Hi, I'm Kristin! Last year, I did a project where I tried to follow eight American high school dress codes with my adult wardrobe, and LOL it was so hard I couldn't even do one of them with the clothes I had.
But I've also noticed that every prom season, people's hackles seem to get raised when it comes to the issue of "appropriate" prom attire, and there are always stories of girls getting turned away from their prom for wearing a bunch of perfectly ordinary outfits.
As is the case whenever I hear about any adult nonsense, I was curious. How hard would it be for me to find myself some prom-ready evening wear while adhering to prom dress codes?
So, with the help of my stylist friend Lulu Bernard, we assembled 34 on-trend formal dresses in my size...
Then, for each prom dress code, I tried to figure out just how many of these faboo dresses I would ACTUALLY be allowed to wear — and from the dresses that were left, I selected my favorites for each school:
SO! I started with the easiest dress code, because I am a lazy procrastinator and the other ones looked hard:
Because I am 5'3'' and "fingertip length" rules are basically pointless nonsense on me because my arms are short (more on that in a moment), all the dresses were allowed:
Here's the dress I chose to wear for my hypothetical trip to Ben Davis High School's prom, which is adorable, and so I assumed it wouldn't be allowed for most of the other high schools (spoiler: It is not):
Next, I tried another school that I had pegged during the planning of this project as a "relatively easy" dress code:
So while Broken Arrow High School has a relatively forgiving dress code, it's still presented in a way that might warrant hiring an SAT tutor to understand.
But the dress I was able to pick for Broken Arrow was BEAUTIFUL, and it felt prom-appropriate enough that the only thing I'm missing now is a hapless platonic male friend I'm forcing to be my date.
So, quick aside! I originally picked this next school because I thought it'd be one of the hardest, if not THE hardest.
And I was a little thrown off when it ended up being the third easiest:
To Illustrate why these length rules are so delightfully broken, let's look at a picture of me in a bathing suit, shall we?
While I could technically pass this dress code by simply wrapping a hand towel around my waist, I don't think that would fly, so I deferred to the more conservative lengths:
For my Crawford High School dress selection, this was actually the second one we proclaimed to be the winner, because we discovered at the last moment that the first one I picked was cut slightly too low in the chest. It's just much easier to get tripped up on these rules than you'd think.
This school had the fourth most restrictive dress code. I have enjoyed fishing car keys out of the trash more than I enjoyed trying to figure out WTF I could wear for this school:
(A brief aside: At this point, I was beginning to wonder where all the prom dress code rule makers were getting this idea that mid-thigh was the same as "fingertip length.")
And then I saw slide 10 of Central High School's helpful presentation on their prom dress code rules, and realized they might be basing their limb length assumptions off of pictures of dresses on the bodies of actual fashion models. You know: tall people. With a very specific and narrow set of physical proportions:
ANYWAY! Once I started trying on dresses, I discovered that the REAL frustrating issue with this dress code was the fact that I had at least a little bit of boob flesh touching arm flesh while wearing basically every dress:
So here's the dress I chose for Central High School, because we realized that basically the only way to truly keep my arms from touching my boob fat was just to shut the fat off from the world entirely like it's Fortunato lookin' for that cask of amontillado.
This next school's dress code contained my favorite rule of this entire project:
So yeah. As you can guess, this one was pretty hard too:
Here's the dress I picked for Paraclete. I also realized — long after we finished shooting this project — that technically this dress also might not work because it has frigging shoulder cutouts, alasjrfiqjerfjw;f are you kidding me??
Finally, here was the school with the hardest dress code, which was, at least, straightforward:
Of the 34 lovely dresses, this dress code left me with...two to choose from.
And here's my dress for St. Augustine High School. This is a really cute bridesmaid's dress for an adult woman. But I think that if I were 17 and — after trying on 34 prom dresses — I was only given two choices, I'd feel...pretty bummed.
So, here's what I learned: Not only are prom dress codes vastly different depending on where you live, but so many of them have rules that are like witch riddles to try and sort out.
Going into this, I was actually kind of worried that I picked too many schools that were too easy, because I erroneously thought that the hardest rule would be about the length of the skirt. I didn't even realize just how difficult each school would be until I started trying on the dresses and seeing how divorced the rules were from how eveningwear dresses actually fit. Were I a real student at some of these schools, finding a dress without the help of a stylist could have easily taken weeks.
Not that I'm completely anti-rule. I saw a lot of "no canes" rules for boys, which (except for people with disabilities) makes sense: High schoolers probably SHOULD be protected from their occasional propensity to whack each other for fun with novelty objects.
But we're not trying to whack you with our boobs. We're just trying to have them, OK?