Dress codes are so last century. That’s what a trio of dress code-fighting Canadian girls told administrators at York House School, a posh, all-female prep school in Vancouver, when they flouted a decades-old dress code by putting on pants in protest of the institution’s skirt-only uniform.
On a cold, January morning, as outside temperatures plunged to freezing conditions, 15-year-old Maren Gilbert Stewart pulled on a pair of pants to keep her legs warm before heading out to school. But unlike her classmates who routinely wore leggings and sweatpants underneath their required kilts and cast them off upon arriving at school, Maren kept hers on, a fashion choice that caught the attention of senior school director Kimberly Harvey.
“I said, ‘You’re out of uniform’,” Harvey recalled telling to Maren when she approached the student at lunchtime. “[I said] ‘I’m going to ask that you return to the kilt, but I hear you, I see you, and we are going to have a conversation.’”
Girls in America get in trouble for wearing “too little” clothing, Canadians are disciplined for wearing too much. DOES SEXISM IN SCHOOLS NEVER END?!
Thank Goddess for Maren!
Inspired by a recent school presentation by educator and child psychologist Dr. JoAnn Deak, the teenager ran home to put together a formal proposal dressing down the school’s 85-year-old dress code, pointing to issues of comfort, cold weather, and gender expression to support a change to the ill-fitting policy.
To garner student body support for the new policy, Maren reached out to classmates on Facebook, inviting dozens of girls to join her in wearing trousers to school the following day, many of whom joined the pants-proud protest, including York House’s head girl Maggie Coval, and 17-year-old vice-head girl Kira Tosefsky.
At an open meeting for faculty, students, and administrators, the teenage rebel alliance made their case and soon after, the school cut the girls some slack and changed the outdated dress code to a pants-friendly one.
For the girls behind the school-wide rebellion, the peaceful pants protest and the administration’s willingness to try on a new dress code is right in line with the moral code on which the school, which was founded by seven progressive women in 1932, was built.
“To me, it better reflects the values of the school,” said Coval, “of being progressive and empowering girls, and of equality.”