School issues 21-page rule book on prom dress choice

 Photo: Getty Images

The combination of teenage angst and questionable fashion trends makes choosing a school formal dress a difficult enough task - but what if graduating girls had to abide by a 21-page rule book when picking a frock?

Students at Rockford Boylan Catholic School in Rockford, Illinois, must do just that when choosing an outfit for prom after the school published a lengthy dress code for female students. If they don't comply, then they can't go.

Most of the extensive document focuses on what girls can and can't wear. Not surprisingly, the section on what boys can wear is one paragraph long.

It's 2017, people – I think this school might have forgotten that.

The US school has received backlash from students and the wider community for body shaming and sexism. But the school said in a statement that "as a private Catholic high school, we adhere to teaching our students moral values which include modesty. We want all students to feel beautiful in what they wear while also adhering to our values as a Catholic school".

Let's take a look at what the guidelines are.

For the boys:

  • Young men are expected to wear formal evening attire that would include a tuxedo, suit with a tie, or sport coat and slacks with a tie.

Then they show four photos of young men in suits and tuxedos. That's it.


Now for the girls (and of course these are just some of the guidelines):

  • the neckline of a dress, top, or gown must be cut in a modest way without showing cleavage
  • the cut of a dress in the back and sides must not be cut below the naval (below your elbow)
  • a dress, skirt, or gown must be longer than mid-thigh
  • slits in a dress/skirt may be no higher than three inches from the knee
  • no navel is allowed to show
  • two-piece dresses are allowed if the space between top and skirt is less than two inches
  • the bodice of the dress must not have any fabric cutouts in the cleavage area. If elsewhere, it must be covered by netting and less than an inch opening
  • dresses should not be excessively tight.

Following are pages and pages of images of young women wearing dresses - some are deemed acceptable, while many others are not. After looking through them, you can be excused for walking away even more confused then when you started.

And don't think about wearing the same dress as last year, or lending it to your friend, because the school won't be happy with that either. "Some girls may wear the same dress but due to body types, one dress may be acceptable while the other is not," the guidelines clearly state.

"Modesty is admittedly a subjective interpretation, but one which we have a duty to uphold.

"Students should therefore err on the side of modesty and formality and not put school administrators in the difficult position of upholding school standards."

Perhaps the girls should just wear a suit, like the boys. But something tells me that's probably unacceptable too.

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