Dress Code

How to Pick the Right Dress Code for School

Choosing the right dress code for school can involve a variety of factors. Grade levels, type of school, daily activities, school colors, and much more can come into play. Consider the following elements when deciding on what to implement in a school dress code.

Consider Flexible Uniform Options

When deciding on the right dress code, think about how much flexibility will be available. Having a range of specific clothing items and colors that students can choose from can often be the best option and keep everyone—from administrators and teachers to caregivers and students themselves—content. You may want to allow either short- or long-sleeved polo uniform shirts with khaki or navy pants as everyday uniform options, for example, but allow students a choice in colors for their shirts, such as white, pink, pale blue, or yellow. School uniform pieces to consider as options include:

  • Chinos, khakis, slacks, or trousers
  • Crop pants
  • Dressy shorts
  • Jumpers
  • Plaid or khaki pleated skirts or straight skirts
  • Dresses
  • Turtlenecks
  • Polo shirts (with long or short sleeves)
  • Blouses (short, long, or 3/4 length)
  • Button-down shirts
  • Sweaters or sweater vests
  • Fleece items
  • Knee-socks or tights
  • T-shirts
  • Pull-on pants
  • Corduroy pants
  • Skinny pants or skinny-straight pants

Decide on the Level of Uniform Formality

Some schools have more formal dress codes than others; what’s right for one school isn’t necessarily right for another. For schools that use a more formal dress code, button-up shirts, ties, and blazers with trousers or uniform skirts could be the basic uniform. To retain a formal look without those pieces, some schools may make button-up shirts with slacks or skirts mandatory, with ties and blazers optional. More casual dress codes or younger grades, such as for toddler school uniform, may opt for simple T-shirts and elastic-waist pants or shorts.

Offer Options for Accessories and Outerwear

Once you’ve decided on the basic style for your dress code, you can add other choices, especially in terms of outerwear and accessories. Will items such as socks, stockings/tights, and shoes be regulated? If choices will be allowed, the restrictions as far as color and style should be clear. Outwear items are a necessity, and lightweight outerwear pieces can look great in school colors or to complement an existing dress code. Outwear items to allow in the dress code may include:

  • Blazers
  • Cardigan button-up or zip-up sweaters
  • Pullover sweaters or sweater vests
  • Fleece zip-up jackets or vests
  • Windbreakers or windproof jackets
  • Rain jackets
  • Quarter-zip jackets
  • Parkas or heavyweight coats
  • Insulated vests
  • Hoodies
  • Quilted jackets

Allowing personalized accessories, such as custom notebooks or a personalized backpack, can go a long way in making students feel their best.

Include Gym and Sport Uniforms

Activity is important for students of all ages, so having a great dress code for physical education and sports is also a good plan. For school uniform gym clothes, items such as elastic-waist shorts, cotton tees, performance tees, performance polos, track pants, pullover active jackets, fleece jackets, sweatshirts, warm-up suits, and capri or full-length leggings could be good choices. Depending on the sport and level, uniforms might range from a combo of a basic solid-colored tee and shorts for intramural athletics, to a complete uniform featuring the school colors for competitions beyond the school grounds. Keep in mind that uniforms may be necessary for specific activities, such as uniform swimsuits, board shorts, rash guards, or swim shorts for swimming classes or swim teams.

Determine If You Will Have Casual Uniform Days

Some schools offer casual days (such as select Fridays) that allow students to dress down from their everyday uniforms. For schools choosing a more casual dress code, a dress-down day might allow a solid-colored T-shirt, blouse, or sweater paired with dark denim jeans or leggings. Hoodies, pullover sweatshirts, or zip sweatshirts of a student’s choosing may also be allowed on dress-down days, as well as sneakers or casual athletic shoes. For schools that normally adhere to a more formal dress code, such as a button-up shirt with tie and blazer worn with chinos or a skirt, dress-down days might be more likely to include a polo shirt and school uniform khaki pants or jeans.

Decide on Footwear Options

Most school uniform dress code guidelines require at least some regulation on the footwear students wear. This might specify that students wear brown or black semi-casual shoes, or that students wear a certain type of dress shoe. If specific shoes are required for physical education classes, those should also be specified in the school’s dress code.

Remember Jewelry, Hats, and Other Accessories

A final detail that school leaders may need to consider when establishing or updating dress code guidelines is what will be accepted in terms of jewelry, accessories (including hair accessories), and hats. Schools may choose to specify certain guidelines, such as hair accessories that are neutral and basic, such as hair ties and simple barrettes, or they may allow students more freedom with these accessories. While hats are normally not allowed to be worn within school buildings, school professionals may have to deem whether items such as embroidered hats will be allowed in other areas, such as in a courtyard, entrance ways, a breezeway, or on the bus. Other items, such as a custom umbrella or custom cups, can also help students show their own individuality even with school uniforms.

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