As some gowns push the limits between stylish and risqué, schools respond by getting stricter every year. But one teen in Jacksonville, Fla., was almost sent home for a dress that fell below her knees — and her mother is wondering why.
“Was this dress inappropriate for prom?” Nydia Allen asked on Facebook Monday, posting a photo of her daughter Zhade, a senior at Sandalwood High School. Zhade is wearing a dress with an outer mullet-style skirt that reaches the ground in the back and goes over a black knee-length layer.
Allen also shared pics of Zhade at school with an extra brown piece of cloth someone tried to attach to the dress to make it longer, and another in which she’s wearing leggings instead of the underskirt.
“She’s crying, she’s like, ‘Mom just come and get me,’” Allen told Action News Jax. “I said, ‘No, you’re going to the prom.’ We spent all this money, and it doesn’t make any sense for them to say it’s inappropriate.”
According to Duval County Public Schools media supervisor Laureen Ricks, the prom dress code was specific about gown length. “For Sandalwood High School, students and families were made aware in advance that prom dresses must be floor-length,” Ricks tells Yahoo Style. “Guidance is provided in advance so that students and families can meet the requirements or contact school administrators with any questions.”
But Allen told Action News that the letter her daughter brought home before they went dress shopping only mentions that it needed to be an appropriate length. The school’s regular dress code allows for skirts as high as 3 inches above the knee, while the stricter rules for prom appear to be a recent development. The school’s 2009 prom guidelines state, “The hem of any garment must touch the knee. Dresses must be at appropriate length, even if leggings are worn. Transparent overlays do not qualify for meeting appropriate hem length. The nontransparent, opaque portion of the garment must touch knee.”
“They need to change the way they’re writing these contracts for the students. Let it be known, and make it clear, on what you expect at the prom,” Allen said. “She can wear the skirt to school, but she can’t wear it to prom? What’s the difference?”
Eventually, Zhade was allowed into prom wearing the leggings.
Administrators across the country are still struggling with how to communicate their prom dress codes while also showing respect to female students. One school in Philadelphia came under fire for requiring girls to submit photos of their dresses before they could obtain prom tickets. Another school, in Rockford, Ill., presented 21 pages of guidelines for their prom and drew criticism for shaming girls for their body types.
In March, another Jacksonville high school, Stanton College Preparatory School, attempted to inform students about dress guidelines with fliers that labeled a photo of a dress that was deemed appropriate, “Good Girl.” The signs have since been removed.
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