If This Dress Is Too Risque For A School Dance, We Might As Well Dress Girls In Potato Sacks

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bag on headGabi Finlayson of Lone Peak, Utah, was in Paris with her mother when she found what she thought was the perfect dress for her school’s Preference dance (a dance where traditionally girls ask boys). The dance was a night to remember, but not for the reasons you’d imagine. Though she took care to make sure her dress was appropriate, Finlayson was told she was in violation of the dress code, and spent the night with her gorgeous dress hidden under a winter coat.

Finlayson spoke to about the incident. She loved the dress because it reminded her of her idol Aubrey Hepbrun. She wanted to be sure that she would be in compliance with the school dress code, so she had the bodice of the dress altered to make sure it wasn’t too low cut. That’s why she was surprised when she was approached by a school administrator and asked to cover her shoulders. Finlayson only had a coat in the car, so she spent the dance covering her beautiful dress with what I am envisioning as a parka.

Principal Rhonda Bromley says students were aware of the dress code which states in part:

Formals, backless dresses and/or tops may not extend beyond the bottom of the shoulder blades. Girls’ dresses and tops must have a 2″ minimum strap on each shoulder. Shawls, boleros and other shrugs are acceptable if worn over the dress at all times. Cleavage covered.

Here’s a video of Finlayson talking about what happened.

You can see that she’s clearly covered. I don’t have a ruler, but those shoulders straps look like they are two inches to me. There’s only one thing wrong with this dress I can think of– that it’s not hanging in my closet.

I get that schools need dress codes, but stories like this one do more to harm young women’s self esteem than they do to protect the sexual innocence of young men. You’re never going to convince me that shaming a young girl who tried to follow the rules is better than letting boys see a human female shoulder.

I relate to this, because I clearly remember a warm day in high school when I was wearing a navy and white hibiscus print tank top with thick shoulder straps. I thought I looked pretty, until I was approached by a lunch monitor and told I needed to cover up. I looked around at thinner girls wearing tank tops with spaghetti straps and bare midriffs, and then down at my D-cup chest. Mortified, I spent the rest of the day sweltering in a sweatshirt I found in the back of my locker. I never wore that shirt again.

Despite Finlayson’s claim that she saw girls with dresses that were shorter, tighter or more revealing than hers, of the 1200 students at the dance, only 4 were asked to cover their shoulders. And it sucks that Finlayson’s night was affected so that she even noticed how other girls were dressed from that viewpoint. School dances are supposed to be a “who had the best hair” moment, not a “who should have been told to get a shawl” one. But Finlayson is clearly an awesome girl who knows whats up. “Somehow my shoulders are sexualized,” Finlayson said. “Like it’s my responsibility to make sure the boys’ thoughts are not unclean.”  See? She gets it. Now it’s just time for the school administrators to understand too.

(image: Bairachnyi Dmitry/