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School Tells Girl: Wear a Dress or Skip Graduation

Chelsea Sarvis is a stellar high school senior about to graduate from Chapin High School in South Carolina. Despite her achievements, she might have to sit out the graduation ceremony. See, Chapin High School requires female graduates to wear a dress or skirt to the ceremony, while the boys must wear dress pants — but Chelsea wants to wear pants. The school has given her an ultimatum: wear a dress or stay home.

Chelsea says she dislikes wearing dresses because she doesn't feel comfortable with her body, and she wonders: "Why is it a stereotype that a girl has to wear a dress?"

What if Chelsea said she only felt comfortable in jeans? Would the school be obliged to let her wear them? Perhaps there's something about a dress that makes the school's dress code seem more like a sexist policy that pushes traditional gender roles.

The school could easily avoid drama if it just made an exception for Chelsea or modified its dress code to allow girls to wear dress pants if they want. Do you think it should?


lindssaurussss lindssaurussss 8 years
thats really dumb. this is suppose to be the students "day". i remember my graduation i wore flip flops. she should wear a skort as a joke. 1/2 dress 1/2shorts. both sides win. lol
MeiGaku MeiGaku 8 years
This is such a, for lack of a better word, dumb rule. Graduation is supposed to be the time to celebrate your four years of hard work, so you should be comfortable. I know the fight may seem a little minor, but rules such as these only perpetuate gender stereotypes. If a woman is comfortable in a dress, she should be able to wear a dress. If a woman wants to wear dress pants, she should be able to do so. Nothing she wears should affect how others judge her work habits, values, etc. I'm happy that the girl got what she wanted--hopefully this will help future students who don't want to be forced to obey such ridiculous, outdated rules.
fireyelectra fireyelectra 8 years
XanxiuZ, I was thinking along similar lines, that perhaps the girl in question might not express herself with a feminine gender identity. (While I know the technical psychological term is gender dysmorphia, I think that makes it seem like identifying with a different gender is somehow wrong, so I'm not going to use that term here.) So for her, wearing pants is what's comfortable and feels right for her body. And really, it is an archaic and stupid rule, but she shouldn't have to be someone other than herself for the two hours in which she's supposed to celebrate her achievements along with her classmates.
mkls6044 mkls6044 8 years
Chapin is a public school (I'm from SC). Probably not a first amendment issue since shes just uncomfortable in dresses. If she wanted to wear pants to protest gender stereotypes, then maybe first amendment problem. However, going to have to go another route. That being said, let her wear what she wants, as long as its dressy enough. Jeans and flip flops probably wouldnt cut it- thats a different dress style altogether that isnt appropriate for a formal event. We had to wear white dresses too and no one really cared (that I know of anyway). Interesting issue though.
mguy414 mguy414 8 years
I went to a public high school and the girls HAD to wear a white, not off-white, not beige, must be WHITE, dress that wasn't longer than the gown and white heeled shoes with a toe and ankle strap. No flip-flops, no flats, had to have a heel and straps. That was the difficult part, finding those shoes, which I have never worn again. They had a teacher at the door checking to make sure girls had on their WHITE dresses (they freaked out about this white thing, I could have NO color on it) and your homeroom teacher had to check off you were appropriately dressed before you got your diploma. I think the boys had to wear khakis and a white long sleeved collared shirt, and I did not envy them. It was hot and sticky and I was freaking out about tripping, so I was glad to be in a dress! They just wanted everyone to look the same so no one would get more attention than another person for dressing/acting ridiculous at the ceremony. I would say, just wear the dress for the ceremony (and June? In South Carolina? I'd hate to be in pants!) and have Mom or Dad bring a change of pants to slip on afterwards if you want to wear pants in your dang pictures.
Pistil Pistil 8 years
I find it's one of those 'what's the big deal either way' issues. God forbid a girl wears dress pants *under her gown*... or God forbid a girl wears a skirt for an afternoon *under her gown*... as I recall, our grad gowns were past our knees... I can't even remember if I wore pants or a skirt. That's how significant it was. I still think it's a ridiculous rule, but not something I'd want to miss my graduation for.
sourcherry sourcherry 8 years
I agree with sham28 and tlsgirl. Why make such a big deal out of a dress? Some people see sexism on the most irrelevant things...
Angela123 Angela123 8 years
I'm with tlsgirl and sham...I mean, it's a stupid rule, but it's THE RULE. The school won't change their policy in time for her to wear her damn pants to her graduation anyway, and she'll regret it if she doesn't go.
medenginer medenginer 8 years
I got to wear what I wanted to when I graduated there was no policy. I was very thankful since I'm not a formal person anyway. My outfit consisted of a t-shirt, camouflage pants, and combat boots. If you don't want to wear a dress just to graduate then don't. Nobody cared what I wore not even my parents.
fcseamstress fcseamstress 8 years
I know it's a small thing, but I was reading more about this situation on another site. Apparently the same girl was allowed to wear a tuxedo (with PANTS) to her prom, why not under her graduation gown? They didn't care about enforcing gender standards then, did they? And prom is a much more formal event that graduation, IMHO. Let her wear pants. And hell, if a boy wants to wear a skirt and makeup, let him do that as well! Providing they dress in school colors and look presentable there shouldn't be a problem. The school needs to move into the 21st century already... And I don't know of any (legal) job that would require you to wear a dress/skirt. Even the majority of work uniforms I've seen give women the option to wear pants.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I just don't care. I had to wear a white dress and white shoes to my graduation. Did I want to? No. Did I get all cranky about it? No. It's like, two hours.
sham28 sham28 8 years
Ugh, just wear the damn dress, it's not like you're going to be "comfortable" in the hat, are you going to insist that you don't have to wear that too? You can make it for a couple of hours. But the school ultimately will have to let her do what she wants. I just think it's a painfully stupid thing to "take a stand" on.
pinkerbell03 pinkerbell03 8 years
and please, anonymous comments are getting really old!
pinkerbell03 pinkerbell03 8 years
ladylike does NOT mean you have to wear a dress!!! I'd skip it, it's a ridiculous, outdated rule.
Zivanod Zivanod 8 years
Bull Sh*t on that ladylike crap! Women can look just as lovely in a nice pair of pants then in any skirt or dress. The girl (and every other one) should definitely be allowed to wear dress pants instead of a dress. Shame on this school for enforcing out of date stereotypes on how males/females should look.
runningesq runningesq 8 years
If it's a public school -- sounds like a First Amend issue to me
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