I recently read a story that seemed so conflicting 1950s yet totally understandable in this day and age: the publicly funded Nailsea School in Britain is creating a stir this year by outright banning skirts. That’s right, skirts. This falls in line with a similar ban made two years ago by the school, stoping girls from wearing trousers by a brand called Miss Sexy. These trousers were too low and tight according to school officials who decided to ban the pants outright. “They were very low, hipster-style, very tight trousers. Staff were becoming embarrassed by seeing too much of the girls instead of the uniform,” said headmaster David New.
Last year school officials threatened to out the same ban on skirts if the 11- to 16-year-old girls couldn’t manage to keep them at the specified length of just above the knee or lower. The school made good on the threat when girls couldn’t comply, and the new policy started this school year. “We didn’t want to waste any more time on it,” New said. “It just means that teachers can concentrate on what’s important in education.”
These kinds of issues always find me in a conflicted position. The anti-establishment part of me that was busted in high school for not wearing proper shoes more than once instantly wants to squash the idea of banning skirts. But then I remember that I’m not 16 anymore. I look around at what some girls are wearing here in the states and it takes all my strength to resist the urge to wrap a blanket around them and cover them up.
Nailsea isn’t the only British public school going to extremes to help combat these and of issues though. Shelley College, a co-ed public school in northern England, has not only put an all out ban on girls 13-16 wearing make-up but they’ve completely removed all mirrors so that girls will not be tempted to congregate around them and obsess on their appearance.
Make-up in small amounts was allowed at Shelley but much like what happened at Nailsea, girls pushed the envelope and continued to wear much more make-up then was allowed causing the school wide ban.
“The makeup ban is about getting girls to focus on what’s important in school, which is learning and not being distracted with makeup and wanting to check it all the time,” headmaster John McNally
Nailsea is just one of a wave of Britain schools jumping on this skirt banning trend and it wouldn’t be a shock to see other British schools following Shelley’s lead as well in banning make-up and even mirrors. It’s hard to imagine what this kind of trend would do here in the States, but I can’t help but wonder. Would harder limits on fashion, make-up, and vanity in general help our schools and parents in the fight against the ongoing sexualization of our tweens and teens? Or would American teens stage and all-out rebellion?
Either way there is a certain amount satisfaction in knowing that there are schools out there taking notice and taking action in regards to these issues. Maybe the message that we need to let girls be girls is starting to sink in–in Britain at least.
If your child’s school enforced a ban on skirts, uniform or not, make-up or removed the mirrors, how would you react? How would your kids react?