Written by Jani Carr, Converge multimedia journalism intern and Senior at Parkview High School
High-waisted jeans and crop tops have made their return. One stroll down a school hallway filled with an abundance of oversized flannels, baggy jeans and graphic tees during class change will tell you that 90s fashion trends are back. While the internet—particularly TikTok and Instagram—continues to push this trend to the top of feeds, there is a vocal minority wishing the past would stay in the past: teachers.
In the first weeks of school, administrators toured the school, reminding students of rules forgotten and abandoned due to the pandemic. One guideline especially emphasized was the dress code. “No visible midriffs,” they announced, addressing the increasing amount of belly buttons seen around campus. More girls are being stopped in the hallway and asked to change into something more “appropriate” for school. But why are girls’ bodies seen as inappropriate in the first place?
School dress codes have always seemed to target girls disproportionately. Girls can’t show shoulders, but guys can wear “wife beaters” and white tanks. Girls can’t show a glimpse of their stomachs, but guys can wear hoodies with crude messages or sexual imagery on their backs. Girls can’t show too much leg, but guys can sag their pants until the waistband hits their knees. The list goes on. Cracking down on midriffs is just one more example of punishing girls for simply having that body. There should be nothing sexual about seeing a young girl’s shoulders or a sliver of her stomach.
Students are less distracted by the exposed skin and more by the disturbance to their day as they get pulled out of class, sent to the office and told to change into something more suitable. The misplaced blame turns into guilt that settles into her now-covered stomach for the rest of the day for showing parts that everyone has.
Even within the dress code, there is a clear bias against girls who don’t fit a certain set of societal standards. Those who wear a size bigger than a four, or who have larger chests, are dress coded far more often than those who don’t for wearing essentially the same outfit. Girls’ bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re being penalized because of it. Constantly getting infractions while their peers are left unscathed is not only unfair, but over time it begins to erode a student’s sense of self-worth.
The beauty of a school that does not require uniforms is that there are so many different forms of self-expression, whether someone decides to dress modestly or not. No one is asking to be allowed to come to school in bikinis or naked. Girls only want the ability to wear clothes they feel comfortable in and to feel as though the rules are working with, not against them, because a fair and equal dress code is better than one that favors or neglects any one group. And anyway, the midriffs will be replaced soon enough as the 90s fade back into memory.