Dressing for prom success

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It’s the dead of winter and a balmy -3 degrees here. This of course coincides perfectly with the need to start shopping for prom dresses to be worn in May.

Failure to have your dress by the end of February means risking that all the best dresses are already registered to your school, thus prohibiting you from having it. At some point it was decided that two females wearing the same dress was akin to high treason and to be avoided at all costs. An equally horrific fate would be to be the teen forced to wear some dusty old relic her mom pulled out of the closet. Apparently “vintage” is only really cool if your parents never wore it.

Staff approval

Many public high schools now require young ladies to bring their dresses to school to be pre approved by a random group of staff members and passersby before they can gain permission to wear them to prom. A student in Utah was recently humiliated and denied entry to a school dance when her knee-length, A-line, Audrey-Hepburn-Meets-Jackie-Kennedy style dress was deemed inappropriate because it showed a glimpse of shoulder.

Shoulder? Was their prom held in a time warp sometime in 1910?

Locally, I have learned that recently rejected prom attire includes, but is not limited to, beige high-neck and floor-length dresses with lace.

Lace? When did lace become the enemy? Is it some sort of gateway material? Is lace-to-naked an obvious trajectory to everyone but me?

The jury is still out on whether or not shoulders will be acceptable. I’m not sure what’s left; Hefty bags? Burlap sacks?

The real irony is that in many cases the “after prom” — a fun outing that is done the day after the big dance — will be held at an indoor waterpark. This means that the same children who are to be completely covered in what, I guess, is a tarp or tablecloth so no one can see their figure at the dance, will spend the next day running around in bathing suits together.

Rules: they don’t have to make sense.

Equal time

I am the least likely advocate of showing more skin, but I do think we have to say enough is enough. We are subjecting young ladies to dress codes that seem to be enforced sporadically and exist mainly to reinforce the message that males are not responsible for themselves, so females should cover up. That is not okay.

I’m all for having decent standards, and I’m really quite a prude. That said I have yet to hear of young men subjected to this same level of scrutiny. I’m all for good taste, but taste is so subjective. I mean, if I had my way, we would drive a stake through the heart of the spandex underwear that double as volleyball uniforms in many public high schools today.

Honestly? I would suggest that young ladies who are told they can’t wear a perfectly respectable prom dress to their school prom take the dress and a standard volleyball uniform — which all too often includes a skin tight top and spandex underpants worn as shorts — to the school board and ask them which best represents their school.

This isn’t a diatribe against volleyball shorts, mind you. Though, as an aside, I do question why volleyball shorts need to be that short to be athletic, when basketball and soccer shorts for female players do not? Still, I digress.

Focus

I’m completely over the retro-throwback dress codes that exist seemingly to shame young women and imply that it is the female’s job not to “distract” males. I parent a male. If he and his friends ever floated the theory that they couldn’t focus because they were distracted by the fact that a female in their midst had a torso, elbow, shoulder or skin, I am going to laugh at them. I will then follow this by being deeply disappointed.

My ideals change as the children age. What I think is appropriate for middle school would qualify me for a nunnery. I am not a fan of anything that could veer more toward porn than prom. However, just as I don’t think that leggings are a tool of the devil, I do think that admitting young ladies do in fact have legs, elbows and a torso isn’t exactly letting the cat out of the bag.

Sometimes dress codes can go a little too far. These are young people fast approaching adulthood. At some point we have to let them and their parents decide what is, and isn’t, appropriate to wear. If they embarrass themselves, they’ll learn. I also reiterate that if we are graduating boys who cannot handle themselves in the face of a female in any prom dress, we have issues far greater than a dress code.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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