Dignity, Decorum, and Dress Code

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
which you have from God?
You are not your own; you were bought with a price.
So glorify God in your body." -1 Corinthians 6:19-20


Several months ago, I said to Mr. Tremblay, “It might be time to revisit our dress code and uniform supplier.”  Dress code compliance has dipped to a low level and some of the uniform items are outdated.  On top of that, some families are still waiting for clothing they ordered back in August! It seemed like a good and necessary thing to do and the perfect time to do it.  He gave me permission to form a uniform committee, a deadline, and then shot me a look that said, “Good luck. You’re going to need it.”

Undaunted (and perhaps a bit oblivious), I gathered committee members and we began researching uniform suppliers, formulated a rationale, and ordered sample uniform pieces from different vendors. We also sought input from our teaching staff, parents, and students through impromptu conversations, modeling sessions with students, and even a focus group.  There are so many details that need to be considered, so many differing opinions, so many choices to make! I began to understand Mr. Tremblay’s look of trepidation.  

We are currently putting the final touches on the uniform choices, preparing the buying guide, and finalizing the website.  We should be up and running very soon. It has been a substantial amount of work, but the committee believes wholeheartedly that it has been worth it.  When the announcement is released, later this week, it will provide all of the details.  Here, I would like to address the more philosophical points of uniform considerations. 

First, perhaps it might be a good idea to share with you the goals we had in mind as we approached this task.

  1. At the top of our list was the desire to improve our school culture. We believe that the uniform is an integral part of our school culture; proper dress enhances the dignity of the individual student and reflects the values and decorum of the school.  Improving the dress code and uniform compliance will improve the school culture. This goal or philosophy was the underpinning for each decision we made.

  2. We needed to improve product availability  and customer service to our families and ensure timely delivery of uniforms.

  3. Fabrics and styles needed to be updated.  It is our hope that these updates will encourage uniform compliance.  

  4. Streamlining the uniform options is another way we hope to encourage better dress code compliance.  Our goal is to make the dress code simpler, easier to purchase, and easier to wear.

  5. We would like to align uniform compliance with our virtue program, stressing the virtues of obedience, modesty, and docility. 

We are confident that we have satisfied these goals in the process of updating the dress code. The first point about school culture, however, speaks to the heart of what we have done and why we have done it, and warrants further discussion.

We have spoken a lot about decorum this year at school.  The dictionary defines decorum as “behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety.” It means doing what is right, at the right time, in the right way. It calls for the exercise of manners, dignity, and respect, and requires the students to employ the virtues of obedience, docility, and modesty. It calls for elevation both of outward practices and inward attitudes.

Most people can look at the precious face of the unborn baby pictured at the top of this message and recognize the truth of the words in this Psalm:  “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!” (Psalm 139: 13-14)  However, do our teenagers read these words and know how accurately they can be applied to them also? That their dignity comes from their status as a child of God. Period. It does not come from the admiration of their friends, their physical appearance, athletic talent,  money, or the cool shoes they wear.

By expecting external practices of decorum, we hope to inspire heartfelt, genuine decorum of spirit.  It is our ardent desire that our students begin to recognize their inherent dignity as beloved children of God. 

We want their hearts to move from “how far can I push the boundaries of decorum and get away with it” (whether in reference to dress code, speech, or behavior) to “what is the appropriate manner in which I can dress, speak, and act that reflects my God-given dignity.” 

Wearing a uniform does not mean stamping out individuality, or controlling or subjugating our students. Uniforms are intended to remove the noise (distraction) of outward appearance and allow each of us to see the beauty of the person created in God's image. By requiring a uniform, it is our purpose to free our students from societal constraints, and to encourage them to elevate their decorum so that it accurately reflects their proper dignity. It is our intention to free them to become who they were created to be.

- Mrs. Lisa Sweet, Academic Dean