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Want that prom gown? Make sure it passes high school dress code

Girls who squeeze all but their cleavage, backs and midriffs into their special prom dresses may not get through the dances’ doors this spring as U.S. high schools toughen dress codes.

“We’ve never had a problem until this year,” said Hal David, principal for Cedartown High School in northwest Georgia. “It was at homecoming when we first saw the dresses our students were wearing -- and they were inappropriate, unacceptable.”

Students at Cedartown High School aren’t the only ones under greater scrutiny these days, as more American public high schools crack down on plunging necklines and thigh-high slits, educators say.

Some high school administrators say dresses have become so risqué that staff have created special presentations on acceptable attire and offering approval in advance when girls show pictures of their most-sought after style of dress.

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David said the school came up with new guidelines this fall to spare everyone involved in the special day, which came last Saturday for the Cedartown Bulldogs.

He said parents complained gowns worn during homecoming were too revealing. He said he assembled a team of parents, teachers and administrators to draw up a plan, which included showing pictures of dresses deemed acceptable and unacceptable. To make sure it was accessible to Cedartown’s 1,100 students he posted it on the school’s website. He said staff also placed posters on high school walls, showing pictures of acceptable dresses.

David said students had plenty of warning before they showed up for prom at the local country club. “And to be fair, we were not trying to embarrass anybody. We just wanted our students to be appropriate,” he said. “We didn’t have to turn away anyone, we didn’t have any issues and everything was fine.”

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But staff at another Georgia high school had a few tears shed at the door.

“The biggest issue is cleavage and you can’t have rules for cup sizes,” said Ginger Lawrence, assistant principal at Lee County High School in Leesburg, Ga., where 375 seniors are graduating this year.

Lawrence said she chaperoned the Trojans' prom wielding a 3-inch ruler, making sure the length of hems were no more than three inches above the knees. She said she had to turn away a few students because their dresses were too risqué.

“One girl went home and put on a tank top and came back,” she said. “The other, well, we didn’t see her again.”

In Crawford, Texas, one parent says there no question prom is a busy time for families, with parents spending up to hundreds of dollars on clothes, meals, tickets and transportation. Parents will spend about $1,078 on the big dance this year, compared to $807 last year, according to a survey by Visa. Sometimes a dress code can help families navigate through a costly purchase, said Renessa Niemeier, a parent of a senior at Crawford High School.

"We've been aware of the dress code for years, and we abide by it," Niemeier said. "Fortunately, we haven't had any troubles finding a dress. We've bought many dresses over the years, too."

Her 18-year-old daughter, Cheyenne, said she spent about $500 on her gown, adding that her friends were able to find suitable styles that comply with Crawford's dress code.

"It wasn't too hard to find a dress, if you look in the right stores," Cheyenne Niemeier said.

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These days, the cuts and look seem to mirror outfits from the popular television show "Dancing with the Stars," says Catherine Moellering, executive vice president of trendspotting firm Tobe in New York City.

“Prom fashion is living in its own bubble,” Moellering said. “A lot of these girls are watching shows like ‘Real Housewives’ and the Kardashians, mimicking what they are seeing. And more or less, less has become the more.”


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