The Wall Street Journal is reporting that schools across the country are enacting dress codes for proms this year that are aimed at putting the kibosh on low cut evening downs with thigh-high slits and exposed midriffs. To avoid having to turn away girls who show up on prom night in unacceptable attire, schools are introducing guidelines for what - and what not - to wear.
For instance, Hal David, the principal at Cedartown High School in northwest Georgia, has plastered the walls of his school with posters displaying "Unacceptable" and "Acceptable" styles of gowns.
"It's a picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words kind of deal," says David. "We don't want somebody to spend a lot of money on a dress and then show up and there be an issue."
Some schools are offering black prom dresses approval in advance or offering Power Point presentations on what styles of dresses won't be allowed at the prom.
Southmoore High School, outside Oklahoma City, published a 12-page prom dress code brochure that was aimed at avoiding what happened last year when a number of girls were turned away because of their gowns. One girl whose gown was full of cut-outs was turned away, then returned later wearing a t-shirt underneath her gown. Another went home to sew up a slit that was revealing too much leg.
The guidebook gives no slack to the guys either. They are required to keep their shirts on all night. "We don't care that you work out," the guide states.
Crawford High School in Texas also publishes a dress code and depicts gowns with arrows and lines pointing to whatever parts make them inappropriate.
Zachary Hobbs, principal of Sunnyvale High School near Dallas created a thorough dress code for the prom last year and expects to enforce it again this year. His manual even includes a section called "Pinning and Fabric Inserts" which states that "Fabric inserts must be sewn, not pinned on the dress, if, without the inserts, the dress does not meet the code."
"My fear was for them to cover something up temporarily just to get in the door and then make their way to the rest room and remove that," Mr. Hobbs says.
Lee County High School administrators plan to be at the door of their prom enforcing the school's dress code. Ginger Lawrence, assistant principal, uses a ruler broken off at three inches to measure whether a dress is too short. To deal with cleavage, the school's code asks girls to place the index finger on one side of the collarbone and the thumb on the other. "If any skin shows beneath your hand…your dress is too low-cut," the dress code reads.
Retailers have been catering to the "Hollywood" look teens demand after watching Jennifer Lopez strut across the red carpet in her skin tight dresses or seeing stars galavant around the stage in revealing outfits on Dancing With the Stars.
But many of them are more than willing to adjust their inventories to accommodate new dress codes.
For instance, Marissa Rubinetti of David's Bridal says that while 35 percent of their prom dress sales are in the "sexy" category, they have been getting requests for "more covered" looks.
Prom night is big business in the U.S. The WSJ is reporting that the average family will pay $807 to send their teen to the prom this year.
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