Administration Drops Dress Code Midriff Rule


Free Use Image Courtesy of The Noun Project

The upper school administration has revised the dress code in this year’s handbook to allow showing midriff, reflecting the work done by students over the past three years.

The rule against showing midriff was a section widely challenged by the student body. According to Erin Pratt, the rule was already in effect when she was hired at Friends Select eight years ago. The dress code was updated in May 2020 by Chris Singler, Erin Pratt, and Norman Bayard, and the handbook was published at the end of August.

According to Chris Singler and Erin Pratt, the administration chose to make this change partially due to student involvement. From 2017 to 2019, a student committee met and drafted a proposal to change the dress code, which was shared with faculty in the spring of 2019. Due to time constraints, differing opinions, and the use of Quaker decision-making (a slow but valuable process, according to Chris Singler), the faculty did not reach a decision and postponed further discussion.

In September 2019, Upper School Dean of Students Norman Bayard informed students that the dress code would be enforced. Many students wore crop tops to school the next day in protest. Chris Singler, Upper School Director, said that he intended for the announcement “to sort of force the issue” due to the repeated postponement of the decision. “I knew it was going to be controversial to try to enforce a faulty dress code. But I was also frustrated that two years of work had been held up by lack of action, on my part, on everybody’s part,” Chris reported.

After the protest, the midriff rule was unofficially removed from the dress code. From there, the administration was able to change it in writing with the help of a reinstated student committee. Committee member Annie Rupertus ‘21 remarked on the significance of student engagement throughout this process: “I think that that’s definitely something that could happen again in the future, and this was a great example to go off of.”

Upper School Associate Director Erin Pratt commented on her own high school experience and the changes since then. “No changes really happened to dress codes. I think changes didn’t start happening to dress codes until students felt empowered to be able to try to push change.” Like other members of the community, Erin attributed the change in the Friends Select upper school dress code partially to the students’ persistence: “I just really appreciate the student involvement in pushing for change, and I just appreciate the conversations that have come out of it.”

The updated dress code can be found on page 49 of the upper school student handbook.