Kim Kardashian has never been one to shy away from showing skin or experimenting with the latest trend — no matter how risqué it might be. With her worldwide notoriety, her style is adored by some and criticized by others. But one university has landed itself in hot water after making a reference to the celebrity in an article posted to its website regarding the graduation dress code.
Queen’s University Belfast, a public university in Northern Ireland with about 25,000 students, recently posted a note written by Thom Dickerson, a former architecture student and current owner of a Belfast-based private tailoring company, titled, “Style tips for graduation week: Wear it well.” Appropriate dress for the ceremony was detailed and, along with conventional tips on matching colors of gowns to academic hoods, he advised students: “Remember it’s a formal event! Possibly the biggest mistake I see at graduation is girls treating the event like a night out.”
Dickerson then described what he deemed prohibited wear: “Graduation is a formal event and the dress code should match this. Short skirts and cleavage on show are totally out of the question. Think Grace Kelly, not Kim Kardashian, at least until the day is done: You can always change before heading out!” Men were also advised to wear dark-colored shoes in the note.
Although the dress code for graduation is reportedly not compulsory, some students apparently took issue with the note, finding it inappropriate. The Belfast Telegraph obtained a letter written to the university by a postgraduate female student in which she detailed why she found it “offensive and condescending.”
“I find that it gives legitimacy to the stereotype that university education is for the middle classes,” she wrote. “As a woman, however, the part I find utterly deplorable is the way in which it advises women how to dress. Being told what to wear, being judged for our attire and being told certain attire says certain things about you as a woman is still a daily occurrence.”
It’s quite standard for universities worldwide to issue dress codes and instruct students on appropriate attire, but she found fault in the way in which the university did it. “I understand that the university wishes graduation to be a formal event,” she continued. “So, why couldn’t they simply state ‘formal attire’? Looking to the comparisons the university has made here, it’s pretty degrading. The reserved, conservative Grace Kelly is the example of ‘good’ while the ‘louder’ more ‘risqué’ Kim Kardashian is ‘bad’?”
She related the Kardashian and Kelly reference to stereotypes modern women face in today’s society. “Isn’t that the same old, same old we’ve been trying to rally against for years now? The article draws a very definitive line between male and female attire. The most offensive part of it all is the way in which it confirms the stereotypical good girl and pits her against the stereotypical bad girl.”
The style tip clearly did not sit well with the postgraduate student, as she likened the remark about “cleavage on show” to “a piece of advice that would have been handed down to girls in a convent.” She posed a question to Dickerson, writing, “Are we not a bit more mature than making cleavage out to be ‘bad’ or even ‘sacrosanct’? I feel massively condescended to and genuinely offended to be offered this advice.”
Another student, Sarah Wright, who studies politics at the university, perceived the note in a similar way. “It’s outrageous that QUB would even consider, never mind print, such sexist advice for women graduates,” she told the Independent. “These women students have spent thousands of pounds and years of their lives studying for their respective degrees. It should not be inconceivable that the focus should be on their achievements, not on moralizing regarding what they choose as adults to wear to celebrate the occasion.”
We reached out to Queen’s University Belfast, and the school provided the following comment:
“Queen’s University Belfast’s Graduation webpage includes news, tips and information for graduating students. This is a dynamic webpage which is constantly updated. It currently includes stories about the achievements of our most recent graduates. This particular article was written by an external contributor.”