Dressing for success -- and modesty Print
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Blessed Trinity School, Dane, Dress Codes
Students at Blessed Trinity School in Dane read during a school day (Contributed photo)

For parents and students everywhere, "back to school" means shopping and lots of it, mostly for supplies and clothes. In both of those areas, there can be debates and battles between parents and children on what each thinks the student should have.

With fashions and trends always changing, buying "school clothes" becomes a yearly challenge.

Schools in the Diocese of Madison try every year to create a safe and comfortable learning environment while dealing with new fashion trends.

Dress codes

Most schools in the Diocese of Madison have a dress code for students to follow.

For example, Our Lady of the Assumption School in Beloit requires students to wear dress pants, with the occasional "jeans days" throughout the year.

SS. Andrew-Thomas School in Potosi has a dress code calling for "clothing in good taste and appropriate for school." This includes no tight or revealing clothing, no offensive words or pictures, and appropriate dress according to the weather. The school says, "If you think you have to ask or think you shouldn’t wear it, you probably shouldn't."

Sacred Hearts School in Sun Prairie has a dress code "aimed at encouraging students to take pride in themselves and in their appearance, while not calling attention to themselves." This includes shirts long enough to remain tucked in during normal range of motion. Clothing must cover three fourths of the leg above the knee, and no piercings other than ears are allowed.

Uniform policies

Four schools in the diocese have a school uniform policy. They are Blessed Trinity in Dane, St. John Vianney in Janesville, St. Ambrose Academy in Madison, and St. Maria Goretti in Madison.

"School uniforms provide a built-in standard for modesty and convenience for casual clothing wear that is neat in appearance and appropriate for all school functions, including attending Holy Mass," said Blessed Trinity Principal Jeff Karls.

The school has had a uniform policy since the mid 1990s which has been modified over the years.

The uniforms consist of red, white, or navy polo shirts and khaki or navy slacks and/or skirts or jumpers for the girls. Formal dress-up clothes feature white polos and dark slacks or jumpers. The uniforms can be purchased at most clothing or department stores at a reasonable price.

"The uniform policy is well received by parents and students, mostly because of the convenience and built-in modesty factor," said Karls. He added, "The school also offers scheduled days for wearing other attire, such as favorite sports jersey day, red carpet day, or dress as your favorite character day."

The school also has spirit wear day every Thursday where the students are welcome to wear shirts they have purchased with the school name logo on them.

Dressed 'prepared to learn'

St. John Vianney has had its uniform policy for the past nine years.

"Students come to school prepared to learn," said St. John Vianney Principal Judi Dillon. "They are dressed for a specific activity and therefore ready to do it." She added uniforms have eliminated many of the criticisms of what one is wearing, along with the comparisons and the stress to keep up with the popular brands.

"Students do not complain about the uniform, and parents love them," Dillon said.

The uniform consists of khaki bottoms and red or white polo shirts on top. There are several options for girls, including jumpers, skirts, skorts, and pants. Additionally there is a school-approved fleece top that is worn.

Parents are able to purchase from Lands' End, French Toast, or Old Navy with selected items. They can be purchased $150 to $200 per child. Parents can save even more through a resale process where items can be purchased for as little as $1.

Dignity of the person

For St. Ambrose Academy in Madison, "A simple dress code allows the student to concentrate on studies rather than on fashion. The dress code helps maintain school spirit and student safety, discouraging peer pressure. St. Ambrose Academy fosters reverence and respect through appropriate dress and teaches one of the great Gospel messages, that of simplicity of lifestyle."

"We are helping them look at themselves not just by the outside looks but in the dignity of the person, which is more than what they wear," said Chris Galvin, guidance counselor and parent of three St. Ambrose students. "When at school, they show their individuality in how they make friends and work on their academics, not on the type of clothes they wear."

For boys, the dress uniform consists of navy or khaki pants with blue or white dress shirts. They also wear navy colored sweaters and a navy blazer. The daily uniform includes navy or white polo shirts and a navy fleece jacket.

For girls, the dress uniform consists of a blue plaid skirt with a white or blue blouse and navy sweater vest. They can wear khaki or navy pants as part of their daily uniform with blue or white polo shirts.

Most of the items are purchased through Lands' End.

The students at St. Ambrose embrace the uniforms.

"When our children first started at St. Ambrose Academy, they were anything but excited about wearing school uniforms," said parent Vickie Manke. "However, they have come to realize that school uniforms help promote an atmosphere of belonging, where they can focus on learning and not on fashion."

Some of the students commented, "It's easy to just wake up and get dressed without thinking about what to wear" and "it builds up our school spirit."

'Acceptable, neat, affordable'

St. Maria Goretti (SMG) School in Madison has had its school uniform policy for the past seven years.

"We were spending too much time trying to monitor proper dress," said Principal Elizabeth Adams-Young. "We wanted to find something that was acceptable, neat, and affordable."

For boys and girls, the uniforms are similar. They consist of a T-shirt, sweatshirt, or polo with the SMG logo and navy or khaki pants.

"You can put everything in one drawer and everything you pick up to wear the next day, it would be part of the uniform," said Adams.

Parents can get the clothing items new through Lands’ End or through the school’s uniform resale that takes place prior to the school year.

The school estimates about half of the families take advantage of the resale where items can cost only a couple dollars a piece.

While Adams said there was some initial criticism over the uniforms when the policy started, parents soon saw the benefits when it became clear how easy it was to pick out something for their children to wear in the morning.

The students also participate in special dress-up days during times like Catholic Schools Week or on days of sporting events.

SMG school secretary and mother of one current and two former SMG students Beth Wilson said her kids wearing uniforms has been "fantastic . . . I like the modesty of it so I know I have a little bit more control over what [they] would be wearing." She added it's been more financially feasible to have uniforms over a long period of time than constantly buying clothes every year.

"There’s a benefit to it," Wilson said.

Concerns about individuality

As for concerns about individuality in the midst of school uniforms, the schools said it's still there.

"Students are provided plenty of opportunities to express themselves with the curriculum and daily schedule," said Karls.

"Individuality is expressed everyday, all day, in multiple ways," said Dillon. "We do not feel uniforms hinder that expression; they enhance the learning environment so that all can learn appropriately."


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