Boylan’s prom dress code causes body shaming of impressionable teens

Madeline Kuhl

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Boylan Central Catholic High school’s new strict prom dress code reached national news this past week, with many criticizing the new guidelines. Not only is this dress code sexist, it contributes to body shaming high school girls.

The private Catholic school in Rockford, Illinois released the 21-page slideshow specifying which clothing could be worn to prom. Here’s the catch though: only one page was dedicated to the male students. There were 20 pages telling female students what they could and couldn’t wear to the dance.  As if there were already an issue with non-prom dress codes, these guidelines are even worse.

First, let me get something out of the way. Yes, Boylan is a private catholic school, so they can absolutely do this. The fact is, should they? The guidelines, along with those on the website, not only teach young girls that they should be hide their bodies, but also shames curvier girls by saying that dress approval may change based on ‘body types’.

When the article states that some dress may not be allowed based on ‘different body types’ it is literally fat shaming. Saying dresses cannot be ‘unreasonably tight’ has not real guideline, and there is no doubt that this rule will be used against curvier girls.

Boylan’s website states that they base some of their rules off the catholic church teachings regarding modesty.  They then quote quite a long passage from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which goes into detail about how girls should be modest because of ‘unhealthy’ curiosity it might provoke. This method has seen this before, but always as an induction, as something that we can assume based on (even public) schools dress codes. This is flat out telling high school girls that if another student has inappropriate thoughts, it is their fault, not the student who is thinking them.

Here’s another gem from the statement on the website, “It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden.” Yes ladies, that’s right, cover up those legs and backs, keep those hidden as to not cause more impure thoughts of your fellow students!

There is a whole section dedicated to the back of a dress. It states that “The cut of a dress in the back and sides must not be cut below the navel (below your elbow).” What is immodest about a girl’s back? This point still has me so confused about the goal of the guidelines. They are basically suggesting that they should cover as much as possible. Even if the dress fits all the other guidelines, but has a nude fabric that gives an impression of skin, those dresses are also not allowed.

Teaching girls that they need to cover up their skin (or even something that gives the impression of their skin) only further teaches these impressionable students that their bodies are something to be ashamed of. Not only do these new sets of guidelines cause teenage girls to be ashamed of their bodies, it also teaches them that it is there fault if another student makes inappropriate remarks. These are lessons that should not be taught at a dance that is supposed to be one of the highlights of high school. These guidelines will lead to more insecurities and self-confidence issues for young women.


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Boylan’s prom dress code causes body shaming of impressionable teens