Wearing Stereotypes

How Belleville West Dress Code Sends the Wong Messages

Mason Hagarty, Features Reporter


High school is supposed to help prepare students for life as functional, responsible members of the community. However, the current school dress code policy only teaches students that females have to dress to deter attention from male students, and that if their manner of dress becomes a “distraction,” it will result in disciplinary action. 

Written by Mason Hagarty Solin Douglas-Hill

It also doesn’t take into account for “casual” workdays, but instead emphasizes “Dress(ing) for success.” Through these obsolete rules and regulations, Belleville West’s dress code is sending messages to students, essentially implying that female bodies are inappropriate, and that success is derived from a business suit.


First, when looking over the District 201 Dress Code Policy, the first thing that becomes glaringly obvious is the number of specifically written clauses that pertain ONLY to female, or those who identify as female, students. 


From the entire section titled “Pants/Capri Pants” to “Skirts” to four of the nine “Additional Requirements,” the young ladies attending either East or West are being told it’s their job to dress in a way that deters–or at least doesn’t distract–young gentlemen attending the same schools. 


For example, the handbook states that “clothing must cover the upper (chest) and lower (midriff) torso,” and “Appropriate and necessary undergarments must be worn and not shown.” These excerpts are blatantly referring to female bodies, and, perhaps even more alarmingly, are policing them based on how male students might react. 


Instead of placing the responsibility for young men’s actions at the feet of the male offenders, why are we instead seeing district and school administrators set forth a policy that essentially tells the female student body that their student body can’t be seen?


Instead, we should take this opportunity to teach men that the female body is not an open invitation, whether you can see their knees or not. 


Dressing appropriately for an activity like attending school or work is certainly something that ALL students should begin learning how to do for ourselves; however, most colleges and workplace dress codes are far less restrictive. In fact, few workplaces restrict female employees from wearing leggings or V-neck shirts. 


We also need to learn how to dress for success in whatever field we’re planning on studying after high school, which is something that Belleville West dress code, and the new “Dress for Success Day” does not take into account. Not all of us will go on to be bankers or lawyers or need to wear suits or dresses to our future places of employment. Even if we do, we will surely find those days where it’s a “casual Friday” or some sort of “blue jeans for a cause” scenario that the school’s current policy does not take into consideration.


If you’re planning on becoming a mechanic and attending a trade school, chances are pretty good that you won’t be wearing khaki pants and a shirt and tie to work. If you’re planning on becoming a preschool or daycare employee, you’re not going to be wearing a business suit or a dress and heels. And if you’re going into the military, your uniforms are provided and are certainly not anything most of us will find in our current closet unless you are in an ROTC program. 


Why isn’t the school, or the district, taking into account these other lines of work? Surely, these positions are equally as important despite their more relaxed dress code. Society needs janitors just as much as we need doctors. A hard day’s work at an honest job, no matter what you wear, makes you just as successful as a banker or stock broker. Your paycheck may be very different, but if you’re paying your bills and you’re happy, isn’t that success, too?


Belleville West and District 201 should take a good hard look at the message being sent to students through these policies. Instead of trying to micromanage our apparel and appearance, the school should be letting us learn what works best for our comfort level and the future we want.