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Prom-Dress Prom-blems

By The Bamboo

As Immaculate Heart’s Prom fast approaches, many juniors and seniors find themselves scrambling to stores and searching the displays for a dream dress for that memorable evening. Prom-dress shopping is typically an enjoyable outing – so enjoyable, in fact, that it is almost anticipated as much as the dance itself. This year, however, whatever feelings of joy come from discovering a gown that cries “you” have been replaced with nagging doubts, perhaps resentment, growing desperation, and even disillusionment. How come?

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Instead of stepping out in a dress that reflects her unique style and taste, an Immaculate Heart student must carefully consider whether her outfit conforms to the school’s dress code for Prom. To name a few rules: No bare midriffs, no high leg slits, no cut outs, no bare backs, and no plunging necklines. These guidelines sound reasonable, and dress rules for any school-sanctioned event, especially at a private, Catholic school, are expected. However, are they practical? This year’s rules have placed many students in a shopping quandary: Can I even find a dress that meets the rules? Will I even like it if I do? Can I afford it? Will I be dressed just like my friends?

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Seriously, go to any department store website, and what is trending in 2015? Two-piece dresses. These dresses, which consist of a cropped shirt and a long skirt, explicitly defy the rules for Immaculate Heart Prom dresses (even though many reveal only a sliver of skin around the waist, with full coverage front and back.) True, a two-piece dress is only one of many options available to us as consumers. But nearly every best-selling dress has some kind of design that defines it – whether it be a leg slit, open back, or cut outs – and these popular fashion details break the IH rules. So, what are students to do?

Along with the challenge of finding an IH-appropriate dress, there are also other considerations. Consider body type. Not everyone has the same figure or feels comfortable in certain dresses, even ones permitted by IH. “Everyone’s body shape is different. Some dresses look shorter or less appropriate on certain body shapes depending on the person’s size,” stated senior Rachel Rivas.

Immaculate Heart’s guidelines, while defined with good intentions, also limit our individuality and in a sense make everyone look the same. Part of what makes Prom special is being able to come in a beautiful dress of your own choosing. “Personally, I think that Prom should be a place for people to express their individuality, and there is no better way to do that than through a Prom dress. Putting restrictions on the types of dresses the girls can wear prevents us from being ourselves,” said senior Kristiana Koker.

How are students handling these guidelines? Some have opted to have dresses made for them – which can be more costly and time-consuming than buying from a department store. Some are scouring vintage dress shops, where the choices can be hit or miss. Still other students have purchased dresses they consider appropriate and affordable, but now they agonize over whether their frocks challenge the rules – whether for a small bit of sheer mesh on the side, a backless back that may drop slightly too low, or a side slit that is “high, but not too high.” Finally, some students, like Rivas, admit they have stopped looking for that perfect dress. “I felt so limited by my size and the rules that I gave up and settled for a dress that I’m not really satisfied with,” she said.

Ultimately, these rules detract from the spirit of the event. Indeed, to direct IH students to simply “dress tastefully” for the Prom would be a refreshing alternative. However, as junior class moderator Carla Trujillo pointed out, “The reason why it is hard to write rules, such as dress tastefully, is because two people will have very different views of what is tasteful.”

That’s true. But even with these guidelines in place, a small percentage of students will flagrantly disregard them anyway and show up in outfits that 98 percent of us would readily deem inappropriate, even distasteful. Yes, we are women, and we should be able to dress our bodies to our liking. But as juniors and seniors we have also been at IH for several years, and we have grown into women of great heart and right conscience. We are fully capable of choosing an appropriate dress that makes us feel beautiful and unique – and also proud to represent Immaculate Heart at our Prom.

We simply ask our school to trust us.

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