The clash over graduation attire
Graduation dress code squelches student creativity and keeps us in the past
April 6, 2017
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
aduate at the Sears Center. Though the location has changed, because of Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena’s renovations, the graduation procedure (the white dresses, white tuxes, red roses, boy girl order etc) has gone through minor changes over the school’s history.
Now, yes I will admit the pictures look fabulous; the rows of pure white and the vibrant red roses almost make the process of tracking down a white dress worth it.
But great pictures are not enough of an excuse for the uncomfortable, restricting, problematic issues this tradition causes.
First, It’s expensive, uncomfortable, and enforces gender restrictions.
No one has a white dress or tux lying around in their closet (unless they have older siblings). This means a major extra cost in the form of buying a $200 dress or renting a white tux.
Added to the cost, for girls at least, is buying a pair of white or nude shoes and accessories.
Though this is a grand event, renting a white cap and gown, or even wearing short dresses, will deliver a similar effect for a lesser cost.
But cost is only the first layer. Students, specifically female students, continuously express discomfort with the dress regulations. Girls don’t wear dresses, not to mention long dresses, every day.
Wearing a white long dress is going outside many girl’s comfort zones. Additionally the modern woman is no longer defined by how they dress for events.
This is not a debutante ball. Girls are not being presented into high society, they are graduating high school. We should treat it as such.
Furthermore, we are graduating from high school. Hours of late nights, little sleep, hard tests, and a lot of studying came before this rite of passage.
Our graduation should be marked with clothing that does not cause uneasiness for a portion of the class.
Yes, girls can now wear all white jumpsuits or pantsuits as well as tuxes, but this is hardly a breach in gender discrepancy and ignores a small minority of students who do not favor either option the school has created.
Now, listing these problems is not in an effort to change the long-standing New Trier tradition, it is simply a plea to be more considerate and broaden the guidelines.
We can still embrace the tradition of white dresses and tuxes while remaining modern and considerate.
For example the guidelines for dresses should be less strict.
There is great irony in barely having a dress code for every day, but being restrictive and obsessive on graduation day outfits.
Secondly, the school should not make people change out of their dress if they deem it inappropriate.
Now yes, no one should going on stage exposed, but I would argue that no one in the audience would be offended by an open back, and telling someone they cannot wear a dress at their own graduation is a little cold hearted.
Also the graduation dress requirement could allow for more self expression.
New Trier encourages individuality and being true to yourself; to reflect that on graduation day we must then allow some divergence in apparel.
I am not talking about a complete color change, but many allow some sequins or texture that would otherwise not be allowed. Or even permit self expression through our shoes.
I can imagine many girls and boys who might be more comfortable and self expressive if they could wear their favorite pair of kicks.
And I am sure the grandiosity of the event will not be impaired with students wearing Converse instead of white heels.
New Trier’s graduation will always be a spectacle and I understand the appeal of keeping up tradition and the beautiful pictures that come with the white dresses and tuxes.
But like all traditions, they must be modified to best accommodate the modern public.
I am not saying we should convert to the classic cap and gown (though we are a public school and pretending we are not is a bit pretentious) I am just suggesting that the rules become a little more flexible.