Elements of Style
Our Bodies, Our Dress Codes
Here’s how one budding feminist is confronting gender inequality and ambiguous style guidelines.
In high school hallways across America and in Seattle last spring, young women were told their clothing was too provocative and too distracting. But some, like Ballard High’s Annie Vizenor, aren’t okay with what she calls “slut shaming” and “victim blaming.” She and her friends staged a style coup—complete with more than 150 DIY shirts. Vizenor talked to us about dress codes, personal expression, and being responsible for one’s own behavior.
"A girl’s boobs might look awesome in a shirt, no matter what the shirt is like, but that doesn’t mean the people around her can’t listen in class or do their work."
"The administration literally told us girls to cover it up; they said if we didn’t, it was our fault for being harassed, and the rules they put out there were totally subjective. I found it very appalling. Boys sag their pants all the time but they don’t get sent home for it. Some people perceived our protest as being anti–dress code, but it’s not about that. It’s about making everyone, regardless of gender, responsible for their behavior."
"I used to wear loose jeans and a T-shirt—I didn’t really want to draw attention to myself. But when all the dress code stuff came up I started wearing short skirts and tank tops and now I really like them. I think as a senior I’ll be thinking even less about what others think of my clothes. I’m more confident about my body now."
Annie Vizenor’s Open Letter in Response to Ballard High School Principal’s Dress Code Email: