My Dreams of Kindergarten Couture Have Been Dashed

The days of the fashion forward kindergartener are over. Our county just passed a standard dress code for all children attending public school, K-12, beginning this fall. Caitlin’s standard dress code will be solid khaki, navy, or black pants, skirts, and shorts with solid collared shirts.

I’m somewhat on the fence with this new ruling, although I know a lot of students and parents are outraged. On the one hand, the timing of it, for us any way, couldn’t be better as Caitlin will grow up with this new rule, never having known the glorious feeling of stepping out in a brand new blinged out Hello Kitty track suit from the mall, complete with matching hair accessories, socks, shoes, and lip gloss. On the other hand, if I were a student, especially a junior high or high school age student, I’d be completely irate. I mean, there’s only so much individualism you can voice with khaki. But it will be a treat for Caitlin wear regular clothes at night and on the weekends…you know when we break out the matching Gymboree family ensembles to go to the grocery store.

The hubby points out that when he was in junior high, Ocean Pacific (“OP”) was all the rage. His mom and dad refused to fork out money to buy trendy clothes and he was forced to wear OP knock offs and he had but one glorious OP shirt. I’m sure his male classmates who made fun of him are all now 50 pounds overweight, bald, divorced, and selling used travel trailers, but that’s beside the point. I do recall a time in high school when I spent every penny shopping at the mall. There were some hideous fashion choices, like the overpriced Coca Cola sweatshirt I just had to have and the Jordache velcro shoes, but that’s beside the point, too.

Call me a shallow, fashion driven girly girl but I was looking forward to taking Caitlin shopping for back to school clothes this summer as she embarks on that great adventure called school. Now it will be a challenge to find the cutest nondescript navy polo within a 60-mile radius. Basically her daycare wardrobe has consisted of Tar-jay specials, consignment store loot, and hand-me-downs from my neighbor’s daughter. Now I get to pump her up about shopping for button downs and jumpers devoid of any Hello Kitty, Barbie, or My Little Pony motif. Wait a minute, maybe we could get away with a tiny ankle tattoo.

I am still up to the challenge of back-to-school shopping as I have a family fashion torch to pass on to my girls. You see, in my 8th grade yearbook I was dubbed “Neatest Dressed” (back in 1983 they apparently thought “Best Dressed” wasn’t PC enough.)

So what do you think about standard dress codes for public schools? Is it a bunch of BS? Will it really help students stay on course and focus on learning or is it just going to create a nationwide rebellion, a la Footloose, where every kid under the age of 18 slips into their street clothes the second the school bell rings? Will khaki bonfires become a rite of passage for kids graduation night?


  1. Traci says:

    I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a dress code for schools. It would so cut down on the morning battles with my kindergartener. Some of the crap for young girls now border on the obscene anyway and this just takes that out of the picture. Of course, if I was a kid I would hate it, but it really is helpful.

  2. malia says:

    Like you, I’m on the fence. While I love Sweetpea’s creativity in choosing her own outfits, we do struggle from time to time about what’s appropriate (even in the first grade!) so SSA “helps” that. However, I really don’t think it’s going to do any of the good that they all say it’s going to do. I think that’s a bunch of BS. This is Nashville, not L.A., not NYC, ya know?

  3. jag says:

    Not having children myself, I don’t know if I’m allowed to weigh in on this or not. Buuuut, I think the dress code is a great idea. Without knowing the details, it seems as though kids will still be able to individualize their look with accessories, backpacks, shoes, and hair. As much as I would have loathed being told what to wear, not having to worry about having a perfect outfit every day would have been a relief. Not to mention how much money could potentially be saved on clothes, since you’ll only have to worry about clothes for the weekends.

    I may think differently when I have school age children, but for now I think it’s a good thing.

  4. Cyndee says:

    I am a high school teacher and I have a 13 and 7 year old. The students hate the idea – think that it is big brother controlling their lives. As a parent and teacher, I am all for it, especially in the urban schools. It would possibily eliminate some of the discrimination based on being rich or poor. I think that is the idea – does it work? Studies(?) do show that lower income students are more successful when the clothing issue is eliminated – not such an issue in suburban schools. Good Luck with that!

  5. Blonde Mom (Jamie) says:

    My understanding is that currently our schools will be able to opt out of the dress code in two years.

    Caitlin’s been on to me about dying her hair pink with red polka dots so I hope she doesn’t rebel any time soon. 😉

    As long as she can have some sort of girly bling, the likes of Dora or Hello Kitty shoes or hair accessories, she’ll be OK with it. But, she won’t know any better either.

  6. Renee says:

    I love uniforms! No arguing about what they’ll wear every morning and it’s much less expensive too!

  7. Jill says:

    On one hand I think that uniforms make life much easier on moms/dads who still play a big part in dressing kids for school. Makes the morning ritual much easier. And, I guess, in the big scheme of things, it’s not all bad. However, I do also think that dress codes are imposed for ALL because a FEW cause dress issues. The “bad” people ruin it for the “good”. Sometimes it’s easier to impose a blanket solution for all instead of dealing with the people and issues that cause them in the first place.

  8. mayberry says:

    I think if it were me I’d be disappointed, and then start rejoicing at quicker and easier getting-dressed sessions. And it does seem to have value in minimizing kids’ judgments about each others’ clothes… although I suppose they’ll just find something else to judge.

  9. Holly Schwendiman says:

    Last year my daughter attended a school with the same dress code. At the first of the year I loved it for simplicity of getting ready. By the end I hated how drab and worn everything looked. White shirts are the worst to keep looking nice. This year she celebrated being able to wear regular clothes again, yesterday I noticed how worn some of them looked but it was still better than her uniform last year. It’s all what we make of it I suppose, but personally I’m liking having a choice again this year.


  10. Richie Ann says:

    I think the dress code stands for something a litte deeper which is a respect for the institution of public schooling. Bottom line is that kids are there to learn to read and write and add, not to socialize or benefit consumerism. Obviously when looking at what some of these kids wear someone needs to tell them what is appropriate and where. It flows over into the workplace when they grow up. I don’t know how many times we’ve had to tell employees that tank tops, mid-drifs, and flip flops are not appropriate attire. They are often truly flabbergasted as “everyone dresses that way!” I’m often flabbergasted that nobody ever told them any different.

  11. Liz says:

    I agree with Oh, The Joys – our schools (my kids currently attend 3 in the district) tried it the year my middle girl started kindergarten. My oldest was in 2nd grade and the dress code was “optional.” Which, in my mind, sort of defeats the purpose of having a so-called dress code. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough of an interest for it to stick and lasted that particular school year.

    I was on the fence, too, but loved the fact that the kids could distinguish “play clothes” from “school clothes.”

    I do wish a uniform dress code was adopted.

    Then, I wouldn’t have to explain to my kids why they did NOT have all the cool clothes (read: expensive) that their friends wear.

    Maroon and khaki sort of looked nice, too.

    Good luck!

  12. Charla says:

    I would give anything if our school system had just adopted that dress code instead of the crap it just approved for next year. It is a true joke to call it a dress “code” when you can basically get away with anything. I am 100% for it, both as a parent with a child entering Kindergarten in the fall and as an employee of a school system.

  13. Library Mama says:

    As a fifth grade teacher, I wish we had more of a dress code where I teach. It’s getting difficult for parents of girls to find appropriate clothing for them in the stores, and if we had a code to follow, merchants would stock appropriate fashions because they would know people would buy them.

    As it is, I have little girls constantly wearing jeans that show a little more crack than I would like my daughter to show (if I had one – a daughter that is, not a crack) and T-shirts that spout sayings like “It’s all about me,” and “Brat – and proud of it!”

    Don’t mean to sound like a prude, but what are parents thinking when they buy those clothes?!

  14. sweatpantsmom says:

    I’m a fashion whore, too, but I have to say I loved the two years my daughter was at a school that had a uniform policy. No deciding what to wear, no competition with their peers, no running out to buy the latest Abercrombie T because little Mary and Megan and Haley had them…

    On Fridays they could wear whatever they wanted. Maybe you could help institute this at your school, too, so that the blinged-out Hello Kitty tracksuit could get some play.

  15. Mrs. M says:

    I think dress codes are fabulous. Of course I also don’t have kids yet, but I only hope that my county does the same thing when my kids get there. I’m also a fan of free dress fridays but school boards haven’t caught onto those yet. I think the drive to be cool by wearing a certain brand or label is horrid. I understand that middle school and high school kids won’t like it, but I think they’ll deal.

  16. Liza says:

    I like that dress code thingy! Like what Traci said, it cuts down morning battles. My kids can still have a choice but very limited (like maroon shirt, blue shirt or while fancy blouse for girls and while polo shirt for boys). Those were some of the choices. The girls can waer capri pants; long pants, skirt or skort as long as it’s khaki. And not to forget, they can still be fashionable with their shoes.

    Every last Friday of the month is FREE CHOICE and that’s when they go show off their girly girly dressess or manly man outfit 🙂 This makes this Friday very special and kids look forward to it. Many teachers don’t like the Friday Free Choice because they say they can tell the “difference” in the class atmosphere – that the kids are more “disciplined” when in uniform and more hyper when not….hmmm I’m not sure about that but once a month is not bad 🙂

    So…yes, I like dress codes for schools.

  17. Erin says:

    my sister went to a middle school that enforced dress code and she hated it. you can tell, even when everyone wears the same stuff, who is “in” and who is “out”. Where are you buying your uniform? Walmart? Or Macy’s? It makes a difference! (They also add things like hair ties to make themselves stand out. So she can be couture!!)

  18. Mrs. Schmitty says:

    I’m on the fence too. I grew up in a wealth community, though my family was not. I remember how I felt not being able to dress in the latest styles. I usually got those for Christmas when they were “so yesterday”.

    On the other hand, I waited a long time for my little girl…I think I’d feel the same way as you not being able to dress her up all cute.

    Guess I didn’t help, huh?

  19. Emily says:

    Well, since I have boys it’s not quite the same. If they went to school in khakis and a polo every day it’s not too different from how they would go anyway!

    If I was a girl in school now though, I would be mortified – especially in high school.

  20. Mof2 says:

    Our schools passed a dress code just before school started last fall. Luckily they are still able to wear blue jeans with their “school colored” polo shirts. I have found that shopping at a couple of different stores you can get her polo shirts with butterflies, dragonflies, etc. on the chest where the manufactures labels are. (Tommy Hilfiger or Polo) I am not sure what the restrictions on where you are, but I am sure that manufactures labels are still ok. Just call the school board. But then again, if you really think about it, like I have, why is it ok for the manufactures label to show when you are trying to “ban” the big labels anyways?? Makes no sense, but it is still an option for some sort of individual taste!

  21. buffi says:

    SugarPlum’s school has a similar dress code. Black/navy/khaki bottoms and polos or button down collared shirts with NO LOGO. Luckily, the shirts can be any color, so that helps.

    Old Navy has some nice polos that are feminine enough yet still unquestionably in the dress code. We have also found that “they” have no issues w/ the polos that Target has (right now anyway) that have a little flower on the chest where a logo would go.

    SP was slightly dismayed when learning of the dress code (we moved back here last summer). Now the only problem she has with it is that shirts must be tucked in and you must wear a belt if you have belt loops. Many moms get around this by cutting the belt loops off. I don’t think I could pull it off w/o butchering the pants.

    But, yes, accessories are the “style” outlet for most of our girls here in Candyland!

  22. Anne says:

    i love the dress code idea but don’t see it happening here before my girls enter the public school realm. no more arguing over dresses or pants or t-shirts or the fantabulous combinations my girls come up with?! Heck yes…besides, kids in highschool don’t give a toot about individuality…it’s all about following what all the other sheep are wearing.

  23. Blonde Mom says:


    We have a lot of interesting fashion choices. Caitlin wore hot pink floral leggings yesterday (too short) with a purple long sleeve striped t-shirt and aqua floral socks.

    I’m pretty pumped because I realized yesterday that Old Navy has a uniform section. Woo hoo! Any way, I registered her for kindergarten today. Sniff.

  24. kara in kansas says:

    Ooooh, Old Navy has a uniform section? THAT I will check out, cuz Parker’s prices are outrageous.

    I love the uniforms (although our particular Catholic school girls uniforms are butt fugly!) because it does free up the budget to bling up Tessa for after school and weekend. And Spencer too, if you call a totally coordinating Batman outfit bling!

  25. Bluegrass Mama says:

    I would love this type of dress code! My son’s high school (back in the day–he’s about to graduate from college) had a very strict dress code, but it was almost tougher to follow than a uniform. My daughter’s in middle school and is all caught up in the label wars. It makes me NUTS. Khaki & navy sound very good to me.

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