Stephanie Smith: School prom is no place for the ‘taste’ police

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As if Year 11 and 13 students don’t have enough to worry about, what with the small matter of GCSEs and A-levels to pass, end-of-year proms will be taking place at schools across the UK this month.

Never mind that exams are (usually) over before the big event happens, what schools don’t appear to understand is the all-encompassing nature of the thought that goes into Planning For The Prom?

There’s the transport (limo, hired bus, helicopter?), the pre and after-party, the tan, nails, hair and, above all, The Dress. I’m talking about the girls, of course, but modern lads don’t stint on grooming (and many can teach their dads and granddads a thing or two about style and personal presentation).

For many of the girls, however, it is all about the dress. Long or short, fitted or floaty or the replica of something Kendall Jenner wore – the options are endlessly, enticingly mind-whirring. And what if someone else wears the same one (#promproblems)?

But dress options could become limited if school heads decide to become “taste and decency” police, taking their lead from the land where the high school prom originated.

Some US and Canadian schools are enforcing a strict dress code banning backless, strapless and halterneck dresses, plus those with side slits or cut-out panels. Which rules out a huge number of party dresses on the High Street, especially those aimed at the prom market.

One young woman has decided to fight back. Lauren Wiggins, a 17-year-old student in New Brunswick, Canada, was so incensed to receive a school detention when her floor-length backless dress was deemed a “sexual distraction” to male students, she wrote an open letter, which she shared on Facebook with pictures of herself wearing her perfectly decent dress.

“In today’s society, a woman’s body is constantly discriminated against and hypersexualized to the point that we can no longer wear the clothing that we feel comfortable in without the accusation that we are being provocative,” she wrote, adding: “I will not search for something to cover up my back and shoulders, because I am not showing them off with the intention to gain positive sexual feedback from the teenage boys in my school.”

The letter has been widely approved of, and not just by fellow teenage girls. Because Lauren Wiggins is right. Young women should not be told what to wear to a party celebrating a rite of passage. They deserve more than that, and so do the young men who are supposedly so uncontrollably distracted.

So much for the land of the free. I hope UK head teachers show more sense. Wearing inappropriate attire to the school prom is a right as well as a rite. #lifelessons

• Twitter: @yorkshirefashQ

Universities Minister Jo Johnson. Chris Radburn/PA Wire

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