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British Schools Banning Skirts and Make-Up

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?

35 Responses to “British Schools Banning Skirts and Make-Up”

  1. Peter Schott

    Unless it was completely ridiculous, I'd likely agree with it. In the case you cited, there was a policy in place that was ignored often enough where it was becoming an issue. The school basically said that they had their chance and couldn't comply so skirts are now out. I'm sure it wasn't everyone who was a dress code violator, but the ones who were are responsible for the removal of skirts as an option.
    Can't speak about the makeup bans, but we don't go in for makeup now and are not likely to in the future. Our little girls don't need yet another message saying that they're not good enough without (makeup, clothes, gadgets, etc). I would tend to agree with the school here – it's an unnecessary distraction. (not talking about makeup to conceal something like a scar or similar as a temporary measure)

    There are times I really wish we had more uniforms for schools (just times). Everyone buys the same type of outfits. Nobody has to worry about being in fashion at school. Other times, that's overkill to me.

    As for the American reaction, I imagine it would border on rebellion. Too much sense of entitlement in Americans for it to go differently. 🙁 I can just picture the "Who are _they_ to tell _me_ what I can wear?" or worse "How dare _they_ tell my kid how to dress?"

  2. valerie mabrey

    I think kids will just rebel in another way. They will always find a way to show their own identities.
    vmkids3 msn dot com

  3. Holly S.

    I actually agree. I think our media overall is oversexualized, which is really what these girls are emulating.

    Personally, I am a parent that would make sure that my child's uniform skirt was regulation because I wouldn't want to chance her being sent home for it, but if there was a general lack of following the rule in school, I would understand the ban. In my son's school we were told at the beginning of the year that the faculty carries zip-ties, and that if our child walked around "sagging" their pants and showing their underwear, they would zip-tie their belt loops together and make them finish the day out Urkel-style. I totally agreed; school is for learning, not flashing.

  4. Cynthia C

    Great argument for uniforms. I enjoyed fashion in school, but it's so different today. I think a lot of girls would be relieved to be able to wear sensible school clothes without judgement.

    • Andrea A

      I agree…things are so different now. I know when I was in school I was happy to wear uniforms because it kept everyone on the same level as far as clothing and you were able to concentrate on more important things.

  5. Melissa M

    I agree with kids wearing uniforms in schools. I disagree with the banning of makeup.

  6. darlene bohannon

    yes i agree,schools have to set limits int this world we live in today, as a teenager in the seventies,we were not allowed to wear pants to school .didnt hurt me then and doesnt now. i agree the new generation grow up seeing sex everywhere. they dont need it at school too.

  7. @christine1oneto

    I love your blog post. And, I think it brings up the larger point of: When will – not only women and girls – but all society become more in tune with the fact that is intellectual and leadership skills that girls need to learn in schools, not fashion. And, that this needs to be held as more important, in them, rather than how youthful, skinny, fit, or primped they look. Kudos to the Shelley College; and I *do* hope others follow! Thanks for sharing ~

  8. lisa m

    I wore a uniform in school from 4th grade to 12th grade and I loved it! Im 31 now, and I miss waking up in the morning knowing exactly what I was going to wear.

    • Andrea A

      I also wore uniforms in school and loved it! And I also miss knowing exactly what I was going to put on the next day with no guessing. lol

  9. Erinn S

    I was in Catholic School and although it did take a lot of pressure off that we all wore the same thing, we still found ways to, sports, etc.. I am mixed too.

  10. Throuthehaze

    I'm not really for banning of makeup. I think that some girls would probably feel self conscious without it…I know I would have. As for banning skirts I find that understandable because they just keep getting shorter and shorter every year it seems. Maybe if tights were required to be worn with the skirts then it wouldn't be so bad. Removing mirrors is just silly.

  11. musingsf

    I attended British schools from age 9-18. I wore a uniform for all but two of the years. My school had a very strict policy on the uniform. The uniform had to be purchased from the designated school uniform supplier. Any infractions of the dress code and the student would have to replace the item with a similar item from the lost and found box. I know that I didn't want to risk wearing a dirty shirt from the lost and found, so I avoided deviating from the school uniform policies.. Ewww.

  12. Adele

    When I went to school, girls in schools with uniforms would pull their skirts into a mini anyway, so I don't know if uniforms always help.

  13. Alex

    As an adult, I want to say that it's absurd, but I remember being a teenage girl and all of the added issues from fashion and makeup and popularity. Maybe it's not such a bad thing.

  14. Andrea A

    Very interesting article…I actually agree with some of this because as stated in the article, they were once allowed to do these things but some of the students kept pushing the envelope. So that's what happens when you don't follow the rules. That's how people learn. I believe that this will indeed help to keep the students more focused on an education which is what they're there for anyway…not a fashion show. I remember having to wear uniforms in school and I loved it. There was no guessing about what I'm going to wear the next day. Just accessorize with some jewelry and headbands and I was fine. The makeup thing I'm kind of on the fence about. And the no mirrors thing is ridiculous. People don't just use mirrors to primp and put on makeup.

  15. Nikki

    I think all of this levels the playing field sort of speak, cuts out the "mean girls" mentality. Saves parents money $$$!!
    No makeup rules is fine with me! Girls need to learn skincare FIRST, taking care of your skin BEFORE learning makeup!! Makeup is suppose to enhance your beauty not used to cover up so many blemishes because you don't have a good skincare regime!

  16. Sarah

    I would say try to find a balance…but that doesn't seem to work. You either ban it all together or let it happen. Myself….i tend to think uniforms in public schools are a good idea..but not so sure about the makeup. I don't see where makeup could be a problem.

  17. ann

    When I was in high school I got in trouble because you could see my knees. Now skirts are so short they dont even look like skirts
    I dont say ban them but be reasonable now girl you dont need to show off your bodies to the world. And make up is the same dont over do it . Those under 16 yrs of age shouldnt even wear make up. There no need to try and dress and look like your 21 when your only 12.
    Its just inviting trouble .

  18. ann

    Dont think I put my email Ann
    amhengst at verizon dot net
    comment about banning skirts and makeup

  19. Margaret

    I think that the intentions are good but in the end it won't prevent girls from dressing a certain way if they really want to. In fact I think psychologically it will reinforce the need for these girls to dress the way that they do–because they're getting attention for it. I think that these schools are taking it a little too far with banning make-up, but that perhaps there should be a length for appropriate skirts (because let's face it–there becomes a point when it really just starts looking like underwear.) I think that make-up is a way for girls to express themselves (as odd of an interpretation as this might be), but it may also point to signs of insecurity.

  20. childrens jackets

    I think it is necessary because skirts are not a kind of proper uniform. And putting make up during classes can destruct the class. And it is not advisable specially for minor.

  21. Frankie M

    I, at Shelley College, know for a fact that the school is expecting far too much by banning make-up and know there was complete rebellion, and, the few students wearing ‘too much’ make-up in the first place, still where the same amount, and girls who did follow the rules seem to be punished. The school has since also got rid off tight trousers and introduced a school skirt- There is definitely a line on the pointlessness of rules and they have crossed it. This has lead to students feeling less and less happy in school. And I ask this question…Who does my appearance really effect and why??


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