Dress Code Needing Clarity

By Katie S. 
May 20, 2019

Most students wake up in the morning and have a clear vision of what to wear for the school day. The basics consist of khaki pants or skirt and a white shirt. Then come layers, maybe a sweater or jacket. For some students, this is where the dress code can become murky. Is this shade of green the right shade? Is this logo too big? Should I take my chances and risk it?


“For the most part, everything makes sense: the colors, certain aspects like that. However, there are certain things that I haven’t heard about until this year, and I’ve been at Westridge since 4th grade,” said Isabella H., ’23.


The outerwear and indoor wear rule for jackets may also be confusing for some. “It's a little unclear with the jackets if that's indoor or that's outdoor,” stated Maeve V., ’23.


For some, the dress code comes with clear-cut rules, but even then, certain details within these rules can be confusing. “They never show [what] the color sweaters should be. I can guess what forest green is, but I don't know for sure,” commented Isa A.,’23.


The Westridge Student/Parent Handbook states that an approved jacket can be “a solid dark green, grey, black, or white sweater or sweatshirt OR a dark green, grey, black, or white Westridge sweatshirt.”


However, one person’s dark green is another’s kelly green. Color, it seems, is one aspect of the dress code that is open to interpretation. And when there’s interpretation, there’s confusion.


“The dress code rules are clear, but they are open to interpretation,” said Regina Wei, Middle School Mandarin teacher. “The dress code makes people more equal and simplifies life.” Many teachers support the dress code and what it stands for at Westridge, but enforcing it may come with challenges.


“A lot of the teachers don't have the same idea of the dress code; one thing may be fine for one teacher but not for certain teachers,” said Clara C., ’23. She added, “[The dress code] is a bit confusing.”


Students aren’t the only ones experiencing confusion. Some teachers are confused when it comes to enforcing the dress code.


“There’s a basic dress code and then little details within the dress code,” said Becca Marcus, Middle School Service Learning teacher. Sometimes, these little details may not be completely clarified. There’s the Student/Parent Handbook, but for some teachers, the Handbook may not fully encompass all the small things of the dress code. Ms. Marcus added, “There’s info in the Handbook, but there are technicalities.”


Valerie Brownsmith, seventh grade math teacher, mentioned, “I like following the rules as long as I know what the rules are.” It may not be a matter of some teachers being inattentive when it comes to enforcing the dress code—it may be a matter of simply knowing what is in uniform and what isn’t.


The Handbook does include an outline of the dress code and plenty of details regarding each part of the dress code. However, according to Barbra Chabot, seventh grade science teacher, “The details of the dress code can be interpreted differently.”


If each teacher has his/her own idea of what this or that means, coming to a shared understanding may be difficult. As a result, inconsistent dress code enforcement has been a source of middle school ire.


Maris B., ’23, said, “Some teachers are very strict, and other teachers are lenient. This can be confusing. I think if they're going to have an opinion, they should all stick to one.”


Some teachers also notice the inconsistency in dress code enforcement. Ms. Brownsmith said, “I think that [the dress code] is not always consistently enforced.”


While teachers and students express frustration over dress code interpretation and thus enforcement, Mrs. Tuck, Lower and Middle School Director, said otherwise.


“If you look at the uniform policy in the Handbook, it’s easy to know what is in and out of dress code; there is no room for interpretation.” From Mrs. Tuck’s point of view, enforcing the dress code is a relatively straightforward task. She added, “The dress code is like traffic laws: it’s an equalizer. It’s not like someone can speed and someone else can’t.”


Despite the general grumbling about the dress code, one student, Izzy B., ’23, asserted, “The colors and patterns rules make sense, and the enforcement is clear.”


Any inconsistent enforcement on the part of teachers and administration may be the result of confusion. Overall, the dress code may need discussion and clarification for those who find it confusing—including both students and teachers.