Don’t give dress codes cold shoulder

Apr. 20, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

I read Wednesday morning’s headline in The Daily Courier with great interest. Our local Board of Education announced a prescriptive dress code will be implemented at Forest City-Dunbar Elementary School.

Hmmm....I thought. Parents will either love this or hate this. My own personal opinion is “Hip-Hip-Hooray!”

When I attended school back in the “Dark Ages”  our public school had a dress code in place until the early 1970s. It was a huge change at that time. Many parents, like mine, were not in favor of changing the language where students would be allowed to wear blue jeans and T-shirts to school.

My mother was appalled, as a result, my sister and I were never allowed to wear blue jeans nor T-shirts to school, neither were my brothers. She would allow us to wear nice dress slacks or corduroys ... heaven forbid if we ever thought we were going to get out the door running towards the school bus wearing blue jeans. That wasn’t going to happen in the Moeller household.

As an excellent seamstress, my mother was encouraged by her home economics teacher in 1952 to apply for design school in New York City. Knowing that her parents couldn’t afford to send her to school, my mother used her bookkeeping skills to obtain a job in the county treasurer’s office as tax clerk. However, my mother never gave up on her dream of sewing clothes. 

My sister and I would point to a pretty dress in the back-to-school catalog, and my mother would figure out how to make it without a pattern. As my sister and I grew older, neither of us could sew like my mother. I needed a pattern, no matter how hard my mother would try to teach me to design my own patterns. 

Frankly, I wasn’t interested in sewing my own school clothes. Volleyball, basketball, track, speech and debate caught my fancy. One year, my mother got behind the 8-ball with her sewing projects. I remember her telling my father, she sometimes wished they could afford to send us to Catholic School. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about sewing new clothes all the time, because we’d wear uniforms.

As I grew older, I always had a great admiration for Catholic, other religious and private schools who would wear those beautiful blue, red or green plaid skirts or dress pants with a white shirt and their school blazer. About the closest our public school came to that format was the girls basketball team dress uniform each year. Our team, had a dress uniform we wore after the game: gold and green plaid skirts, a gold-colored blouse, a forest green blazer and knee-highs. Our coach’s wife, also our team chaperone, was in charge of selecting our attire. “Our girls,” she said, “will look respectable.”

And, we did. The tradition continued for many years until our beloved coach retired. When he retired, the team after-the-game uniforms retired as well. 

Dress codes are not new to public schools. More and more school districts throughout the United States are adopting them to provide a positive educational or dress for success environment.

In 2009, when I visited my younger brother and his family who were living in Christchurch, New Zealand, I was amazed all the public school students wearing uniforms. My sister-in-law was thrilled. What she liked even better was the fact New Zealand schools were open 12-months a year, rather than nine. 

Oh, I’m certain there will be students and parents who will bemoan the fact a prescriptive dress code is being implemented. 

However, here’s a fact you might want consider: Most businesses, including The Daily Courier, have dress codes.

We enforce it, except on Fridays when employees may choose wear blue jeans. However when doing so, the employee must make a non-perishable food donation. At the end of the month, we deliver the food to a local group or cause that helps feed the hungry in our communities.

Here’s some more food for thought: If dress codes are intended to improve academics, curb possible violence and create a sense of consistency, why are they not more prevalent in middle and high schools, where these goals are just as important as in elementary schools? And, if students must observe a prescriptive dress code shouldn’t teachers, too?

There’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.


Wanda Moeller is the publisher of The Daily Courier. She can be reached at