Parents of students in one county school have a distinctly rigorous homework assignment for this year’s prom.
Marion High School expanded its prom dress code to define what is suitably formal, and the move seemed to cause a stir among some students and parents.
MHS Principal Tod Gordon said the old code was too general.
“The old policy was so generic that it really didn’t work,” Gordon said. “It said that dress should be tasteful and appropriate and bodies should be covered; ‘bodies should be covered’ some people were getting confused as to what that meant.”
New rules included specific acceptable measurements on dresses and satisfactory styles for men’s wear, along with appropriate prom shoes and hats.
“The girls hate it because of the new dress restrictions,” MHS student Grant Leffler said. “I really don’t mind as a guy. I’m not showing too much skin, so I’m fine.”
His classmate Marissa Jacobson encapsulated some of the girls’ frustration.
“I hate the change because it was very difficult to find a dress that met every guideline,” Jacobson said. “I spent 2½ hours at one store and finally found a dress that still didn’t meet the code. I have to alter my dress a little so that it fits the guidelines.”
But not all students found the new code objectionable. Classmates Shelby Felvus and Paige May embraced the change.
Paige said she like the modesty that the code promotes; Felvus said the code didn’t “faze” her.
“It was self explanatory and open for changes with discussion,” Felvus said.
She noted that students were able to expand acceptable prom footwear to include certain sneakers after appealing their case.
“We had so many rules to follow,” Courtney Herzet said. “They said we couldn’t wear [certain types of] sneakers. I don’t understand why that mattered. It’s our sense of style. Many girls don’t like wearing heels.”
Classmate Lindsey Sigel believed most changes that defined the amount of skin students could show were warranted. Nevertheless, she thought other rules were “a little ridiculous,” and some even unfair, like the “no blue jeans” rule.
Devin Hamm felt a change was needed but said the new rules were “a little extreme.”
“My main problem is that juniors pay for everything and we should be the ones to control what happens, to an extent, dress code included,” Hamm said.
At the beginning of the school year when the changes were announced, there were rumors in the student body that the new code would be “too restrictive,” Gordon said.
Noting that there were about 12 students who wore outfits last year that would have broken the code that is in place now, Gordon said a picture guide for acceptable and non-acceptable styles of dresses was distributed to students and a prom dress code committee was established for students to show their potential prom wear to if they had questions.
He said school officials spoke to students several times throughout the year regarding the changes to make sure everyone understood the new rules.
“We tried to make the new code user friendly,” Gordon said.
However, the policy change wasn’t easy because it needed to cover multiple issues and there was “not much out there” on prom dress code.
Marion’s code states that prom attire is formal and that parents were expected to monitor and approve clothing according to the new school guidelines. A bolded word of warning also read, “Failure to adhere to the guidelines will result in denied entry to the prom which includes promenade.”
Parents have mixed reactions.
“It’s hard to find prom dresses that meet all the standards they want unless you buy, as this generation calls them, ‘old ladies dresses,’” Lisa Logan-Comstock of Florence said. “I understand there needs to be some guidelines, but get real.”
Shawn Voth, a Marion parent, said she liked the policy change.
“It’s time we get back to some modesty instead of leaving nothing to the imagination,” Voth said. “I hate seeing girls walking around with everything exposed or see through. Also, the sagging pants: hate them. If a girl can’t walk in heels, find a nice pair of flats. Boys don’t need to wear the cowboy boots they work in; wear a nice clean pair.
“It’s time our kids take some personal pride in their looks instead of seeing how grungy or inappropriate they can be. You can look nice and still have fun.”
Like other girl students interviewed for this article, Carley Stapleford said the news code did not stop her from getting a dress she liked but she was unhappy that her date wasn’t allowed to don blue jeans.
Jacobson echoed Stapleford’s sentiments in a different way.
“I like my dress but it’s not what I envisioned for my senior year prom dress,” Jacobson said. “I feel like prom is a way to express ourselves. Having those guidelines really tampered with that.”
Conversely, Molly Hess said the dress she found fit her personality.
“My dress is bright and fun,” Hess said. “It is also modest, which fits me very well. I feel like it shows that I am a happy, fun person who also is humble.”
Leffler agreed in his own way.
“Dresses and tuxes express people in many different ways,” Leffler said. “I personally want to get a solid gold tux to express that I got cash money.”