May 12, 2015

"We want our young ladies to be dressed beautifully; we want them to be dressed with class and dignity."

"But we are going to draw the line relative to attire that would be deemed overexposing oneself," said Freeman Burr, the superintendent of a Connecticut school that managed to get a NYT article written about its prom-dress policy, apparently because some mothers are aggrieved that their daughters' dresses have been nixed.
Students and parents signed permission slips that outlined rules and regulations for the prom. Students say the rules were vague, calling for “appropriate formal dress” and warning that students dressed “inappropriately” would be sent home without a refund.
The article has a picture of a student who was told her backless dress wasn't appropriate (unless she wore it with a camisole). Her mother, Tonny Montalvo, is making an issue out of it: “They say it’s in the student handbook...There’s no specifics anywhere.”

If "appropriate" doesn't cut it, I guess "class" and "dignity" won't help either.

IN THE COMMENTS:  Ignorance is Bliss says:
Would it have been too much trouble to include a picture of the student who was told her backless dress wasn't appropriate while she is actually wearing the dress in question? Maybe so we could see for ourselves if it was appropriate? And would it have been too much trouble to get a copy of the text of the permission slip, and the text of the student handbook?
I know. And the NYT also declines to make the comments function available for this one. This has a real feeling of bias to it — giving ear to these mothers and depriving readers of what we need to judge the facts and a forum to point out these shortcomings.

74 comments:

Douglas said...

I'm guessing that "don't let your daughter dress like a tramp or slut" won't work, either.

pduggie said...

The lack of any picture of, y'know, the girls in the dresses so we can make our own judgement calls is notable.

Clearly it would be playing into the hands of the patriarchy to let us make up our own minds.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The article has a picture of a student who was told her backless dress wasn't appropriate.

Would it have been too much trouble to include a picture of the student who was told her backless dress wasn't appropriate while she is actually wearing the dress in question? Maybe so we could see for ourselves if it was appropriate?
( And if it's not appropriate, so that we could get some good commentary from Laslo? )

Bob Boyd said...

In the by line, Kristin Hussey.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

And would it have been too much trouble to get a copy of the text of the permission slip, and the text of the student handbook? I know that would be bordering on journalism and all, which is probably against union rules, but still...

Ann Althouse said...

There's also a picture of a girl with her dress hanging in the background. We see only the front of the dress, but from the text, we know that there are "cutouts" in back.

The mother complains that she blew $400 on that dress and its tailoring. Well, tailor in some material to cover the cutouts. How hard is that? If you have cutouts, you should be able to sew material on the inside to fill them in. Just do it. Why whine like this?

How do these people capture the ear of The New York Times?

rhhardin said...

It's a porm dress.

Ann Althouse said...

And where is the comments section over there? Why protect these people from public opinion?

rhhardin said...

Any romantic comedy involving a prom is a disaster too.

glenn said...

Since Marx always talked about wanting a classless society can we just call it good. I have work to do.

tim maguire said...

I'm wondering about the "but". If they want the kids dressed with class and dignity, then wouldn't it necessarily follow that they draw the line at overexposing? Why "[b]but[/b] we are going to draw the line"?

Brando said...

Most people have enough sense that if you tell them "dress appropriate for a formal setting" they'll err on the side of caution, especially if they know they can be embarrassed by being sent home if they cross the line. But there have always been those who push the edge of the envelope, so if you're going to have a rule with consequences you need to be much more specific--X inches above the knee, no skin showing above the elbow, etc.

Safest route though is probably to make the rule, then just let people show up as slutty as they want and don't send anyone home. Sure, some parents might complain, but how can the administrators be responsible for choices made by other students and parents?

Oh, I'm sure some litigious rodents could find a way--I just don't think it'd hold up in court.

Ann Althouse said...

@tim

Thanks for exposing that "but."

That was appropriate!

Julie C said...

I blame the mothers for buying into this need to mimic the red carpet antics of the celebrity class.

I have two teenagers (boys, thank God). Take a look at the prom pictures of teenaged girls today - they pose like actresses on the red carpet. They wear the six inch stripper heels at 8th grade graduation. [And mothers pull them out of school early on graduation day to get hair and makeup professionally done.]

Ann Althouse said...

How does a mother buy a dress for her daughter that isn't within the school's standard of decency? Does she actively want her own daughter to be exposed as far as can be gotten away with and beyond?

I don't understand these mothers. Who would want that for a daughter? And why would you want a NYT article about your sense of entitlement to overexpose your daughter?

Humperdink said...

Speaking of pictures, might I suggest they give parents pictures of models wearing dresses that are appropriate and inappropriate?

This is not rocket surgery.

rhhardin said...

"Earthy" is a nice compromise between decent and indecent.

Brando said...

"I don't understand these mothers. Who would want that for a daughter? And why would you want a NYT article about your sense of entitlement to overexpose your daughter?"

These aren't so much "mothers" as they are adult "friends" of their daughters--they want to please their daughters and if their daughters insist that they have to dress a certain way to be cool and happy, the mothers will indulge them. Same mothers who buy their kids smart phones and cars when they don't need them (and both those things are invitations to liability for parents, even more so than inappropriate prom dresses).

The parents who still have the judgment to say "you're not leaving this house wearing THAT" are the ones who will never show up in an article like this.

Brando said...

"Speaking of pictures, might I suggest they give parents pictures of models wearing dresses that are appropriate and inappropriate?"

The sort of parents who could use a picture like that as a guide are not the sort of parents who end up in an article like this.

Coupe said...

I admit I never went to a prom. It just wasn't in my DNA.

I've never understood the attraction. Over the years, and story after story, I just don't get it.

Doesn't it all sound a little bit too like Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best. I mean, come on, I'd rather go to a BBQ on a river, thankyou...

You could wear your thong baby!

Hagar said...

@Brando,
Below the knee - below!

rhhardin said...

Maybe she wants to show off her tattoo.

rhhardin said...

I suppose there are limits on jewelry too.

Hagar said...

But yeah, considering the "dresses" that some "ladies" have chosen to appear in - even at the White House, what is a girl to think?

Skeptical Voter said...

Dress like a hooker, get treated like a hooker--who won't be admitted to the society tea.

I've been bemused by the problems that young ladies have in growing up and how to present themselves. (Confession, I'm a father and now a grandfather.) I always chuckled at my wife's turn of expression, "She'll look good once she's 'fixed up'". But in truth and fact, there's a great change in how a young woman grooms and presents herself between the time she's a high school senior and a college senior. There's a learning curve there.

The same process goes on with young men--except they seem to take a little longer to 'grow up'.

All people make mistakes--it just seems that the young 'uns make them more frequently.

Brando said...

"@Brando,
Below the knee - below!"

Sorry--to clarify, I meant "no more than X inches above the knee". I read somewhere they needed to start that rule back in the '60s when miniskirts became popular, and at some schools they even pulled out rulers to ensure no one was wearing one too short.

When I was in high school in the early '90s, I don't recall the girls wearing anything all that revealing--shorts were longer and bulkier than today, and skirts tended to be longer--so I don't think we had any controversies at my school. Now I need to go yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

khesanh0802 said...

What shocks me is that a clearly mixed race girl was not permitted to wear her dress. Racism is everywhere. I am shocked.


On a more serious note; The administration was late and arbitrary. Given the examples these girls have from their elders on the red carpet, to expect them to know what is in good taste is expecting way too much. The white dress looks simple, tasteful and quite lovely. I, too, would like to see what makes it so offensive on the girl.

The NYT continues its inability to commit journalism.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The dress pictured in the article has spaghetti straps. That is clearly against the rules in my kids' school handbook. I don't know if that rule applied to prom or not.

I don't consider that over-exposed for a prom dress, but if the rules were spelled out then the parent has no basis to complain about it being enforced.

Xmas said...

Dear Moms,

If you need an idea of the types of dresses that are inappropriate for your daughter's prom, this is your Google Image Search hint:

Charlize Theron Backless Dress.

Brando said...

"All people make mistakes--it just seems that the young 'uns make them more frequently."

This is true, but with the ubiquity of camera phones and social media--where nothing's ever truly private, and can never truly be erased--the stupidity of youth can have more longer reaching consequences. One would think that'd encourage taking more care.

Brando said...

I sort of feel sorry for the girls in situations like this (full disclosure--I am not nor have ever been a teenaged girl). For boys, the rules are pretty simple--wear a suit or tux, and if it's relatively in fashion you're fine (and if it's hilariously out of fashion, it might make you popular! Like a powder blue tux with ruffled shirt).

But for girls, they don't want to be super conservative because they want boys to give them attention (but not TOO much attention) and don't want to be ostracized by other girls who are far crueler than the meanest boy in school. They have to also navigate school rules and parental approval, and none of this even takes comfort and practicality into account.

And if it's a special occasion dress, they can only wear it that one time, and have to go through all that again for the next occasion.

Julie C said...

Brando - the middle school my kids went to still uses the ruler to enforce the shorts policy.

A friend of mine has a daughter who is over six feet tall. Finding shorts that met the policy (don't recall how many inches) was hard for her. The ones that met the standard were from the old lady department and of course, she couldn't wear THOSE!

traditionalguy said...

This could be another under inflated dress issue from fashion model by Giselle Bundchen's suspended husband. They say he likes to grasp the smaller ones.

R. Chatt said...

They've probably all been having sex since the seventh grade anyway.

Just yesterday I saw a young teenage girl on the busy street near where I live and my first thought was, "hooker." That's how she was dressed but she looked so bright and happy I concluded she's just a kid visiting with her parents at a nearby motel.

With style icons like Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus etc., I don't know what the schools can do.

Old RPM Daddy said...

Four hundred dollars on a freaking prom dress? I'd tell 'em to check their privilege, throwing money around like that.

chickelit said...

I went to two proms back in '78 -- two different girls from different high schools. I wore the same powder blue leisure suit to both. Guys had it easier in the old days.

Texas Annie said...

Thanks for reading the NYT so we don't have too Professor!

Monkeyboy said...

Agree on the comments concerning the examples shown on the red carpet.
There was a photo on twitter recently showing three women on the red carpet and three women at the adult film awards.

The three adult starts were much classier.

Tank said...

My high school did not have a prom because we had racial tension (like people stabbing others) instead.

Arguing about dresses seems pretty minor by comparison.

Birches said...

I tire of dealing with moms fighting with schools over their kids, especially over clothing.

Let's ask the girl's dad if he thought her dress was appropriate. Then, I think, we'll get to the heart of the matter.

Brando said...

"A friend of mine has a daughter who is over six feet tall. Finding shorts that met the policy (don't recall how many inches) was hard for her. The ones that met the standard were from the old lady department and of course, she couldn't wear THOSE!"

Yeah--the problem with such a rule is that there will be cases where it seems absurd ("two inches above the knee" will mean something far more revealing for a short girl than a tall one, and a "percentage of leg length" rule would require far too much math for the administrators).

I suppose if I were a principal, I'd keep the rule as lax as possible--no visible butt crack, no visible cleavage, no visible genitals--and figure if someone pushes it by showing up in a bikini the best we can hope for is to ignore it. Does the school have any liability if it allows a student to show up dressed too suggestively? I don't think it does.

paminwi said...

Was friends with a male high school teacher. He says the worst is that girls wear very short skirts and have NO clue how to sit in them. i.e. Keeping their legs together and some wear no underwear. He used to have open essaying but now has to put together a seating chart so no girls are in the front row!

Some girls and their parents just have no clue. And some parents are wimps when it comes to setting rules. Sometimes as a parent you have to say "tough shit" to your kids when they complain!

Shanna said...

>>so if you're going to have a rule with consequences you need to be much more specific

I agree. I really think if you are going to send people home you need to give them the rules in advance. There is nothing inherently wrong with a back cut out in formalwear, imo, (in fact I believe that's on trend lately) but if that is their standard they needed to state that up front.

I think a general requirement that someone have material cover 'bikini' areas and not be see through makes sense. Anything else you are going to have to be specific.

Birches said...

Was friends with a male high school teacher. He says the worst is that girls wear very short skirts and have NO clue how to sit in them. i.e. Keeping their legs together and some wear no underwear.

This is why no one should complain about yoga pants or leggings.

Sebastian said...

"How do these people capture the ear of The New York Times?"

Anyone who can be used as cannon fodder in the culture wars will get a hearing.

"I don't understand these mothers. Who would want that for a daughter? And why would you want a NYT article about your sense of entitlement to overexpose your daughter?"

Any mother who wants for her daughter what her daughter wants. Any mother who finds affirmation by the NYT affirming. Any mother who thinks any publicity is good publicity. Any mother who likes to strike a blow against standards in the culture wars. There are more of those than there are of you.

Of course, we could generalize the question, "Who would want that for a daughter?": Who would want x for a child?

Who would want a child to be raised by a single mother in a family of 7? Who would want -- and so on, and so forth.

tim maguire said...

Ignorance is Bliss says:
Would it have been too much trouble to include a picture of the student who was told her backless dress wasn't appropriate while she is actually wearing the dress in question?


That's a very common and frustrating problem with news media on the internet--stories with a very visual angle that don't include the visuals that would help the reader understand what is being discussed.

Happens all the time.

Todd said...

This has a real feeling of bias to it — giving ear to these mothers and depriving readers of what we need to judge the facts and a forum to point out these shortcomings.

This could be said about nearly every NYT item. If it included everything you need to make up your own mind, it would not appear in the NYT. Can't have you not reach the "proper" conclusion...

Shanna said...

The dress pictured in the article has spaghetti straps. That is clearly against the rules in my kids' school handbook.

It's a prom dress. Formal wear is different from what you wear to school. You aren't at school anymore and if you are going to have a 'dress up' kind of event you have to go somewhere near the rules for those kinds of events. Strapless was quite common at my high school prom. Spaghetti straps too. That girls dress looked completely appropriate to me.

MadisonMan said...

If the prom isn't being held at School, what business is it of the Principal and the Super?

Busybodies with nothing better to do in their lives.

I have similar feelings of scorn for parents who okay such a huge purchase, but I think that's East Coast Insanity. And note how no fathers are quoted in the article. Very noticeable.

Big Mike said...

I went to Google looking for pictures of Grace Kelly in a backless evening gown, since nothing says "low class and undignified" like Grace Kelly (that's sarcasm, for those of you who don't get the reference).

But it turns out that "Grace Kelly" is a line of prom dresses. Yes, backless and sometimes strapless prom dresses, so I assume that the school would find it inappropriate.

Under the circumstances I think Humperdink's right. Absent more concrete examples of what would get their daughter sent home in tears the parents of today's high school seniors are going to get it wrong. I mean, they might buy a dress for their girl labeled "Grace Kelly" and think that it makes her look grown up and elegant, only to have her sent home because it's backless and strapless.

Shanna said...

Well now I went and looked and found multiple pictures of actual Grace Kelly in beautiful strapless formal dresses.

Dick Stanley said...

"...a real feeling of bias..." from the NYTimes? Heaven forfend.

trumpetdaddy said...

Dress like a ho, you can't go.

That story contains complaints from upper-middle-class, suburban, divorced women who spent too much money on a frivolity.

What is the point of prom, anyway? Glad I home school my kids.

Smilin' Jack said...

Would it have been too much trouble to include a picture of the student who was told her backless dress wasn't appropriate while she is actually wearing the dress in question?

Totally agree. I'd much rather see pictures of high school girls in inappropriate prom dresses than all this tiresome yammering about standardized testing. I should get something for my property tax dollars.

Owen said...

This is a two-fer. Not only is it about Fashion (which is really all about emotion) but it is now about Outrage (which is of course all about emotion). The LAST thing you want in an article like that, is enough facts for readers to make their own judgements.

Just go with the PC rapture.

Smilin' Jack said...

...at some schools they even pulled out rulers to ensure no one was wearing one too short.

They did that at my junior high. The principal himself did the measuring, and in the interest of decency he was very precise and thorough in his measurements. From what I heard, sometimes they took nearly an hour.

Fabi said...

Still no Laslo? I'm having a sad...

Sigivald said...

Bias?

The Times?

Say it isn't so, Joe!

Mary Beth said...

The video shows her wearing the dress.

NBC Connecticut report

FOXCT

Seventeen.com

retired said...

First World Problems

Coupe said...

When my daughter came home from the prom, she was upset because someone had stolen her purse.

Stolen your purse I said! Where did you keep it?

She said she kept it under her petticoat, between that and her smock.

What? Did you feel anyone's hand there I asked.

Yes, she said, but I did not think he was reaching for my purse.

fivewheels said...

"I blame the mothers for buying into this need to mimic the red carpet antics of the celebrity class."

"There was a photo on twitter recently..."

lemondog said...

Whinywhinywhiny.....

Nepal again complaining about another earthquake!

Sheesh!!

Brian said...

Mary Beth's links are useful, and will confirm all of your suspicions about the Times and its motives for showing the dress only on a hanger, from the front. The "cutouts" extend more or less to the point of her tailbone.

lemondog said...

Shelton HS Prom

Barry Dauphin said...

Well, the mom looking for "specifics" highlights the relative absence of cultural norms for "appropriate" as well as the idea that we need to spell out all the rules in excruciating detail in order for people to know what to expect. I blame lawyers :>)

Ann Althouse said...

"Speaking of pictures, might I suggest they give parents pictures of models wearing dresses that are appropriate and inappropriate?"

All they need are the right landmarks. In back, it could be defined by the need to wear an ordinary bra. In front, give permissible cleavage in inches. No "cut-outs"

n.n said...

The political feminists' demand for equal taxation and promiscuity, and exclusive right to murder, pulled women and girls out of the "kitchen" and is dragging them into the fire.

That said, the line should probably be drawn at soft pornography. That is when the image exhibits an explicit exposure of normally obscure features of male and female bodies. This threshold has a correlation with age and context, and a general sense of propriety prevails in civilized societies.

Shanna said...

Mary Beth's links are useful, and will confirm all of your suspicions about the Times and its motives for showing the dress only on a hanger, from the front.

I'm not convinced that white dress on the hanger is the same dress shown in any of the photos I saw. Some of them looked a bit much, others were ok. You know, taste is subjective.

I do find it amazing that people signed a 'prom contract' and had to get dresses approved, though. It seems like if the prom is annoying enough, people would just start holding a non-school sponsored event. Problem solved.

Brian said...

"I do find it amazing that people signed a 'prom contract' and had to get dresses approved, though."

Easy enough to square that. They thought the rules were meant to keep other, lesser people in line. "*My* daughter's $400 dress with its geometric cutouts to the tailbone is a bold fashion statement; *your* daughter's $50 dress that shows and covers the same parts is stripper-wear."

Smilin' Jack said...

The mother complains that she blew $400 on that dress and its tailoring. Well, tailor in some material to cover the cutouts. How hard is that? If you have cutouts, you should be able to sew material on the inside to fill them in. Just do it.

Sure...what else is your time for?

Lydia said...

The school's dress code is pretty clear on the matter, but the offenders are saying, gosh, we didn't know those rules applied to prom dresses as well.

From the dress code: Undergarments must be appropriately covered at all times. All shirts and blouses must reach the waistline and no midriff is to be exposed. Halter tops, tube tops, strapless tops, see-through lace tops, spaghetti strap tank tops, mesh tank tops, work-out wear, spandex, cut offs (for either sex) and short mini skirts are not appropriate school attire and will not be allowed.

Ann Althouse said...

"Thanks for reading the NYT so we don't have too Professor!"

My pleasure!

It's 37% of my modus operandi.

William said...

Vera Wang has been reimagining the prom dress. The ones I've seen are classy and dignified but only for girls with Brazilian wax jobs........To spend $400 for a prom dress is neither classy nor dignified. That kind of money should be invested in boob jobs or designer shoes.