How to Dress Like an Individual at a School With a Dress Code
More and more schools all over the world are imposing stricter dress codes or uniform requirements on students. While administrators claim these measures encourage equality and proper behavior and discourage gangs and offensive clothing, many students feel that dress codes restrict their ability to express themselves. If your high school has a stringent dress code and you're worried you might look like "a nerd" or like "everybody else," here's how you can distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Get a copy of your school’s dress code and read it carefully, and look for loopholes. Make sure you fully understand the dress code, and ask an administrator for clarification if necessary. You don't want to buy something and then find out you can't wear it to school.
Go through the clothes you have now and see what you have that fits within the guidelines of the dress code that you will actually wear. It helps to organize your closet by what you are and aren't allowed to wear to school. This way, when you wake up in the morning, you don't have to shuffle through all the clothes you aren't allowed to wear in order to find what you need for school that day.
Pay attention to little things in the dress code that aren't restricted. For example, you may have to wear shirts that have collars and sleeves. While that certainly limits you, it doesn’t say anything about pockets vs. no pockets or button fronts v.s. polo shirts. Find something you are comfortable in that fits within the dress code. In this example, if you don't like polo shirts, get button fronts. Sleeves can usually be any length as long as they’re there. No matter how restrictive your dress code, you’ll likely have some choices.
Also, most dress codes require that you wear the uniform, but do not specify that you must only wear the uniform. That means, even if you have to wear uniform pants etc, there's nothing that can stop you from pulling a colorful skirt or skort over them. Try wearing multiple layers of shirts, pants and skirts, or jackets over the uniform. If worst comes to worst, you can still pull the extra clothes off.
Shop at your favorite stores or designers. Just because your clothes have to be conservative doesn’t mean you can’t still buy the brands you like to wear. In fact, many designers now make clothes specifically to meet the growing dress-code and uniform markets. If you need polos, then buy them at A&F or Urban Outfitters. Have fun with it! But you don't have to shop at expensive clothing stores if you don't want to.
Choose shoes that make news. Shoes are often hard to define in dress codes, so you may be able to get away with some extra creativity on your feet. For example, some dress codes say that shoes have to be closed-toed. This doesn't mean sneakers or loafers only. If your school doesn't have any strict regulations on shoes, get something fashionable that stands out. If your school is strict or brown/black shoes are a must, then slowly add little things. Try a colorful shoelace, or try gluing little rhinestones on and see if you can get away with it.
Accessorize. Dress code or no dress code, you can use accessories to express your individuality and style. The stricter your dress code, the more important accessories may be.
- Belts: Often belts have to be leather and the buckle size is restricted, but there may not be color guidelines or belt buckle type guidelines. Get bright colors or patterns that attract attention. Did your mom already buy you a drab brown belt? Glue glitter on the buckle or otherwise embellish it. Butterfly buttons look really cute too. If you can't add anything or don't want to, you can just use a black belt with a vintage buckle.
- Jewelry: If there aren't any jewelry restrictions, wear bracelets, necklaces, earrings, or rings that stand out and make you feel special. Adding funky and bold jewelry will make you stand out without pushing the clothes. Then you can look really original. Be careful, bracelets make a lot of noise on desks.
- Hair: Many dress codes provide few restrictions on hair. While you probably can’t dye your hair crazy colours, you can put bows or headbands of different bright colors, as well as pigtails, braids, or anything colorful or unique that the dress code can't restrict.
- Scarves: Especially in the winter, a colorful scarf can give your uniform/dress code cute and colorful
Push the envelope. Maybe your dress code has some "grey areas," or maybe parts of it aren’t enforced. See what you can get away with. What’s the worst that could happen? You'll just have to take it off.
- Never say never: If you see something you want to wear at school, don't be pessimistic by saying it's not permitted at school. Take it and go with it - at the worst case, you can put it in your bag.
- Bags: You can always express yourself by your bag. There is no such thing - usually - as limits for bags. Go wild and buy some crazy and unique bags. If there are limits even for bags - you can always put pins and such onto it.
Your hair doesn't have to be boring! Look online for hair tutorials and ideas. Crazy styles can be fun, and there is rarely a rule that says you can't!
- Remember attitude. Go to the bathroom with a blank look on your face and look in the mirror. Leave and then go back with a sincere smile on your face. You’ll probably notice that you look and feel different, maybe even better. Clothes don’t make the man (or woman), so project an attitude that is uniquely you, and you’ll still be an individual, even in the plainest uniform.
- Try wearing pins and buttons, but don't overdo it.
- Keep your make-up clean and conservative, if you’re allowed to wear makeup at all. A little bit of light shadow with the regular stuff is fine, but you should probably avoid the electric green eyeliner!
- Nails can be painted pretty colors. Do anything too wild and you may get in trouble, but there are tons of lovely pale and pastel shades, and a French manicure is always a classic. If you like the look of a French manicure, but like being edgy and creative, get colored tips on your nails. You can also choose to paint a clear coat to be safer.
- Wear feminine colors. If your school lets you wear colors such as light blue, white, and pink. Wear them. They might help you
- Don't get carried away with colours! With anything nails, coats, scarves
- Many dress codes do not specify gender. A boy probably could not get away with a skirt and knee-socks, but no one will mind if a girl goes to school in chinos.
- School-colored headbands, clips, and other hair things can add flair to any outfit.
- If your school doesn't have any restrictions on bags, choose one that expresses your personality and customize it however you want! This can be a very useful when trying to express you and your interests!
- If you have a skirt that buttons together as most uniform skirts I've seen so far have, replace the button with a bright colorful one, but be careful and make sure it fits the hole it has to fit through.
- Check and see if your school has an opt-out policy. If it does, try to convince your parents to sign an opt-out form for you.
- Some schools let you wear different colored leggings or even different colored uniform shirts! Try doing different colors to make you an individual!
- Some schools require you to purchase your uniform outfits from a certain company. Buy whichever colors you feel most confident in, and make sure you wear well-fitting sizes.
- Make sure you are following your dress code when you go shopping or when you are altering your clothes.
- Remember, your clothes don't make your personality, you do! So don't let your clothes make you wear a mask, hiding away your personality.