Clothing choice represents who we are and what we value. At Ukiah High, some young women have found that dress work can be a barrier to how they want to be seen. Seeking a greater understanding of the dress issue at Ukiah High, UHS News spoke to a student, a teacher, and an administrator about the controversies surrounding the dress code.
Women’s Fashion and the Dress Code Collide
Katrina Dursteler, Ukiah High’s fashion design teacher, provided her perspective on how fashion influences trends which then can run afoul of dress codes.
Mrs. Dursteler associates many trends seen on campus today with celebrity fashion. Some of the fashions she has seen emerge as of late include, ¨For women’s hoodies, power bohemian (hippie-like dress with the flow and neutral colors. It has 1970s accents added), academia (prep fashion with a gothic twist, influenced by greek poetry with existential themes), and sporty looks…. All the styles have high-waisted pants/jeans and crop tops”.
Mrs. Dursteler said students at Ukiah High School sport these trends and are ¨taking them to the next level¨. She noticed that many girls are wearing a mix of styles, some wearing crop tops and revealing their midriffs and cleavage.
When asked how women’s fashion might lead to more dress code violations, she commented that the dress code states that clothing should not be inappropriate or excessively revealing. In Mrs. Dursteler’s eyes, fashion trends are inspired by celebrity culture making it “hard to enforce the code because many celebrities are doing the same thing.¨
Mrs. Dursteler sees women across campus wearing crops/halter tops which she sees as evidence that women are wearing more revealing clothing than men.
When asked about social media’s influence on teenage fashion, Mrs. Dursteler stated that TicTok is full of posts that influence women’s fashion at Ukiah High School. ¨I have witnessed students watching these post. They have shared new ideas and trends shown on the app.¨
Mrs. Dursteler thinks that women face more criticism than men for the way they dress. ¨A perfect example is Sydney Carter a college basketball coach who, in my opinion, “rocked” pink pants at a game. She was criticized for her dress and told it was too revealing.¨
In this article written by Elizabeth Logan in the magazine Glamour, Sydney Carter is criticized for her game day outfit sporting bubblegum-pink leather pants and a white turtleneck. Carter posted a picture of this on her Instagram and received comments saying that her outfit wasn’t ¨appropriate¨. When interviewed about this topic Carter said ¨I literally post every game day outfit. I just think that people are uncomfortable with a black woman being in a power position… when you see a black woman who is actually confident and embracing herself, I think that’s very intimidating¨ Carter stood by her fashion choice saying ¨at the end of the day I wasn’t trying to set a trend. I just wanted to be myself̈.¨
Events like this are worldwide affecting women in all lines of work and on Ukiah High Campus.
A Wildcat Who Punches Back on the Dress Code
Ukiah High School senior Roseli Nuñez has been dress-coded many times during her career as a high school student and has developed a unique perspective on the issue.
Nuñez was able to confidently say they had been dress-coded before saying, “Yes, I have because a man thought I was showing too much cleavage.”
Nuñez thinks that the Ukiah High School dress code targets women. ¨I think it’s stupid because everybody is a professional body no matter what your wearing.¨
¨I don’t think there should be a dress code at all. I think we’re smart enough to know what is and isn’t appropriate. We spend all our time in school, so I don’t understand why it had to be super professional,” Nuñez said.
Nuñez argued the dress code is inherently sexist because “women are sexualized so they’re the only people getting dress-coded. We get dress coded for our bodies while the boys get to walk around shirtless or with muscle tees. There’s nothing for them to get dress coded for.”
A Vice Principal’s Thoughts on Enforcing the Dress Code
Vice Principal at Ukiah High School Mrs. Mortier talks about the dress code, and how the dress code affects women
Mrs. Mortier stated that “the biggest challenge is that not all staff members are comfortable addressing the dress code, not even gender-specific.”
Mrs. Mortier’s challenge is that I have to dress code students at the end of the day. After going through a full day wearing those clothes, Mrs. Mortier said they will pose a fair question: “I’ve been here all day long and no one said anything. Why are you saying something now”
For consistency across the campus, Mr. Mortier argued that if “we have a dress code, we all have to be on board to enforce it.”
If students choose to not heed dress code concerns, they could face “greater consequences than just a conversation such as detention, Saturday school,” Mrs. Mortier said.
When asked if the dress code disproportionately affects women, Mrs. Mortier says that “If your body parts are showing, if a boy is sagging, if it’s a girl whose shorts are too short, whatever it is, it is not appropriate.” She emphasized how strongly she felt that the dress code be equally enforced no matter the gender.
Mrs. Mortier also recognized that schools also constantly battling the fashion industry over what students are wearing because the things that are popular often aren’t appropriate for school.
Ultimately, Mrs. Mortier encouraged Ukiah High Wildcats to remember that ¨when we say professional environment we are not talking suits and ties. But, this is a job for students. It’s not a beach party, it’s not a dance party¨