Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dress Code

There is a storm brewing in my daughter's middle school. A much beloved principal retired last June and between her replacement and a new district superintendent, it has been an interesting year. Change was inevitable, as was the griping from nearly 500 students. (And don't get me started on how vocal a big bunch of nice, suburban parents can be!)

Like any modern mom, I've tried to explain that "Change can be good" and that my daughter and her friends should "Wait and see." They might even like the new regime better, I suggested.

Well, if the jury was out, it's back in now — and ready to hang someone for the latest in a string of new rules:

"No more yoga pants!"


In all fairness, the principal did not specifically say "No yoga pants." In fact, he went out of his way to communicate to both students and parents that he wasn't going to outlaw a particular style of pant by name. And, clearly, there are other — shall we say — "form fitting" fashion choices. But the eighth grade buzz has focused on yoga pants. How dare they forbid yoga pants? How will we live without our yoga pants? What is the world (or, at least, the middle school) coming to?

For those of you who (a) do not take yoga and (b) do not have a daughter who shops at Abercrombie or American Eagle Outfitter or Hollister or Delia's or H&M or Forever 21 or PINK or Victoria's Secret, yoga pants are fairly stretchy and fairly tight. And fairly ubiquitous — you probably picked that up from my less than all-inclusive list of participating retailers. They typically have a contrasting waistband that can be rolled down and worn low across tween hips. They often have writing across the tush.

As the mother of a tween-going-on-teen, I for one would rather not draw attention to my daughter's tush. But, I digress.

Yoga pants are so-o-o-o-o-o comfortable and so-o-o-o-o-o popular. Virtually all of my daughter's female classmates have them and wear them regularly. Although I doubt many if any of these girls actually practice yoga.

Regardless, the loss of their basic human right to wear yogic pants had been taken away. So, what do any self-respecting middle schoolers do when they want to voice their collective displeasure with the powers that be? They mobilize via social media! (Hey, if it worked for Occupy Wall Street and the Egyptian revolution, it might work for yoga pants.) Word quickly spread via Facebook that on a certain day of a certain week, everyone should protest the new rule about not wearing yoga pants by ... wearing yoga pants

A plan that was simply brilliant in its brilliant simplicity.

I caught wind of this, but decided to let my daughter participate anyway. I thought: best case scenario, she will learn a little about activism. Worst case, she might get reprimanded for breaking the new dress code. It was a risk I was willing to take.

Sure enough, the act of defiance took place without a hitch. Girls wore their yoga pants and as far as they could tell, the school didn't shut down; the world did not come to an end. Instead, we the parents received another (less-gentle) reminder from the principal. We were encouraged not to allow our offspring to leave for school in "inappropriately tight" clothes. If pants were tight, the students had to wear long shirts over them. The specific rule was that when the student drops her arms to her sides, the fabric of the top has to reach as low as her middle finger.

A few days later, the girls and boys were separated during their "Advisory" block (or what us old-timers might have called homeroom). The boys went with their male teachers while the girls went with the female teachers. In this safe, sexually segregated environment, the kids once again heard about the dress code.

This bothered me a bit. As far as I know, there are no boys wearing yoga pants or jeggings or leggings or any other "inappropriately tight" legwear. So the rule is really for the middle school girls, isn't it?

I can imagine the conversation that the female faculty had with their female students: "If you wear tight pants and your shirt isn't long enough, you are breaking the rules."

But, I'm not so clear on what the male teachers said to the male students. "If a girl is wearing tight pants and her shirt isn't long enough, don't look?"

Then, while I understand why the principal didn't want to forbid certain pant types, it might have made a very subjective issue a little more objective. Just say it: "No leggings, no jeggings, no yoga pants. Period." Instead, as a mom, I've been asked not to let my daughter wear "inappropriately tight" clothing to school. Who's to say that what you and I find "inappropriate" or "tight" will be the same? There are differences in taste, in religious beliefs, in ethnic heritage that could easily influence each individual judgement call. Girls this age are also at a variety of different places in terms of their development. So, leggings that might not seem inappropriate on a skinny little seventh grader might look downright va-va-va-voom on an eighth grader who has already come out the other end of puberty.

For the record, I will not and have not ever allowed my daughter to go off to school in an outfit that was revealing or sexually provocative. That said, I will try to adhere to the new rules. If we have to buy some tunic-length tops to do that, so be it. Of course, my daughter was quick to point out that only "old ladies" wear long tunics over their yoga pants.

Can you guess what I was wearing when she said that? Um, yep.

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