Adolescence · Life as I Know It

Nostalgia

I am procrastinating on my homework to write this post. I need to write it before I forget my train of thought and it becomes utter babble.

I was on Buzzfeed, and I came across this post. And it took me back to the good old days of my high school life. And the following lines are more geared for today’s youth, and not any of my readers who have graduated high school.

It might be hard to believe, but we also had “restrictive” dress codes in the 90s and early ’00s. I went to high school from 1998 to 2001, when I decided to take charge of my own life (with parental permission, because I was still a minor in May/June 2001) and dropped out of high school at the end of my Junior year. Back in those days, there wasn’t as much shit going on in our schools. Yes, Columbine had happened, and it was still on everyone’s minds. And the dress codes of that tragedy had immediately been instituted into the following year’s dress codes (No long trench coats with excessive pockets or any jacket that were oversized).

And since the article is about girls being singled out, it is important to stress that the dress code rule I have mentioned was meant to encompass the entire student body, but mainly the male faction of the school. It’s also difficult to imagine how guys managed to stay within the rules, since it seems that every jacket/coat that was made for guys in the late 1990s seemed to be giant as hell, but growing up in San Diego County made it pretty easy. Most of the guys wore long-sleeve button-up shirts as over shirts with a t-shirt underneath (like this), or sweatshirts. Basically the only guys you saw wearing jackets/coats were two types of people: Jocks with their letterman’s jackets, or what we termed “Goths.” Those who chose to dress in black and appear to be anti-social were obviously singled out, because of the stereotype associated with them and the two guys that were behind the Columbine tragedy. I personally knew a “Goth,” and the stereotype couldn’t be more wrong.

As a woman, I understand the feeling that you’re being objectified. I also get that it isn’t always easy to keep the cleavage under control, since I am full-busted and I know you can’t keep that sh– under wraps. When I was in high school, the rules for girl’s clothing fell into these lines:

  • No halter tops, tube tops, spaghetti-strapped tops (basically anything with a strap less than 3-4 inches wide was off-limits), short-shorts (any inseam less than four inches–not that any of us knew the length, since they weren’t explicitly stated), no crop tops, no jeans with holes in them, appropriate shoes, anything gang-affiliated was strictly off-limits (yes, even for girls), and obviously keep your belly covered and your cleavage at the minimum.

We were smart, even then. We cheated the system–even me, little Miss Goody-Two Shoes. Halters were off-limits, but if you wore a short button up to cover your shoulders and bare back, they couldn’t say anything. As for the belly-baring, it couldn’t always be helped. Shirts weren’t as long back then, and we were of the mindset that we weren’t going up a size just for the length. So what we did was ensure that something covered up that region during school hours, whether it was a sweater/sweatshirt tied at the waist to conceal the shirt raising when we raised our hands in class or at the chalkboard; or making sure that we didn’t move in ways that would disrupt the top too much. To illustrate this, I have a photo:

Everyone but me is concealed for obvious reasons.
Everyone but me is concealed for obvious reasons.

My closest friend (in the red tank) is in what was considered an “inappropriate length” tank top. Although it looks like it’s oversized, it wasn’t. My shorts were okay at school, as was the 3/4-sleeve shirt that was a v-neck I wore basically every moment I could. This photo was taken in 2000. I also can’t remember if the girl in the black and white top actually wore that to school–I think she did. You also might notice that the waists on our jeans are higher, which helped to skirt the dress code issue. Most of us didn’t start wearing low-waisted jeans until 2001/2002 (at least that’s when I started to).

A lot of the comments on the Buzzfeed article reference female objectification, which I am not denying is happening. But, there are a lot of outside influences that cause the schools to institute such rules. I am going to be one of those people who references the media. It seems everywhere you turn online or on TV, there is someone flashes extremely short shorts or some piece of clothing that is wildly inappropriate. And I am not saying we didn’t have musicians that dressed much like those people today (we did–Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears come to mind), but for some reason the influence didn’t extend into school.

Anyway, I feel I am drifting off the topic. We hated the dress codes too, but we worked with it. I went to school some mornings wondering if a faculty member was going to think my clothing was inappropriate, or that my shirt was going to ride up and get me in trouble, but that never happened. I also went to school where it wasn’t air-conditioned, and we made it work. In a few years, these guidelines won’t seem as rigid, since they seem to get worse and worse every year. You can at least be glad you didn’t go to Rancho Bernardo Middle/High School in the late 90s, since the principal there would lift girl’s skirts at dances in front of everyone to ensure they weren’t wearing thongs.*

*She actually did it in the line waiting to get into the dance, she wouldn’t admit you if you were wearing thongs.

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