Leggings: An Outline

Our pants are not a detriment to the learning environment; please don’t hold me accountable for my classmate’s inability to focus.

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Should leggings be allowed under the Horizon dress code?

Taylor Terreri, Columnist

The standard school policy of dress codes, especially in the United States, seems to be almost exclusively targeting to what many girls choose to wear. 56 percent of Horizon Honors students do believe that the dress code is more focused on girls’ clothing, and the dress code, despite not being gendered, seems to target females. Restrictions on skirts, dresses, shorts, tank tops, and leggings are usually included in many dress codes. These rules hardly seem to affect boys at all with most prevalent example being tank tops. Shorts with an inseam less than four inches are hardly ever marketed to teenage boys, and skirts and dresses are not very popular among them. This is a trend that I’ve noticed around the nation: school districts mainly having rules regarding what girls tend to wear and what clothing companies make for them. There’s an unimaginable amount of news stories on girls getting unfairly dresscoded at school and simply absurd dress code policies. There are students getting dress coded for collarbones in Kentucky and students wearing “shame-suits” as a punishment in Florida, which is completely absurd.

Surprisingly, similar situations have also happened at Horizon Honors. 33.33 percent of students surveyed said that they have been dress coded for something that was a technicality or a rule they didn’t understand. “We have a dress code because there is a correlation between performance and dress. It’s about keeping students focused,” says Horizon Honors’ Principal Ann Shaheen. I understand the need for a distraction-free learning environment and I do agree, although I don’t see how clothing can be that much of a distraction in most cases. Other students should not be held responsible for their peers’ abilities to focus. Students should be taught how to control themselves and be responsible for their own actions. And honestly, it’s only around 10 percent of Horizon Honors students that have lost focus because of what another student was wearing. Everyone is going through their pubescent stages, which can cause attraction and an increase in hormonal activity, but control is still a necessity. We need to teach our students to manage their feelings for each other now so that in the workplace they are able to focus and women are able to feel safe.  When I go to school, I want to be – I should be – comfortable and feel safe. I can’t feel either of these things when I have to exclude some of my favorite items from my wardrobe for school. The pants are not the issue here, nor are the people who choose to wear them. It’s the people who choose to objectify the girls who wear them.

Leggings: the most versatile, easy-to-find, affordable, and comfortable pants a girl can own, yet Horizon Honors deems the most popular ways to style them “a distraction to the learning environment.” The Horizon Honors dress code states that “bottoms will include tights and leggings only if worn under shorts, dresses, or skirts (tights or leggings with a top is not in dress code).” Wearing leggings in this way is no longer considered to be extremely fashion-forward, which is a huge concern for many middle-school and high-school students. I can understand why ill-fitting leggings that expose the print and style of underwear are too tight and give a little too much definition (especially in the groin area), and are just too small in general can be problematic. But most girls choose leggings that are the correct size and that are opaque. Well fitting leggings (without a dress code abiding skirt or dress) should not be an issue. Leggings may be tight, but they do cover the same amount of skin that jeans and capris do, which can be just as form-fitting. Also, leggings can be a great option for girls because it’s incredibly easy to find a pair that fit, unlike skinny jeans, where women can spend a whole day hunting for a good pair. Not to mention, they do tend to be cheaper than most jeans. In general, rules regarding leggings are one of the most frustrating for females everywhere.

Although the fashion industry does play a big part in the hyper-sexualization of underage girls, mainly with their advertisements and photoshoots, rather than majority of the clothes themselves. In fact, many parents also become frustrated with some of these rules as they feel that many clothes are appropriate for their children but they cannot wear them to school. “How a student dresses and chooses to express themselves visually is important as they mature and develop their individuality. I would support a greater degree of freedom. I think the standard for what is considered distracting to the learning environment could allow for more flexibility,” is what Horizon Honors parent and health office supervisor, Darlene Gaudette says on the dress code. This would open up a wide range of options, giving students more opportunity for self expression. It’s very hard for many parents to find clothes that meet the dress code and their children’s tastes. For example, in the Kohl’s online junior department, 29.3 percent of the pants are leggings. Staci Milliard, a Horizon Honors’ mom with two kids in high school, said, “I think that it’s much more fair than the old [dress code] and gives students much more freedom to express themselves. But I feel that girls should be able to wear leggings to school as long as their butt is mostly covered.” Personally, as long as you don’t see someone’s butt, underwear (I’m not talking lines here, I mean the print and style), and/or genitalia through the leggings, then they should be allowed.

I have a confession to make: I have gotten away with leggings before. I ripped my pants while changing out of my dance clothes (don’t try to put on jeans with shoes, no matter how late you are). I had nothing else to wear, so I just changed my shirt and went on with my day. No staff members said a word to me about my pants, no boys seemed to be distracted by my pants, but one person was: me. All day I was worried that I was going to get dress coded, get a detention, or be sexually harassed, all because my pants ripped. I was wearing something that I knew was out of dress code for pretty much the whole day, and I didn’t get dress coded. I know this isn’t a one time fluke either because I’ve seen girls wear similar things and not get dress coded. It’s ironic how dress codes, meant to prevent distractions, actually caused one for me. Based on this, I think that teachers would rather be teaching than enforcing a dress code.

Many girls do say that they feel confident and comfortable in leggings. In our society, where media is constantly telling us to look a certain way and feeds self-esteem issues, girls’ self-assuredness should be celebrated and not punished via dress coding. But the schools are not the only ones to blame; it can be a challenge for some girls to find clothes that they feel comfortable in and at the same time meet dress code expectations. The fashion industry seems to be selling clothes that don’t meet the dress code more often than not. Girls can’t control what is marketed to them and in turn shouldn’t be punished for this.

Confidence and individuality should be praised and not be restricted by rules. Sexualization seems extremely unfair if most students are unable to consent. I resent the fact that I am treated as a distraction simply because of my gender.