Dressing for success in the middle schools

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I have been a resident of the Oak Park-River Forest area since 1990. Looking back on my pre-teen years, I have fond memories of growing up as an Oak Parker. No one could ever deny the unique and diverse flavor of our quaint community. Oak Park public schools were always top notch.

Obviously no school is perfect, but we had discipline, values and guidelines — more specifically regarding dress codes — that were followed.

My daughter just graduated from Brooks Middle School on June 1. During her three-year tour, I have been totally flabbergasted at "today's style" of the young girls in attendance of this school. Daisy Duke Shorts with their butt cheeks hanging out, micro-mini-dresses that resemble more of a T-shirt, super-tight leggings that clearly outline their not so indisposed area … and it continues at OPRF.

What has happened to our schools? The teachers state they watch in disgust and dismay as the girls walk through the halls displaying personal body parts that were once concealed. Is there no longer a dress code? If there is, why is it no longer being enforced?

Of course the kids should be able to express their individual personalities through their own style of dress while not falling into the uniform code of the private school sector. But they also have to be taught that there are limitations along with boundaries within expression. These are the formative years that we as parents, as well as the school district, are supposed to work cohesively to lay that foundation. It is with the creation of these building blocks that assists in a solid work ethic moving forward.

I don't know at what point, between the '90s and the present, modesty vanished into the "black hole," but I am optimistic, working together as a village, we can teach our kids to dress for success.

Victoria Ferrarini

Oak Park

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Reader Comments

33 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Tracy Williams from Palatine  

Posted: July 30th, 2019 6:53 PM

It has nothing to do with how the schools are teaching the current children. It has to do with current parents trying to friends with their kids in childhood rather than showing strict discipline and direction. Attempt to be friends when the kids become adults. My parents were incredibly strict with how I dressed as a youngster and I still hold myself to those standards as a professional speaker and disability advocate in adulthood.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 28th, 2019 11:06 AM

@ Judith Warren and Ramona Lopez: Just asking, but how many of the young ladies attending our middle schools have the type and amount of support from a parent like you had when you were going to school? Is that part of the problem or issue? Thanxs in advance.

Tony Rodriguez  

Posted: July 27th, 2019 9:18 PM

I think the key words of this article is "...taught limitations with boundaries within expression." With hormones raging at this age, it is important that boundaries are established and taught. We give them time to mature and show them direction. They'll all be adults soon enough.

Kathleen Reed-Bernard  

Posted: July 27th, 2019 10:22 AM

I think this article is long over due. Why are young ladies dressing like this? I too grew up in Oak Park during the 90's as well and we are talking big hair and torn jeans era. However we still had to maintain a modest respect for our appearance. I remember kids being sent to their deans office for saggy pants or for over exposed cleavage. In my opinion this article has made realize we have an epidemic of young men and women who do not have pride in the how they dress. Yes young women should be feminine, yes young men should be masculine. I think parents should be parents and regulate what their children look like when they leave the house. Children are so guided by social media now far too early in life and it seems likes on Facebook are more important that pride and respect for themselves. Thank you for writing this article maybe it will start some people thinking about how their kids look when they walk out of the house.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 14th, 2019 1:21 AM

Jan...Yes, writing an article in a public forum opens one up to much criticism. If one wants to criticize said article in a public forum, then they have opened themselves up for criticism as well. It cuts both ways. If the commenters didn't want a "bashing", I suggest next time, they refrain themselves from commenting.

Jan Stephens  

Posted: July 13th, 2019 5:56 PM

Ramona Lopez, the difference is that having an article posted does open you up to backlash. Most people don't agree with hating on teens or children. The "author" is bashing teen girls and yet you direct your ire at the commenters. Insane. btw, I went to parochial schools and they certainly are not places of ethics or virtue.

Judith Warren  

Posted: July 13th, 2019 11:47 AM

I didn't grow up in OP but in a far south suburb. My mom fought the dress codes then in the early 70s. I thought we were done with this garbage. The administration fought her by saying that girls could not succeed without the dress code and there would be chaos. I graduated in 8th grade number one in my class and graduated high school in Lockport at a much lower number 6 in my class. I had a very successful college career that led to jobs in my field of choice - including at the White House in the 80s. I thank my mom for bringing the lawyers in to fight draconian policies back then - and winning. I can't believe this is still an issue.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 12th, 2019 9:29 PM

Would you wear a bathing suit to a wedding? Go shirtless to church? There are many contexts where a certain type of garb is appropriate or expected. Schools are supposed to be institutions of learning, a somewhat serious mission and endeavor and should be respected and treated as such. Learning appropriate dress for a specific situation is nothing more than a sign of maturity and being a responsible individual. Why is it considered so extreme to expect appropriate attire in a middle school? Like everything else in life, there is a time and place.

Cathleen Kushnick  

Posted: July 12th, 2019 8:27 PM

The comments from the women here are mentally disturbed. They also represent the absolute height of the ridiculousness of the completely misguided and clueless, fake veneer of "liberal" politics when filtered through the mouths of morons. Oak :Park is becoming notorious for people like these women who have no idea what they are saying but endless hubris and gall to blurt it out. If I had a girl in school in Op I would be looking at alternatives just from reading this letter and the reactions to it. I literally cry for some of these girls I see literally parading their exposed genitals around on the streets and in the classrooms. Of course one must always wonder what the mothers are thinking but, hey, now we don't need to wonder anymore.

Hazel Miller  

Posted: July 12th, 2019 8:09 PM

@ Jennifer What if I did allow my sons to wear skimpy tank tops that showed their arm pit hair, or "ack" their nipples? What if I let them wear some biker shorts to school showing off a bulge? Is arm pit hair only to be celebrated if one is a woman ? And I can GUARANTEE you that they would be harrassed beyond all get out if they did wear that attire to school because they are heterosexual white boys. Who according to some of the winter "protesters against discrimination "are now considered domestic terrorists.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 12th, 2019 3:16 PM

Just looking back here. Didn't the WJ a few months back report on the discipline problems at the Middle Schools, with teachers speaking out on the issue. I know it is not an exact comparison, but why would the Middle schools with no dress code have a disciplinary issue and Fenwick which has dress code has no such disciplinary issue? Yes, not the same but close. Again, good luck to all the parents. you will need it.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: July 12th, 2019 1:45 PM

Shouldn't this be marked as an opinion piece? Does Victoria work for WJ? I would be surprised if this was written by a staffer but as an opinion piece I think it's fair to post. I don't agree with it but she should have the right to share it and it also allows for this debate. @Kine, I don't understand your comment. What do you mean by your first question? Do you think anyone's goal is to objectify themselves or their children's bodies? Don't you think it's possible this is the fashion now and that's how they want to dress because it's warm and they like how they look? The other aspect that I am surprised nobody talks about is that this allows the boys to learn how to behave around girls and not to treat them badly simply because they are dressed a certain way. Isn't that a positive lesson that they will take with them? It's especially comical to argue that sending kids to a religious based school is better because of the uniforms given the rampant sexual abuse that's taken place in these schools. Work and school are not the same so those comparisons don't make sense. None of these kids will join the workforce and be totally clueless about how to dress. That's silly. They aren't idiots.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: July 12th, 2019 10:28 AM

ok. let's get this straight - we are generally in favor of young people, girls in particular, objectifying their bodies? Especially adolescent girls? Strictly my opinion here, but the reactions to the letter are just about as ridiculous as the letter itself. And the headline the Wednesday Journal has attached makes it all even more ridiculous. And we are specifically talking about school-attire, right? OK... Let the butt-cheeks hang out... More power to 'em!

Heather Vickery  

Posted: July 12th, 2019 9:32 AM

I cannot believe that the paper is supporting body shaming in this way. As a parent, the author is allowed to dress her children anyway she wants but to widely tell other young girls what is or is not "appropriate" is abhorrent. We have body shamed girls and women LONG enough. How someone dresses does not indicate their level of intelligence or their sexual interest or openness. As my 14 yo daughter would say "if my shoulders or belly are distracting it's YOUR problem and not mine. Learn to control yourself!" Honestly. This is so gross and it's really sad to see we, as a community, are still publicly shaming our girls!!

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2019 9:26 AM


Nick Polido  

Posted: July 12th, 2019 8:10 AM

Well Victoria it seems you caught the attention of the Oak Park Progressive Women group and they have their knives out. Take some comfort that this fringe minority are a bit nuts to say the least....

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 12th, 2019 1:28 AM

I have no dog in this fight. However, the "disgusting" remark might be leveled at the attire and not the student. There is the unique comparison between Fenwick and OPRFHS which some of these kids might attend. One school has a dress code, entry test and is expensive but seems to have more of an academic record, OPRF,who must take everyone, has no dress code, certainly more students, certainly better paid teachers and staff and has been fighting an achievement gap for decades and losing. Just asking, what is success what is a failure and a uniform dress code might, might be easier on the parents and staffGood luck to all the parents out there.

Christina Sellis Loranz  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 10:35 PM

I cannot believe this got published. Wednesday Journal are you trying to create a semblance of "fair and balanced" by letting this slip through? You published a letter in which a troubled woman talks about the bodies of children including their genitals. Not to mention claims that are local teachers are disgusted by our children. What is going on here? How did this possibly make the cut?

Leila Massouh  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 10:14 PM

These are 11 to 14 year old CHILDREN. I trully hope the teachers in our building do not find the girls they teach disgusting and I dont know why the author is so concerned with the bodies of middle school kids. Wednesday Journal, you need to do better and not post articles accusing 11 to 13 year olds of immodest or accuse teachers of misogynistic comments. It is not appropriate.

Regina Alexandra from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 9:59 PM

This author posits that our local teachers find our 11-14 year old girls disgusting and that these teachers are discussing the children they teach with a parent and labeling the children as disgusting? That is what you are going on record with? I plan to put this to our local schools and ask them what their position is on this. I believe they will come down on the side of the children and against any teacher literally talking out of school. I also find it hard to believe our teachers are doing this. The teachers I come in contact with are caring and respect the kids they teach. How did this misogynistic and anti child piece get published? What sort of vetting process goes on at the Journal? It is one thing to publish different opinions, but quite another to publish a piece generally attacking children and women.

Lauren Arends  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 9:53 PM

I'm a high school teacher. I could not care less what the children wear. Due to the dress code, I no longer have to care about most of the things they wear as part of my job. I guess if I wanted to wear tube tops and short shorts to work then I probably would've gone into a different career, as that would not be appropriate dress for a high school teacher at work, though I'd gladly support any work place that establishes a "no dress code" dress code policy. I'll change my phrasing to say that no one besides maybe their parents should care what children wear, since that's what this letter to the editor is about. Especially not nosy neighbors with outdated sensibilities. Also, it's a straw man argument to start talking about kids not wearing shirts or shoes or having their genitals showing, and everyone knows that. What this letter is talking about is girls you do not know exposing PG-13 parts on hot summer days in trendy clothes. I don't have a problem with that and neither should anyone else.

Amanda Turnbull from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 9:47 PM

Ramona, your logic is a bit off. First, not one poster has identified themselves as a feminist, but I love that you hurled it like an insult, very classy. Second, dress code defenders have to stop using the workplace as a comparable situation. I shouldn't even have to explain the difference between a paid job adults have, and the mandatory schooling children attend. Third, the author used the word "disgust," not a commenter. She claimed that teachers in our schools look at our children with "disgust and dismay." Lastly, the author took to a public forum to attack and accuse 11-14 year old CHILDREN of immodesty and lack of work ethic, so yes, I am coming at her and it is in no way hypocritical. "Hate has no home here" means it will not be tolerated, not that we're going to allow it to an equal voice.

Rachel Stark from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 9:13 PM

How dare those children show parts of their bodies that you find offensive! Very brave of you to take the time to write your local paper. Your grit has inspired me! You have proven personal opinions on other people's appearance demand to be heard!!!! Next time I see someone wearing an ugly blouse that I do not like, I'll be sure to write my local congressmen because #youareimportant! #everyoneshouldlooklikeyouwantthemtoo!!!!!

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 8:40 PM

Love how all the "feminists" here insist the students are given the freedom to express themselves. Yet, they don't seem to reciprocate that same freedom of expression to the author. "indisposed brain cells" "disgusted" "pretty abhorrent" " I'd like to think this is satire" I'm sure they all have a "Hate Has No Home Here" placard in their front yard too. Hypocrisy runs rampant here in Oak Park.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 8:25 PM

@Lauren " if you don't like what someone is wearing, that's your problem. " Not sure where you work, but would that excuse fly at the workplace? Sure, if someone is on their own time doing their own thing they choose to do, have at it. Wear whatever you want. God bless you. Schools, the workplace, hell even Mc Donald's has a "no shirt no shoes no service" policy.

Emily Lloyd  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 7:32 PM

I smell a Pulitzer...

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 7:26 PM

Thanks for this piece Ms. Ferrarini. Dress code is one of the many reasons why my daughters attended parochial schools. Ms. Bee....please demonstrate how the rape culture is embedded in Oak Park. I ask that in all seriousness and as a victim of rape myself.

Lauren Arends from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 7:15 PM

I'd like to think this is satire, but unfortunately I've heard similar sentiments expressed by adults in the halls of our hallowed educational institutions. Maybe if enough of us repeat it often enough then it'll finally sink in: if you don't like what someone is wearing, that's your problem. Not that my opinion matters, but personally I think Oak Park kids look great in all of the latest fashion trends! But that's not the point. Why did Wednesday Journal even publish this opinion piece??

Jennifer Malloy Quinlan  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 7:01 PM

Why didn't you name the teachers who find our children disgusting? Who are dismayed that our daughters have body parts? I find it curious you did not mention muscle shirts that bare hairy male armpits and- ack!- nipples! Or those nylons shorts that show, dare I say, bulges? How about you stop looking at our daughters and mind your own business? Pervert.

Krissy Bee from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 6:38 PM

For the record: dress you and your children in whatever way is most comfortable for you and never apologize, but my little girl was shamed at school this year for daring to have upper arms. She is a child of seven, so had not considered her shoulders sexual. She was embarrassed and miserable for wearing a shirt that kept her cool and comfortable. Tv didn't do that, movies and video games didn't do that, school did it. The Oak Park District 97 did that. Middle school children are children. Any adult who finds them "sexy" and "distracting" should be immediately investigated.

Krissy Bee from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 6:22 PM

The fact that this was published says a lot about the way that rape culture is embedded in our town. I'm disgusted that this publication ever posted this piece. Just no. This is the opinion of a person who doesn't have a grasp on the history of controlling women's bodies, children's bodies, and victimizing them twice. Why would you even write this?

Chi Lisa from Oak park  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 6:07 PM

The fact that this was even published is a problem that this rag should address immediately. As for the writer, please kindly go back to 1897 and take your "indisposed" brain cells with you.

Amanda Turnbull from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2019 4:36 PM

This is pretty abhorrent. I hope that we, as a community, are not teaching our young women that their clothing has anything to do with their ability to be successful. Rather the opposite, I would hope that we would be teaching them to wear what makes them happy and comfortable, prudes be damned. Do I want to see their butt cheeks? Nope. Is any of my business? Nope. And if I, like Ms. Ferrarini, choose to judge them based on their attire, that is MY poor decision making, not theirs. Of course there are boundaries and limitations with expression: if it's against the law: that's your limitation. Otherwise, to quote the 90's when modesty apparently vanished: "you go girl."

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