The dress code must evolve. Here are a few suggestions.
June 10, 2023
The world is your runway, but does that include Ransom Everglades?
According to the 2022-2023 Ransom Everglades Student Handbook, the school enforces a dress code in an attempt to “[maintain] standards of dress and appearance appropriate to serious academic pursuits while allowing for individual taste and considering the South Florida climate.” In theory, striking a balance between academic “appropriateness” and “individual taste” is a noble goal. But to what extent does our dress code meet that goal? Is our dress code truly capable of accommodating a student’s individuality if they abide by the rules?
Policies of dress, and more specifically uniforms, have been enforced since the very beginning of both the Adirondack-Florida School and the Everglades School for Girls. The first uniforms included mandatory suits and ties for boys and knee-length dresses for girls.
When Dean of the Freshman Class Mrs. Karen Thompson started teaching at RE in 1982, the uniform consisted of ties, button-down shirts and tunic-style tops with dress pants or shorts for both boys and girls. As years passed, the mandatory tie for boys was eventually phased out, and the tunic tops and button-down shirts turned into collared shirts. Details like length, fit, and color were governed by static regulations that remained in place until the recent switch to any colored collar shirt and the new addition of jeans.
“The uniform has slowly but surely evolved since my start here at Ransom Everglades,” said Mrs. Thompson.
Today, all students are expected to abide by the dress policies, which include wearing a collared shirt and appropriate length bottoms, which can be pants, shorts, a skirt, or jeans. There is also a requirement to wear school identification as part of the uniform. Students are not permitted to wear open-toed or heeled shoes. Joggers have been the newest addition to the dress code, but sweatpants are still restricted.
To Mr. Petar Solomun, the Upper School Dean of Students, who is the primary enforcer of the dress code, the rules as they are currently written should be enough for student self-expression. “There is more than enough space to express ourselves,” he said. “I see a lot of different styles and outfits on campus that are 100 percent within the dress code.”
For many female students specifically, however, the rules—especially those specific to length and fit of clothing—feel both inherently targeted to women and overly restrictive. The handbook prohibits “bare midriffs, low-cut tops, shrugs, shawls, visible undergarments, transparent clothing, strapless, halter tops, and rompers.” Although many of things restricted here are clearly not school appropriate, it is also undeniable that the dress code targets women more than men. “People can get showy, but our dress code targets the wrong things: girls for being promiscuous. I understand if the school wants to maintain professionalism, but dress codes typically tend to dodge the real issues at hand,” said Eva Bricker ’23.
With graduation coming up, the senior class must follow the established tradition of wearing suits and white dresses as they take the long-awaited walk with their diplomas in hand. The white dresses harken back to the traditions of the Everglades School for Girls.
In this case, too, however, some students feel that the rules create a double standard. Girls are asked to wear dresses that “cover the shoulders and extend at least to the knee.” For Olivia Silva ’23, the shoulder coverage rule is both antiquated and unfair.
“I understand having certain regulations for graduation dresses, but not being allowed to have our shoulders out is a recurring example of gender inequality within the dress code,” Silva said.
Jamora Arroyo-Jefferson ’24 is one student who has found ways to express herself while following the rules in the handbook. Her looks are creative and highly customized: one day, she might be wearing “an outfit that was made with an original 1975 pattern”; the next, she might be “dressed like a heart giving Cupid for Valentine’s Day or even a rainbow kid with a big rainbow tutu.” She manages to incorporate a collared shirt into each outfit—but that doesn’t mean she’s in support of the dress code as it is currently defined.
“The use of an official uniform is more detrimental than it is helpful,” Arroyo-Jefferson said. “In elementary or even middle school the focus is on a student’s education; however, in high school, in addition to getting an education, students also need to find themselves and how they wish to present themselves as maturing adults.”
The RE Upper School dress code is not as strict as some of the alternatives found at other schools; at Palmer Trinity, for example, both boys and girls wear school-issued button-downs and ties. Nevertheless, the problem is that the RE dress code, like any dress code, is implemented in hopes of fitting a certain image. With the diverse student body at a school like RE, there isn’t a specific image that can embody every student.
For Mr. Solomun, dressing in a way that embodies individuality is less important than embodying institutional values. “I don’t believe that suits make a person, but I think you should fit the role. I don’t think anyone should be judged based on their looks and how they dress,” he said. But for many students, the opposite is more important.
The dress code is here to stay. But, in hopes of progressing and expanding the dress code, I do have a few suggestions.
- The school should offer more opportunities to wear RE t-shirts. RE has a Friday-only RE t-shirt rule. What difference would it make if we were allowed to wear a spirit shirt on a Tuesday as well?
- RE should expand the dress code to include sweatpants. What is the actual difference between sweatpants and joggers anyway?
- The school should make an effort to eliminate bias and double standards by carefully examining the origins of the dress code and the original intentions behind certain restrictions.
Without the enforcement of unnecessary restrictions, stressed RE students would have one less thing to worry about.