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Inside the New Dress Code
Claire Quan '20 and Jae Won Moon '20 Editor-in Chief and Co-Managing Editor
May 29, 2019
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Deerfield’s dress code has been a long contested and controversial issue. In reaction to this tension, having gone through an exhaustive process, the Board has decided to put forth a Board resolution, revising the existing requirements. The vote, according to the Head of the Board of Trustees Brian Simmons, was unanimous.

The new dress code will require all students, regardless of gender identity, to wear a blazer as their second layer. It also entails casual dress from January to March, non-specific requirements on skirt length, and enforcement of the dress code through DAinfo.

This process began in the spring of 2018 when Maguire Associates Inc., an educational consulting firm, surveyed students, parents, faculty, alumni, and trustees to determine whether change was necessary for the dress code.

These surveys yielded a wide array of opinions. As Dr. Curtis added, “No constituency spoke with a single voice; opinions varied widely.”

With the initial feedback, the Board determined two main objectives: maintaining the formality of the dress code while still providing room for students to make conscious decisions.

The consensus was that the “second layer option” for the female students was too ambiguous and did not meet the formality of the boys’ dress code, while the boys’ dress code was both defined and flexible.

During this process, Dr. Curtis believed that it would be crucial for members of the Board to understand the perspectives of the Deerfield faculty.

On Jan. 2019, five members of the Board returned to campus and met with the Committee for Professional Life, senior staff members, and faculty members from the 2017 Dress Code Task Force. An overwhelming majority of the faculty advocated for the adoption of a fully gender neutral dress code. This push was acknowledged by the Board with the requirement of the blazer for both genders as well as the fully gender neutral dress code from January to March.

With opinions both from the faculty and the student body, the Board looked for a piece of attire that could unify the student body. After months, the Board decided that, as Dr. Curtis said, “The blazer was the only garment that could cut across all genders and still express the same formality.”

The updated resolution from the Board, as published on May 5th, 2019, detailed: “Deerfield shall maintain the highest standards for Academic Dress, requiring a sport coat or blazer for students of all genders. In addition, boys shall wear neckties.”

“The Board wanted to ensure that women at Deerfield benefit from the same level of formality — and wanted to find a way to express the same formality as simply as possible,” said Head of School Margarita Curtis.

The dress code, however, still remains divided along gender-binary lines, given the requirement of the tie for boys. “While we made the decision that Deerfield would retain a gendered dress code, we also made it completely clear that students of all genders will be accommodated… Our decision to retain a gendered dress code seems pretty consistent with what students will face as they leave Deerfield,” said Mr. Simmons. In order to accommodate this change, the Board has decided to assist families that may face a financial burden purchasing a blazer for the first year.

Another change that will be added to the dress code is casual dress from January to March. “In the winter months, we have athletic schedules that are on a rotating basis and do not have Tuesday and Thursday sit-down meals,” said Dr. Curtis.

said Mr. Simmons.

In order to accommodate this change, the Board has decided to assist families that may face a financial burden purchasing a blazer for the first year.

Another change that will be added to the dress code is casual dress from January to March. “In the winter months, we have athletic schedules that are on a rotating basis and do not have Tuesday and Thursday sit-down meals,” said Dr. Curtis.

Dr. Curtis added, “It is a time when the weather certainly in New England dictates a certain type of clothing.” The casual dress during this period prohibits leggings, sweatpants, ripped jeans, and other athletic wear.”

New measures will also be implemented in order to remedy the lack of enforcement that has been traditionally associated with the girls dress code.

Starting next year, teachers will be marking students on dress as well as attendance. Not complying with dress code – lacking a blazer, tie, etc. – will result in an accountability point. Students will have to report to new Dean of Students, Samuel Bicknell.

“We don’t insist on a conversation when a student misses a class, so we can adopt that same system for dress code as well. Dress code reporting can be observational rather than confrontational,” said Dr. Curtis.

The changes put forth by the Board resolution have evoked mixed reactions from both students and faculty members at Deerfield. History Department Chair Julia Rivellino-Lyons said, “To keep the coat and tie requirement for boys and to require a blazer for girls, is likely to only slightly alter the status quo: boys will have a clear standard (coat/tie/button-down shirt and shorts/pants), and girls (because of the variety of shirts they’ll wear, along with dresses/pants/skirts/shorts), will still have a big range of attire, while perhaps feeling that the blazer requirement asks them to dress more like boys and align with the old all-male standard.”

Valentina Ochoa Saldarriaga ’20 added, “I think that [by] having the blazer, trustees are trying to place masculinity as a norm for all students.”

Some have also criticized the inconsistency between faculty and student dress codes.

“Why don’t female teachers have to abide by the dress code if male teachers do? It seems a bit hypocritical. If our own teachers don’t believe in it, how are we expected to follow it?” questioned Charlotte Molinari ’21.

In contrast, Lilly Shuhda ’19 said, “I think it is beneficial because the dress code has never been equal between males and females. It still isn’t equal — given the tie — but I think it is the most equity we can get without breaking tradition.”

With polarizing opinions on either side, the Board took on the difficult task of forging a compromise. “We tried to respect everyone’s opinion, even if they didn’t get what they wanted, and to incorporate everyone’s priorities into our process,” said Mr. Simmons.

He stressed the variety of options that the Board considered as well as their ultimate stance as “stewards of Deerfield culture.”

Looking ahead, a revised dress code, in accordance to the guiding principles set forth by the Board, will be published by the Student Life Office.

Additional meetings will be held to further define the guidelines of the new dress code.