessary. L is obviously a very thoughtful person, and as a parent of a teenager, I appreciate fully where she is coming from. It does not strike me as anit-feminist for her to have said what she said or thinks what she thinks.

  30. B says:

    If clothes that reveal excessive breasts and buttocks are not intended to draw “sexualized attention,” then I’m at a loss as to what they *are” intended to do.

  31. Gemma says:

    So many unjustified criticisms…

    L makes a very salient point regarding the sexualized image favoured by young women at the moment. Her male examples do not have the same sexualized element, no, and I would argue because sexuality is perceived and appropriated very differently for men and women. Sexuality for men is focused on the erotic desires which will produce an erection. Clothing and attitude do not carry the same sexual currency at all. For women, their very womanhood is expressed in sexual terms – their personality, attitude and clothing are all formulated in sexual ways. As it has been made clear, the prevailing attitude of conforming to male stereotypes of sexuality is what is generally the issue here. Some girls may appropriate ‘sexy’ or ‘provocative’ clothing to make a statement, which I’m all for. But L’s comments imply that this is an example of girls interiorizing and expressing a (male) sexualized attitude. As she is in loco parentis, she is perfectly entitled to work with these girls to allow them to realize what they mean by this.

    Also, I find that Alice’s comments – the negative impression of ‘Mom’ jeans and adherence to societal patterns of flattering to be somewhat hilarious in a comment criticizing L’s choice of wording.

  32. L, thanks for continuing to engage in the discussion. Your second comment here addresses more specifically the problem I had with your original phrasing.

    I can certainly relate to wanting to look after my female teenage students and wanting to encourage them to reconsider the choice to wear clothing that positions them as an object of the sexual gaze. Even when they *are* dressing this way to attract attention, I think it might be more useful to ask ourselves *why* they’re doing this than to directly criticize them for it. One of the things I learned as a classroom teacher is that when we offer critiques, we often shut down the conversation and lose the opportunity to educate. When we ask questions instead, we often open the conversation up in a way that allows us to all come away with a broader understanding. That’s why your original comment struck me as particularly counter-productive; I believe you when you suggest there were good intentions behind it, but those intentions were lost in that phrasing. (At least for me.)

  33. Anne Monnier says:

    Unfortunately, when a student walks into a classroom wearing an outfit that would be inappropriate at the beach, it will get attention. The style of clothing at the moment happens to be very tight, revealing clothing for the girls, and the boys feel that the baggier, the better. I’ve had boys in my class stand up and lose their pants, and I’ve had girls who look ready for an appointment at the gynocologist. Neither look is appropriate for a school setting. Dress codes in a public school are very difficult to enforce. The main issue is not whether someone has the right to wear what they choose, the issue is whether it is interfering with the learning of themselves and others. There is a time and a place for everything, and school is not the place for revealing clothing. (By the way, I teach 8th grade – 13 year olds.)

  34. Anne says:

    sorry I misspelled gynecologist

  35. erinsuzanne says:

    I am a high school teacher in a big midwestern-urban high school. I worry, too, about the choices many of my female students make with their clothing because I’m not convinced that many of them are doing it thoughtfully- they are dressing in a provocative or revealing way because their friends do it, they see it on tv, etc. We all know that sex is glamourized, but these young women don’t yet own their sexuality (for the most part) and are not making a conscious decision to display it. They both love and loathe the attention they get, but all that I see come from it is more discomfort with their bodies and self esteem.

    And the fact that there are appropriate ways to dress for school is a whole separate topic, especially for my kiddos in a lab science class! Yikes!

  36. Elissa says:

    I feel compelled to add that while I understand how L.’s phrasing (“parading their bodies around” etc.) could be upsetting to some, as someone who formally taught in both an all-girls and a co-ed private school (with uniforms), I can understand where she is coming from. I think it would be safe for me to generalize that the girls who were rolling their uniform skirts up at the co-ed school were not doing it out of some sense of making a feminist statement, they were doing it to look sexy for their male classmates. I think that a true feminist would applaud L. for her efforts to be a role model for her female students by showing them what appropriate attire is for various situations, especially those in which they are being evaluated in some way.

  37. Nikki says:

    What really upsets me about this is the way L has been attacked in the comments section here. It is reasonable to discuss her post in a civil manner, but personal attacks aren’t necessary. Also, would it be so hard to get her name right?

    I am not too far removed from high school and I can recall classmates, even from freshman year, pinning their jumpers to shorten and tighten them for a more figure flattering appearance. Where the uniforms ugly? Absolutely. But it would be naive to assume they were doing this out of some sort of personal expression. Girls at this age play around with sexuality and luckily a lot of them grow out of dressing in this hyper-sexualized way. Until they figure it out themselves, I feel that it is best to reinforce what is appropriate based on how you carry yourself, which includes what you wear. I think a lot of us would be lying if we said we dressed only for ourselves. Sure, we wear what makes us feel good and obviously, that is the most important, but I also dress for others- men and women. I enjoy seeing what other people are wearing. It challenges me to refine my own style.

  38. keelan says:

    L, I just wanted to comment again, since it sounds like you’re both new to blogging and new to secondary teaching. Are you sure that it’s a wise decision to discuss your students and their clothing choices here? I know that you don’t give your name, your school’s name, or any students’ names. But since your image is attached to this blog – and since you never know who may stumble upon it – I’d encourage you to give this some thought.

    Would you be comfortable if your head of school or a parent read this post? That’s something that you need to answer for yourself. But as someone who received community backlash after writing an op-ed related to immigration in the local paper, I would encourage you to think about it. In my case, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But I think that you may want to consider this.

  39. scimom1212 says:

    I rarely comment on the blogs I read, but goodness, I don’t feel like you should have to apologize for anything you write in a blog. It is YOUR blog. If a reader does not like what you write, they can stop reading it! About your students, I take the biological view: teenagers – girls and boys – are driven by biology, to act in sexual ways but many do not fully understand the effect their actions have on others. Some do, but many don’t, they are all on different stages of the learning curve. One of the roles of the adults in their lives is to model what is appropriate & and help them understand the effect their behaviors have on others. Hopefully that is done in a caring and affirming way. The fact that you are at a boarding school adds an interesting wrinkle. I am sure some do not separate “this is class time” & “this is social time” in terms of dress and behavior. My husband teaches at a residential school and I worked there for a time, and it does create an interesting environment when the students are living together. I will say I am thankful the teachers do not have to live on campus at his school!

  40. Sarah-lucy says:

    “Your comments on body exposure imply that there’s something *wrong* with a woman’s body being visible – or more visible than you want it to be.”

    Well, yes.

    For example, it’s illegal most places in this country for a woman to walk down the street without any clothes on.

    As a feminist I believe that my body is beautiful and special. And because it is special, I carefully control how much of it is visible. And I think it would be wrong–inappropriate–to expose to much of it. And distracting to those around me.

    When I was in high school four years ago, I was similarly shocked by the revealing way my peers dressed. It seemed to me to often be an expression of low self-esteem, and of not valuing their bodies, rather then being proud of them.

  41. Camla says:

    I don’t think an apology was required; we all are entitled to our own opinion. I agree with your comments on appropriate dress entirely.

  42. Kelsey says:

    Frankly, I’m a little horrified at the level of slut-shaming taking place on this blog, especially in the comments.

    Dressing provocatively/inappropriately is a phase that many teenagers go through. When I was 15, I walked around in crop-tops and miniskirts like the rest of my peers. Sometimes, on 80+ degree days, I still do! Guess what? I don’t sport ripped fishnets or hotpants or what-have-you to the grad school classroom/job/internship. I learned through trial and error what works for me, what I’m comfortable with, and what is appropriate for a professional setting.

    Although some of the sartorial choices that teens make are definitely unfortunate, that doesn’t mean that they deserve to be judged or scolded, especially by people that refer to themselves as feminists.

    Don’t like how society pressures young women into dressing outside of their comfort zone? Great! Scolding other women whose comfort zone is different from yours? NOT FREAKING COOL. Blame the patriarchy, not the woman.

  43. J. says:

    I, too, think that L has been unjustly attacked for expressing her thoughts. I also think that some of the criticisms of her outfit are catty and not of the helpful and reflective tone that I have come to expect from this blog. I am troubled by the idea that there is just one set list of beliefs that one has to ascribe to in order to be considered a “good feminist.”

  44. Christina says:

    Keelan: I certainly don’t think there is a privacy issue here. As you rightly point out, L has not named herself, her school, her state, or any of her students, or even described an individual. Her observation about female students dressing inappropriately – all general – would hardly come as a shock to any of the parents of her students, let alone anyone who has stepped foot in a high school in the last thirty years.

  45. A.S. says:

    Kelsey, let’s not kid ourselves here– there is truth in what people have said about dressing appropriately in a school setting. Wearing cropped shirts and miniskirts is not the place for that. I haven’t seen any “slut-shaming” so far, and I think that’s something that’s being put there.

  46. Shannon says:

    As an eighteen-year-old sophomore in college, I have to say I was slightly rankled by L’s initial wording regarding young people. (Thank you, by the way, for the clarification/apology!) While I’m on the verge of losing my teenage status, I am sensitive to the way that my age group is perceived.
    Yes, there are certainly those that show more flesh than would be acceptable in a professional setting. However, the teenage years are generally an experimental period; on the whole, adolescents learn what is and is not acceptable as they mature.
    In terms of sexuality, I feel that people put too much emphasis on teens and their supposed flagrant exhibitionist tendencies. Have you spoken to high school girls about their fashion choices? I can tell you that most of them don’t dress for the guys–they dress for each other. Perhaps their choice of clothing does catch the attention of boys, but really, have you talked to an adolescent boy going through puberty? The girls in their classes could be wearing turtlenecks and baggy skirts and they would still be sexually interested.
    I’m not saying that it’s a good thing for girls to be wearing tiny skirts (aka glorified belts) and boob-flashing tank tops. However, I don’t think our age group should be solely characterized by this behavior; plenty of older women dress this way as well to an even more inappropriate effect. Yes, our society has allowed youths to become sexually charged at an earlier age. But, basing one’s fashion choices on those depicted in popular media is hardly a new concept and certainly not a fault attributed solely to today’s crop of teenagers.
    All in all, I understand what you meant, and I think I’m bothered in a slightly different way than those who posted previously. My beef is mostly with the implied stereotype of teens as “distasteful” creatures who have little to no disregard for respect and social mores. I don’t believe that was your intent, but I’ve heard so many negative things about my generation recently that it’s hard not to be sensitive.

  47. L, can I apologise for mixing up your name here? My mistake, and I’m sorry that others seem to have copied my error.

  48. MONKEYFACE says:

    Hey L., I just wanted to say thanks for joining this blog and sparking a lot of great discussion in many of your posts, not just this one. There are a lot of very eloquently written oppositions to your phrasing here that appear to come from a respectful place, which have given you plenty of pause for thought, and which you have responded to, so I’m not going to beat that horse to death. I just wanted to beseech you not to take the few comments which seem mean-spirited or unnecessarily haughty to heart; I think some people sort of see you as the stepdad who came in after S. left, and with that role, no matter how awesome you are, some will go out of their way to find ways to antagonize you. Best of luck to you navigating the worlds of academia, teenagers, AND style blogging and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next.

  49. Lindy says:

    As both a professor at a Florida college and the mother of two teenage sons, I support L’s point of view. In many classes I have young ladies arrive in shorts that leave nothing to the imagination and young men whose pants sag so far we all know their underwear choices. In both cases, there is a lot of fussing to keep the shorts down and pants up, which is distracting to the class. My son received a referral at high school for not eating in the cafeteria — he was embarassed by the fact that the girls’ skirts were so short that he could see their thongs and kept blushing which caused teasing.

    We all have rights, but there are also responsibilties to others around us.

  50. philosophotarian says:

    let me add my apologies for confusing your name, L.
    And perhaps I missed something, but I thought the intent of this blog was to pass negative judgment on certain clothing choices and positive judgment on others: “ill-fitting polyester suits” = bad. The lovely, fun, well-fitted clothing depicted on this blog = good.
    I don’t interpret these “good” and “bad” judgments to have anything to do with ontological claims or judgments of character or intelligence or anything else. I am surprised that for some of the commenters, it is okay to negatively judge men or older women but that it is not okay to say anything the least bit critical about younger women.

  51. SweetAsCake says:

    I’m shocked to see this kind of slut-shaming here and am considering no longer subscribing to the feed for this reason.

    Yes, this is a fashion blog, and critiquing fashion is appropriate; however, the general consensus in these comments seems to be that it is:

    a) Wrong for teenage girls/females in general to dress in such a way as to attract sexual interest.

    b) The responsibility of females if males are distracted from their studies.

    c) Impossible that teenage girls might actually wish to attract sexual attention or express themselves through their clothing choices.

    The ageism and sexism inherent in this point of view is absolutely nauseating. I have four daughters, and I would much rather see them go through a perfectly normal phase of “parading their bodies” than see them internalize the misogynistic ideas I mentioned.

  52. A.S. says:

    People seriously– if you don’t like what L. had to say, then don’t subscribe if that’s your feeling. I think her view was a very appropriate view concerning young girls wearing clothing which is not appropriate for school. Yes, if you wear clothing that is revealing you are in fact doing so to reveal your body. What else would be the purpose of super short shorts, miniskirts, and low-cut shirts? Ventilation? Who are we kidding?

    The only misogynistic views I’ve seen here are the ones slamming L. for stating what is a sad truth in today’s classrooms. School is a place to learn, and part of that is also learning how to dress appropriately for the situation. If anyone wants their teenage daughters to dress scantily, go right on ahead but don’t be surprised if a male around her gets distracted because of the way she dresses. It’s called personal responsibility– something L. is supposed to teach her students.

  53. SweetAsCake says:

    A.S., you said:
    ” Yes, if you wear clothing that is revealing you are in fact doing so to reveal your body. ”

    If this is in response to me, it only strengthens my impression that you believe there is something wrong with showing one’s body. This is what I object to.

    “The only misogynistic views I’ve seen here are the ones slamming L. for stating what is a sad truth in today’s classrooms.”

    Oh, really? Why is that? Because they are criticizing something said by a woman? Women say offensive things all the time.

    “If anyone wants their teenage daughters to dress scantily, go right on ahead but don’t be surprised if a male around her gets distracted because of the way she dresses. It’s called personal responsibility– something L. is supposed to teach her students.”

    I’m just going to ignore your personal attack here and ask you whether you realize how close you sound to those who ask rape victims what they were wearing, or those fundamentalists who admonish girls to adhere to strict standards of modesty lest they “cause a brother to stumble.”
    Perhaps you’re OK with that, but don’t expect feminists to be.

  54. SweetAsCake says:

    Just to add: now “feminists” think personal responsibility (for women) means taking responsibility for men’s inability to focus. What next?

  55. A.S. says:

    Feminists believe in taking personal responsibility for what you do and the consequences of your actions. Can we honestly believe that if a woman dresses provocatively, it’s unreasonable that a guy will take notice? We are not responsible for others’ behaviors, but we have responsibility TO them by being appropriate. I haven’t been out of high school that long, and I can honestly say that as a high schooler if I wore a short skirt I can’t get angry at the guys for staring. And that goes for anyone. Same thing goes for a guy who wears a tight-fitted shirt that practically shows all his muscles. He can’t be all that surprised when women look at him. What else would be the purpose of such clothing?

    There is something wrong with objectifying one’s body, which is not a feminist ideal. Women are not objects and as such, we should not regard ourselves as objects.

    If someone wants to take offense on a personal level to what I’ve said, that’s their issue. I’ll continue to defend L. on this because as a teacher and role model, it’s her responsibility to teach proper decorum on dressing.

  56. A.S. says:

    And for the record– I don’t believe that a rapist is justified by *any* means, and when I was referring to attention, violence was not what I had in mind.

    And I believe in the difference between being responsible for and being responsible to. Unless you’re a parent or guardian, everyone is responsible to each other, but not for each other. Most importantly we are responsible for ourselves as well.

  57. SweetAsCake says:

    A.S., wishing to attract sexual attention is not wrong. As for “objectifying one’s body”, if that is how you see it, it is one’s own to objectify as one pleases. It does not empower a woman to tell her that her body is public property that must, above all, please others: that’s the exact same message the beauty industry and all society’s most sexist voices are bombarding her with all the time.

    I’m sorry to hear that you feel you can’t object to a man’s disrespectful behavior (staring) unless you dress with the goal of not “distracting” him in mind. Whether you can expect it is another matter. Just because it is likely doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, or your fault.

    Also, please consider the possibility that, although you many not be able to imagine doing so yourself, other women can and do choose to wear revealing clothing for many reasons, sometimes to attract sexual attention, sometimes not, and neither case is inherently wrong.

    I’m dismayed, myself, by the way young women and girls are often given the message that they are required to present a “sexy” image at all times. However, attacking the women who do so only reinforces the old madonna/whore dichotomy and places yet another burden on women, who have to walk the thin line between sexy and not “too” sexy. There is enough judgment and pressure related to women’s clothing in our society already; as feminists, let’s not add to it. After all, high school students are not professionals going to work or graduates with a job interview. Their position does allow more experimental and/or casual dress, whether teachers find it appealing or not.

  58. Kelsey says:

    A.S. said: “There is something wrong with objectifying one’s body, which is not a feminist ideal. Women are not objects and as such, we should not regard ourselves as objects.”

    “Objectifying one’s body?” As a woman, I don’t objectify myself. I am objectified by a sexist society. I get harassed in tasteful knee-length gray skirts and turtlenecks all the time. “Appropriate” clothes don’t magically enable me to step outside of the paradigm of objectification.

    Where do you draw the line? Does a woman in a head scarf “objectify herself” less than I do? Maybe it’s my “personal responsibility” to don one every time I leave the house so I don’t make anyone uncomfortable.

    Also, “attention” from strange men (which, in my experience of a few decades of being female on this planet, is virtually always unsolicited) and violent assault are just two different points on the same continuum. Men that honk at/leer at/grab strange women feel entitled to do so because we live in a rape culture, not because his victim didn’t exercise proper decorum. Sheesh.

  59. A.S. says:

    I think I already made it clear that a woman doesn’t deserve sexual harassment or rape, but I suppose even I could talk until my face turned blue what I said will be misconstrued anyway.

    As far as dressing to attract sexual attention– personally because of my faith beliefs I do not agree with that. I don’t think in order to attract a decent man, showing skin is necessary. And contrary to what anyone might think, I’m not a religious fanatic fundamentalist but as part of my faith beliefs I believe in modesty. To me, that means not dressing in a manner which objectifies myself. If you choose to wear revealing clothing you are revealing skin. Skin is skin. If that makes me appear “backwards” to some people then so be it, but to me it’s also about self-respect.

    Modesty is why I like this blog so much. For once, there was a fashion blog that featured professional women who dressed classy, colorfully, trendy, and all without feeling the need to show excessive skin. So if my difference in opinion isn’t something that’s liked, that’s fine– it won’t interfere with the way I view this blog, or its authors.

  60. kathrin says:


    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with parading your body as long as it is a conscious decision, just like there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to do so for whatever reason. I get your point that walking the streets in mini skirts does not match your idea of modesty, but just like you ask us to respect your views, you should also tolerate women with different ideas of fashion.

    And to get back to the whole feminism story – to me, being able to make my own choices is a core aspect of feminism, and I don’t see why this concept shouldn’t be extended to fashion. Even if it includes nudity. ;)

    @L.: I didn’t know you were teaching at a boarding school, I actually thought you were still involved at university. I guess that sets the whole question of “dressing appropriately” in a different light.

  61. Sarah says:

    I wish people would see the human body as less distracting and more worth celebrating. It’s true that your students are teenagers and more susceptible to “long glances”, but it also seems like a good time to teach them that people’s bodies are natural and not scandalous. If more people worried less about how covered we were and more about what we were saying, life would be easier. I am not a person who generally flaunts my figure but I still think that other people have a right too unless a company, club, group, institution, etc. has clearly set out rules that describe what they feel is appropriate in terms of clothing length, choice, or modesty.

  62. Miss T says:

    The way I see it, school is preparing these young people for a career, and so they need to TREAT it like a career and dress in a way that is appropriate and respectful of their teachers and their peers. They can choose to wear whatever they want on the weekends, just like I can choose to wear whatever I want on the weekends, but if I went into work with my cleavage showing and my butt hanging out of my skirt, I might get fired.

  63. Miss T says:

    @Sarah- “unless a company, club, group, institution, etc. has clearly set out rules that describe what they feel is appropriate in terms of clothing length, choice, or modesty.”

    Public schools do, honey. Heck, in the suburb where I live, the public school has a dress code that includes belt color and hair length and uniforms for all, from kindergarten all the way up to 12th grade.

  64. Trish says:

    I’m seventeen and I find it strange that some people here support women dressing revealingly to school. Since I was in 6th grade my mother allowed me to shop for my own clothes. Going to high school was a crisis. Short shorts and skirts were all the rage. You could wear a long-sleeved turtle neck but had to have maximum exposure of leg. Hehehe. My mom put her foot down and I was not allowed to dress as such to school. I yelled at my mom and I wouldn’t talk to her for weeks for it. Now I’m 17 and in my senior year and I’m grateful that my mom showed me how to dress appropriately for different situations.

  65. Rad says:

    I disagree with many of the comments and ideas that public school is where you get professionalized. I don’t think dressing like a young women has affected my judgment of young women, and it hasn’t stopped me from giving recommendation letters. (I must say, instead of being embarassed for them, I’m admire their comfort with their skin.) I think people get professionalized at their jobs, at internships, and in the career center. I think it’s appropriate for high school and college students to figure out how to express themselves through clothes before they have to enter the “real world.”
    I’d like to applaud how graciously L. dealt with the criticism. We are all learning here on the blogosphere. The fact that she took seriously her critics speaks volumes about her maturity. Let’s not be so hard on her.
    I do want to bring something I haven’t read so far, which is how “trendy” and popular body consciousness is right now. Maybe I am romanticizing my adolescence, but in the mid-late 1990s, I wore oversized carpenter/cargo pants, men’s vests and sweaters all the time. Any dresses I had were prairie like and boxy. In the summer, I wore short cut off shorts and t shirts/tank tops. I would say that gender bending was as fashionable as conventional femininity (if not more). Remember Elaine’s outfits on Seinfeld? Those boxy blazers (not like today’s “boyfriend” blazers) and shapeless skirts? There’s something about the current obsession with conventional femininity that probably doesn’t provide many available options to young girls dressing themselves today. I am not trying to entirely blame the market, but there’s probably a reason why all these “modest clothing” specialty eretailers (Shade, Shabby Apple) are popping up and doing well. I have European friends who refuse to buy American clothes for their 5 year old daughter, because they only sorts they could find were “booty shorts,” so they dress her in little boys clothing. (They want her to be able to make her own choices about her style and sexuality when she gets older, not have it dictated to her by a screwed up market).

  66. Rebecca says:

    I’m a mother in my 40s, a tenured professor, a feminist, and a graduate of one of the most liberal and well respected women’s colleges in the country. And I have a sexy body and I dress, when appropriate, to show it off.

    When I was a teenager in the 80s, I also showed off my sexy body and did so intentionally. Hell, we wore bathing suit tops to class (I lived near the beach, in my defense). Back then there were no uniforms in public school. I absolutely did it to attract male attention and I paraded myself around. Sigh.

    I agree with B that if dressing with skirts 1″ below your bottom isn’t to attract sexual attention, then what is it for? And that’s totally fine, but not at school. We wouldn’t dress in an equivalently sexy/revealing way at work so why would we condone this for high school attire? And L IS trying to teach them something: about themselves, about the culture, about femininity, about feminism.

  67. Franca says:

    I don’t want to add to the substance of the discussion here, but I just wanted to point out at what a high level the critiques offered in the comments were. Yes, people disagreed very strongly with what L. said but they did so in a rational, respectful way and focused specifically on what she had actually said, and offered different ways of thinking about the issue. With one single exception, noone attacked her personally. And L. herself recognised this, and gave an excellent defense/apology in the same rational respectful manner.

    Yet many commenters described those giving a critique as making personal attacks and described what they said as unacceptable. This worries me quite a bit. If what I perceive as adult discussion is perceived by others as personal attacks, then how can we ever understand each other? What hope is there for any sort of critique? Are we really left with only ever commenting if we agree?

  68. Susana says:

    I understand what L. thinks she’s saying, but then I have to ask–who gets to decide what’s appropriate and when? I’m a fat woman and I was told my my principal–when I taught hs–that it wasn’t appropriate for me to wear things that made me look fat, because it would encourage the female students to believe it was ok to gain weight. L. might think that what she said is totally different, but my point is that no one should be the arbiter of good taste for another person. When we start talking about what’s appropriate or not, I get nervous about what those dictates really indicate–an anti-feminist attitude, a homophobia, a fat phobia, etc etc etc.

    This post just illustrates how disappointed I am in general with L.’s posts. Her clothes are so much less interesting than the other women on the site and she seems out of touch, as evidenced by her comments in this post.

    • Shannon says:


      It seems that you have personal reasons to attack L. for her post, and that perhaps you’re lashing out as a result of your past experiences. What your principal said to you was not okay, nor is it okay to accuse someone of being “out of touch” just because her opinion differs from yours.

  69. Jac says:

    I think some of these commentors have lost the focus; a school setting is about learning, period. As a teachers of students 14-18, I have seen male students distracted by the low cut tops of female students and female students distracted by the low riding pants of young men. It is absolutely true that this kids have the right to wear what they want WHEN THEY ARE NOT AT SCHOOL.

  70. Leah says:

    I didn’t see this post the first time around, but I wanted to add something in case L ever peeks back. I live at a boarding school too, and I am 100% with you on the comment about girls parading themselves around in skimpy, skimpy clothing. We had numerous conversations here, and the school ultimately decided to go with a uniform specifically because of the skanky nature in which girls dressed. Maybe it also helps to mention that this is also a religious school, but it’s not about the religion.

    It isn’t about women being allowed to be sexy or not. As we discussed at the school, a pencil skirt and nice blouse are far more sexy than some of the things these gals wore. The big issue is that breasts were almost falling out of tops, skirts were too short, and pants were both too tight and not covering the skin when girls bent over. In my mind, that’s actually a sign of a lack of confidence in these girls — they don’t think they’ll be sexy unless they’re skanky. Chapel day was the worst — everyone was expected to wear a suit. The boys were super sharp in their nice suits, but the girls would do all the could to subvert the rule. It became a daily battle about what people were wearing. Uniforms certainly helped simplify the issue.

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