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I have a daughter who will be starting high school next year. Because the public schools in our area are terrible, and because I want to try to get her to become an engineer (I'm a civil engineer/architect), I'm enrolling her in a private school for the coming school year. All of our family loves it and we feel that it's the perfect choice (she got a good scholarship, which helps too). The only thing that concerns me is the dress code.

This is a rather "preppy" school, and while there isn't a uniform, there is a strict dress code (for example, boys wear dress or chino pants and a collared, button-up shirt). What concerns me is that this dress code requires that girls wear a skirt, skorts, or something similar, along with a collared top or a modest sweater. Here's the relevant lines from the dress code passage that they sent us as part of admission materials:

  • Appropriate bottoms include skirts, skorts and collared dresses, all of knee length and worn at the waist line (jeans are appropriate only on approved "out of dress code" days)

  • Tops are to be collared casual or dress shirts including polo shirts, blouses and turtlenecks. Shirts which are made to be tucked in shall be worn tucked in.

My concern is that my daughter is 14, and having her wear a skirt every day to class makes me a little nervous, especially because it's a co-ed school and there are bound to be boys there with sex on the mind, and I don't want my daughter to be the target. What can I do to be sure that she is prepared? I know that every girl will be dressed similarly to how she will be dressed (any knee-length skirt and any blouse is okay, within limits; it is not a uniform), and the boys will be dressed nicely as well, but this does concern me.

Just to be clear, I have no objections with a skirt being a part of the dress code; after all, one of the points of a dress code is to teach students how to dress in a professional environment. I just want to make sure that my daughter will be okay and will be able to meet the dress code while at the same time not being made a target by overzealous boys.

Anyone have any suggestions?

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    Since they specify knee length skirts, I wouldn't worry -- the sight of knees is unlikely to get the male half of the school significantly excited, especially since they are used to seeing their peers dressed that way at school. Boys think about sex whether girls are scantily clad or fully dressed. My solution with school uniform skirts was to wear thick tights or shorts under the skirt (I was quite shy at that age). However, if you really are deeply worried (or your daughter dislikes skirts), have you asked the school whether slacks are allowed for girls? – Acire Mar 29 '15 at 0:59
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    Welcome, Mark. Why, out of curiosity, do you think your daughter, who should be dressed similarly to every other girl, might be a target? Are there any specific issues (weight, figure, type of shirts she prefers, etc.)? – anongoodnurse Mar 29 '15 at 1:00
  • @Erica I have not asked them, but it is implied in the dress code that slacks are not allowed, since they are not mentioned in the list of acceptable clothing. – Mark Lepiuex Mar 29 '15 at 14:24
  • @anongoodnurse There is no specific reason other than that a) she does not have a lot of experience dressing this way and b) she is shy and does not make friends easily. It's just that my parenting nerves are a bit on overdrive, and I want to make sure she is prepared should she start being chased by boys, particularly other freshmen boys who are not used to girls being dressed that way either (not all of the incoming class comes from private/uniformed schools). – Mark Lepiuex Mar 29 '15 at 14:30
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    I'm not sure how to formulate an answer to this question. I don't think there's a correlation between your daughter dressing to the dress code and "overzealous" boys going after her. I think that's a rather sexist view, and supposes boys are going to go after her just because of the way she dresses (has she no other attractive qualities?). A little feminism will go a long way. Also, within that dress code you'll find varying degrees of modesty between girls anyway. The skirts seem like an improvement in that regard: No "yoga" pants or booty shorts that leave little to the imagination. – user11394 Mar 30 '15 at 0:28
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This is something of a challenge to answer objectively. I'm going to try instead just throwing a random assortment of advice out there.

See if slacks are an option. When I was in a school with a uniform, I had a friend who hated skirts and she wore slacks instead. (A polite question to the school can answer that easily.) However, I actually found skirts to be a less revealing than slacks, since I didn't have to worry about my butt, hips, or thighs being particularly visible. (I also wore tights or shorts under my skirt throughout high school.)

However, I don't think that pants are going to fully address the underlying question, which seems to be more about being around teenage boys.

Relax a bit. She isn't likely to be more of a target than the other girls since they're all dressed the same. You already know that :) But especially if she's shy and isn't dressing seductively (within the dress code), she isn't going to be attracting much sexual attention.

Give her classmates a little credit. In large part, the incoming freshmen boys are going to be just as shy and awkward, especially if they aren't used to all these skirts. Rather than turning them into sex maniacs, it's more likely that they will become even more shy and awkward until they figure out how to deal with skirted girls. (And that's assuming that skirts are considered a sexier piece of clothing than yoga pants or skinny jeans which they've been staring at in public schools up until now.)

I hope that she's able to make friends and hang out with boys. Some of my best friends in high school weren't girls (the boys were often more interested in science and engineering, like me, so it was more fun to talk to them). And just as she's likely to appreciate their brains and personalities, many of them will similarly appreciate her brains and personality, not just her legs.

But most important?

Talk to your daughter.

Talk about sex. Have discussions about risks, responsibilities, and expectations of behavior. Background knowledge and being prepared is a big benefit for dealing with the opposite sex, whether it's casual conversations or dating, whether they're initiating the interaction or she is. Since she's shy and doesn't have much experience dealing with boys, the best way forward is to help her build self-confidence.

But rather than rely on hope that all the boys are respectful, teach her that she is in control of what happens with her body. Even if she's not old enough to have romantic or sexual interests, some of her girl (and boy) classmates will be, and so the topic will come up. Any time a boy is pushing for an activity she doesn't want, she has the right to decline, she doesn't have to be accommodating just to be polite and not hurt his feelings, and he has absolutely no right to dictate what she can and can't do. She gets to choose. If he's talking about things she finds uncomfortable, or suggesting activities she is not interested in, it is completely appropriate to tell him to stop and walk away. If he's pushy or aggressive, find a classmate or teacher and get some outside intervention so the situation stops.

That confidence can be important for a career just as much as dressing professionally and getting a good education. Knowing how to deal with the boys is just icing on the cake.

  • I really like this answer, but I don't have enough reputation to give you a +1. – Mark Lepiuex Mar 30 '15 at 22:13

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