By Isha Arora
The fashion industry is one of the most dominant industries in the world and whether you know it — fashion shapes our society in many more ways than we comprehend. I am sure when you walk in a mall or down the street you can see showrooms filled with clothing and accessories, which makes sense as the global apparel market is valued 3,000 billion dollars “and accounts for two percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product” (GDP). Clothing is something we can never live without; literally and metaphorically. The clothes that fill our closets in our home are a presentation of who we are, but society’s norms, strictness, and discipline takes that freedom away from us.
In society, dress codes are enforced and people are constrained to conform with society’s expectations; persons are forced to wear “proper” clothing in public to fit into narrow mindsets. We are unable to just be ourselves and wear the clothes that we chose to wear. Shouldn’t we all have the right to wear whatever we want to? Shouldn’t we all have the right to wear attire that represent us and our own unique style?
Streets and media are filled with style icons and fashion, but most schools force children to wear uniforms and just maybe other accessories that do not contravene with school norms. We all come in the same clothes to school and even on days when we can wear what we want, limitations and criterion still need to be followed. Having to accede to these restrictions creates a strained atmosphere for the students. These rules constantly force comparisons amongst us as we feel uncomfortable in our own skin.
In Washington Township’s school Northview Middle, a student was degraded due to dress codes that are completely and utterly extrinsic. She was dress coded for what: for wearing athletic shorts and sandals. She even says after this incident, “It made me feel like my body wasn’t acceptable.” Her body, her style, and her uniqueness is all acceptable. What isn’t acceptable are these clothing restrictions.
In school, and society as well, each person should have the right to wear clothing that represents them in their truest self. School dress codes are not personalized for each person and therefore, they should not exist.
Consequently, there are still societies in the world that do not believe each person can wear what they want. “At a recent workshop on women’s issues in a Chennai girls college, the issue that elicited the strongest opinions and the liveliest debate was, predictably, that of dress codes. The generational divide was loud and clear. It is for your own good, argued the authorities, the parents, the teachers and the police. But we know what is good for us, argued the girls.” Through these college girls in Chennai, India we can see a very important message. We know what is good for us. This rule applies to many other areas of life including the way we dress. A person should be able to wear what they choose without causing mayhem, or facing any brutal consequences; everyone should be able to follow their own principles. We should all be able to do what we are willing to do, whether that is to follow traditional values or wearing whatever we want.
A sense of their own style and uniqueness is what makes a person who they are. Clothing is a great way to allow a person to feel comfortable and individual, but during our main period of growth: school, students are enforced upon dress codes that restrict us from expressing our individual identity. In societies, such as India, women are in constant agitation to ensure their clothes meet society’s expectations, not their own.
Our own expectations is what we should meet.
- Sharma, Kalpana . “Why a dress code? Why only women?” India Together: Why a dress code? Why only women?: Kalpana Sharma – 01 January 2003, 1 Jan. 2003, www.indiatogether.org/dresscode-op-ed.
- Strijbos, Bram. “Global fashion industry statistics – International apparel.” Fashionunited, 2016, fashionunited.com/global-fashion-industry-statistics.
- Wang, Stephanie. “How some say this Washington Township school’s dress code blames girls for boys’ bad behavior.” Indianapolis Star, IndyStar, 27 Nov. 2017, www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2017/11/27/how-some-say-washington-township-schools-dress-code-blames-girls-boys-bad-behavior/840061001/.
- “The world’s most expensive shopping streets.” Luxury Safes, 17 July 2015, luxurysafes.me/blog/billionaire/the-worlds-most-expensive-shopping-streets/.
- Friedman, Vanessa. “What Freedom Looks Like.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Apr. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/04/14/fashion/islamic-fashion-france.html.