In recent years, there has been a rise in awareness of seemingly unfair school dress codes. It has become commonplace to see news stories of, often, young women and people of color posting on social media pictures of the outfits they got sent home from school for wearing. These are generally outfits that are seen as acceptable to most of society. Many young women have staged protests at their schools against dress codes that unfairly target them. I want to research the effects discriminatory dress codes have on the students targeted by them, as well as who makes these dress codes and how they do so. Overly strict dress codes claim to have students’ best interests in mind, but ultimately disproportionately target women and minorities and can have drastic effects on their education and mental health.

In this essay, I will analyze common themes in dress codes from around the country, focusing on public high schools. I will discuss the origins of dress codes and specific guidelines in them. This essay will link sexist and white-centric fears with targeted dress codes and the history of why dress codes exist in many places. I will then talk about the ways in which dress codes are enforced in often sexist and humiliating ways and the effects this has on students’ mental health and identity. I will specifically analyze how female students, students of color, and LGBTQ+ students are affected by dress codes.



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