Recently, there was quite a flap in Houston, TX, that quickly went viral. It seems that the administration of James Madison High School had issued a dress code. For parents. Apparently, there had been a problem with parents who came to the school inappropriately dressed.
I had my own experience with restrictive dress codes, though it was not at school (once the administration decided that girls could wear slacks). No, this was at a job I once held.
One day Doris, the HR/accounting person, sent around a memo that prohibited the wearing of shorts or tops that did not cover the hips, as with leggings.
I immediately demanded clarification. “What about skorts?” I asked. “And culottes? How do you tell when something is baggy shorts or an actual culotte?” (I had no intention of wearing shorts, skorts, or culottes.)
“And what is this about your top must cover your hips? Don’t you mean it must cover your ass?” I inquired. Doris protested that the two meant the same thing.
“I don’t know about you,” I replied, “but my ass is a lot lower than my hips.” (It’s even lower now.)
Doris shooed me out of her office.
But I was not to be thwarted. I kept running back to her all day with requests for clarification. “Pedal pushers? Are those allowable? Gaucho pants? How about palazzo pants?” I kept it up all day, much to the amusement of my coworkers. As far as I could tell, no one changed their style of dress based on Doris’s admonitions. It was not really a concern for me, as I habitually keep my ass, as well as my hips, securely covered. And I don’t even know anyone who owns palazzo pants.
The brouhaha in Texas was a different sort of dress code, however. The school prohibited trespassing on their sacred precincts wearing a variety of attire including satin caps or bonnets, hair rollers, pajamas, leggings, low-cut tops, sagging pants, short-shorts, and “dresses that are up to your behind.”
But these were not rules for the students (although I imagine they had to follow similar ones). These strictures were for parents. In point of fact, moms. Except for the sagging pants, dads were unlikely to appear at school in any of the banned clothing. Probably.
Although it sounds amusing, this was a very serious thing. One mother was even reported to the police when she showed up at the school wearing a t-shirt dress and a headscarf. She naturally asked to see a copy of the dress code in writing, and the following day one was sent out.
Some viewed this policy as an affront to African-Americans, who evidently see nothing wrong with headscarves or satin caps. And I have no information on whether the rules were as strictly enforced on white moms as well. (I do know that bandanas, aka headscarves, have been traditional bad hair day accessories for all races for decades. Maybe even centuries.)
I can perhaps see a school not wanting visitors to enter the actual building wearing pajamas and bathrobes. But for all those moms who must get their kids to school at some ungodly hour, then return home and get dressed and ready for work, the temptation to cut corners must indeed be great. I picture the crossing guards at the drop-off car parade scrutinizing drivers and issuing citations for unapproved curlers.
It’s a good thing most moms don’t have to get out of their cars to deliver their kids to school. There might be a Doris waiting to measure the altitude of their ass and debate the propriety of palazzo pants.