When I was younger, I was in various situations – from homeschool co-ops, to high school, to even college – where I was required to abide by a dress code. The rules would vary from place to place, but they would range from rules like “no jeans” and “no shorts” to “skirts must be an ID-card length above the knee, and no shorter.” Sometimes, the rules would be frustrating, but I understood why they were in place: to teach us the basic principle of respect for authority beyond the scope of any family rules set in the home.

However, the world doesn’t exactly always see it this way. Right around when schools start, articles from various blog posts pop up about how “dress codes are objectifying women” or “if you send a student home for a shirt that breaks the rules, you’re detracting from their education.” Basically, these articles outright call out dress codes for being oppressive, and their outcry is for others to stand against these rules, because, for lack of a better term, they’re “cramping their style.”

In today’s post, I want to address dress codes and why they are actually the opposite of oppression.

Dress codes don’t objectify anyone; rather, they’re doing the opposite.

In this day and age, the world wants to do whatever they want, whenever they want, while wearing whatever they want. If it ever appears like those “rights” are taken away, they cry out and say that they are being considered objects, not people, just because they can’t do what they please and abide by the rules at the same time, because, let’s face it…pleasure seems to trump the rules these days.

But think about this: whenever someone wears immodest clothing, it’s usually all what other people see. Basically, that garment overpowers the person. However, if that person chooses to dress in such a way that they’re covered up and modest, they are not only respecting those around them, but they are also respecting themselves, and they as a person are able to shine through. When a dress code is enforced, it’s essentially a gateway for people to truly express themselves as people; not what society necessarily expects them to look like. It’s another way we can be known as Christians, as He has called us to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession” (1 Peter 2:9a).

Dress codes don’t detract from anyone’s education; rather, they’re adding to it.

Long story short, dress codes teach you in a direct way to respect others and yourself. Consider the golden rule for a moment: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Keep it in mind, because we’ll come back to it later. Now, consider the way you dress. Ask yourself if you’re abiding by any rules on your clothing set before you from school or work, and if you don’t like those rules, ask yourself why. Also, consider how you would react if you were asked to go change into something else, or if you were even fired because of wearing the wrong thing.

Now, let’s return to the Golden Rule. Think about how you want to be treated at school or the workplace. You want to get the most out of your education or work, right? The solution is simple: abide by those dress code rules. In the grand scheme of things, a dress code is really small in comparison to what you can gain from school or work experience. So, if you have a dress code that you’re being asked to follow, follow it to the best of your ability, because it’s ensuring that you’re able to get the education or work experience you want or need.

Most of all, dress codes encourage respect beyond the scope of their “checklist” of rules.

The apostle Peter discussed the idea of modesty and rules of dress within the church. In 1 Peter 3:3-4, he told ladies that it wasn’t about the braiding of hair or the adornment of jewelry – any “external adornment”, really –  but their gentle and quiet spirits. This must have been a serious enough issue for his audience for Paul to address it in this way, and as such, we need to take his urging to heart and apply it to our own lives. Plus, we don’t have to necessarily apply this rule to dress codes, either. We can apply it to any set of rules, or to our behavior in general, just so we ensure that we ourselves are exuding a Christlike attitude at all times (Philippians 2:5). In this way, not only will we respect others, but we respect God as well.

At the end of the day, rules are rules, whether they apply to your behavior or to the clothes you wear. You are not thought of as less of a person if you abide by certain rules; in fact, you are respected more because of it. So, instead of worrying about being “oppressed” by the rules, let’s think outwardly and respect those around us instead.

By Savannah Cottrell