Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts | 501 S. Sapodilla Ave, WPB, FL 33401

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Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts | 501 S. Sapodilla Ave, WPB, FL 33401

THE MUSE

Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts | 501 S. Sapodilla Ave, WPB, FL 33401

THE MUSE

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Different Body, Different Standards

Dress code enforcement conflicts with students of different gender identities and body types
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Jason Monaco
Theatre senior Théa Lamy displays how Dreyfoos’ dress code applies to her, including the requirement to cover shoulders. “I think we just need to look back on these rules because there’s such a diversity of people,” Lamy said. “There tends to be some bias because we’re looking at the person, not the outfit.”

Members of administration were contacted but declined to comment. 

Theatre senior Théa Lamy struts the halls, chin up high in her red tank top, paired with light washed jean shorts. Moments later, this freedom is taken away from her as her top is labeled ‘inappropriate’ by a passing staff member. As Lamy’s friend points out to the employee, other girls are wearing similar tops, but they aren’t called out for it. 

“Because my chest is bigger, it looks different on me than (it looks on another girl),” Lamy said. “Because I come from a very Christian household, my mom has always told me to cover up, (to not) show those parts of myself.”

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  • Per the dress code, Lamy and vocal senior Jacqueline Alvarado stand with hands on their jeans. Although jeans fall within the dress code, their fingertips fall at different places on their respective bodies. If shorts are worn, the rules apply differently to each student. “The same shorts won’t look the same on every person,” Lamy said.

  • Per the dress code, Lamy and vocal senior Jacqueline Alvarado stand with hands on their jeans. Although jeans fall within the dress code, their fingertips fall at different places on their respective bodies. If shorts are worn, the rules apply differently to each student. “The same shorts won’t look the same on every person,” Lamy said.

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Dress code is a long-standing controversy. As an arts school, some use fashion as a medium for artistic and self expression, finding a rigid dress code restrictive of their creative freedom. Others consider the school’s dress code too relaxed in what students are allowed to wear. The enforcement of dress code is up for debate among students, teachers, and parents: is the very idea sexist and fatphobic, or is it applied as necessary to each individual body?

The trademark line that those in favor of a strict dress-code typically quote is that it can be distracting for both students and teachers in a classroom environment. Vocal senior Jacqueline Alvarado shared “my body isn’t something you should be distracted by.” 

“Personally, I do show a lot of skin at school,” Alvarado said. “It’s a little weird on my end, with a male teacher. Why are you telling me to cover up? I’m a child, please don’t stare at my midriff … it shouldn’t be distracting you from your teaching.” 

While some teachers find students’ outfits divert their attention away from the lesson, others, such as theatre teacher Charles Swan, find that unsettling. 

“I am way too busy during the course of the school day to be distracted by a student’s midriff,” Mr. Swan said. “I think (other teachers) should consider ways they can structure their 100 minutes to be super busy, gregarious, joyous and full, so they (don’t have the time to) be distracted by their students’ (bodies).”  

Mr. Swan adds the restrictions outlined in the district dress code bring up problems of their own. The district dress code includes “clothing that is sexually suggestive or revealing.” 

“I think it’s interesting that we immediately are lumping muscles…girls’ shoulders…under the umbrella of sexually suggestive,” Mr. Swan said. “I don’t think arms scream sex. I don’t think midriffs scream sex.”

Students, such as dance sophomore Yariel Williams, have pointed out, in some cases, it can get to the point where an outfit becomes a distraction. Williams is grateful for our lenient dress code but also acknowledges students aren’t the issue.

“(Somebody’s outfit) could be distracting to other students, depending on how revealing their clothing may be,” Williams said. “But for the most part, I feel like it’s more (at the) level of the adults.” 

No matter who it may be distracting, a common theme keeps appearing: the lenient dress code doesn’t seem to bother the students. It’s not only teachers, either. Parents can also play a role in how their teens express themselves at school, as Lamy says.

“My mom is very strict with dress code,” Lamy said. “She actually hates how lenient Dreyfoos is with dress code. She wishes it was more strict. If she had seen the way kids dress before she took me to the school, she probably wouldn’t have taken me here. She’d have wanted (me to go to) a school with a uniform.”

While some parents and teachers may feel a stricter dress code would be beneficial, students such as visual sophomore Bee Fielding feel that education and clothing are separate ideas. 

“How we dress isn’t changing our educational experience or how much we’re learning,” Fielding said. “I think some of the rules definitely need to be revised to account for that.” 

Dance freshman Sydney Broadfield discussed that in her first few weeks on campus, she has appreciated seeing the creative freedom of dress the school offers.

“We’re not all locked up,” Broadfield said. “We don’t have a uniform. We’re allowed to express ourselves however we want, which I think is great. There are rules, but they’re rules that make sense.” 

Dreyfoos’ dress code contains the district-mandated minimum requirements to “create the best learning environment.” Alvarado said, “Here, especially at Dreyfoos, it’s pretty lax (relaxed) compared to other schools. Everyone has the right to creatively express themselves through clothing.” (Jason Monaco)

Lamy shares a similar viewpoint, expanding on the idea of being able to foster an artistic community through fashion.

“If Dreyfoos were to get a uniform, it would not be Dreyfoos,” Lamy said. “There’s so much expression through the outfits we wear. So many people make their own outfits, thrift and upcycle their outfits, or paint on their jeans and shoes.”

Lamy believes this is part of what makes the school such an uplifting environment, and appreciates that “we have this ability to express ourselves and show off who we really are.”

“Kids express themselves in such a way (that) it differentiates you from the person standing next to you,” Lamy said. “I feel like a uniform, or even a stricter dress code, wouldn’t make us more united, as a uniform should do. It would make us worse. It would make us feel like we have to be put into a box with everybody else (and) conform to (others’) expectations.” 

Cases of dress coding on campus are limited. However, out of those students who are dress coded, some, such as Fielding, have noticed a bias which targets those who identify as female.

“The dress code is definitely geared to be more discriminatory towards women specifically,” Fielding said. “Historically, women have always been told what to wear and when to wear it. It’s not even just educational environments where there are dress codes, but dress codes within life.” 

Fielding elaborates on the idea that women can’t win – “they tend to be under constant fire no matter what they do.”

“Women can never expose too much skin, or they’re expected to show more skin,” Fielding said. “It’s always been an issue of ‘you women have to wear this or that,’ but there’s never been a very tight dress code for men, and it’s definitely due to the societal hierarchy of gender.” 

Aside from the gender-specific biases, the potentially unequal enforcement of dress code based on body type is a sentiment Alvarado expressed. Alvarado feels that her clothing tends to be viewed as provocative because of her body type, even when she’s wearing the same types of clothing as other people around her.

Alvarado and Lamy show how the application of rules differs based on body type. Guidelines classify “inadequate coverage” as an infraction. However, there is no clear measurement for this description within the code. “I don’t think we should discriminate towards other body types just because theirs doesn’t look (like) the norm,” Lamy said. (Jason Monaco)

“It doesn’t fit (me) the way it would fit on a Brandy Melville standard girl,” Alvarado said, referring to the popular clothing brand known for its catering to petite girls. “Their ‘it’ girl, (clothes) wouldn’t fit on me like that. The school dress code combined with today’s fashion is not built for people who look like me.” 

Lamy shares a similar idea, concluding that while the school’s current dress code may give us a longer leash that some may take advantage of, it doesn’t make sense to tighten restrictions on others, eliminating the opportunity to “express how creative and artistic we are.” 

“People should still be allowed to be confident in what they’re wearing, and not be brought down just because of something they can’t control,” Lamy said. “For me, a lot of my friends are very petite, and we share clothes all the time. However, some of these clothes look more inappropriate on me than on them. But that’s just the way my body is, and it’s not something I can change. I’m not going to cover up just because I look different.”

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About the Contributor
Ella Jensen
Ella Jensen, Content Team Editor
Ella Jensen is a second-year staffer and Content Team Editor on The Muse. In addition to her passion for journalistic and creative writing, she enjoys reading and graphic design. Outside of the communication arts, Ella devotes herself to competitive dance, spending the majority of her free time at her studio, That’s Dancing, in the evenings. She looks forward to her next two years on The Muse, helping her staffers cultivate their creative voices while writing stories of her own.
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