Sage Stretch, '24
In the wake of an extraordinary COVID year, the discussions of what to preserve from last year have included whether to abolish the dress code. The middle school has already decided to discard its dress code, yet the lower and upper schools have preserved theirs. The dress code, like the honor code, is an NCS tradition that should not just be cast aside without thought and consideration. The dress code sets standards that benefit the students, and it creates cohesion across the close.
The NCS student experience is shaped by meaningful traditions. A minimum standard of dress is something that generations of NCS women have shared. In NCS’s history, first the uniform, and now the dress code has meaningfully contributed to the school’s culture and character.
A hallmark of NCS is that it teaches young women the value of high standards, so that when they graduate, they are well prepared for their future. The students benefit from the environment that the dress code creates. They learn how to be presentable, and they work in a setting where they are required to be professional and appropriate.There is some truth to the saying “Dress well, test well." Changing out of pajamas and into proper school attire then into athletic wear marks a necessary distinction between our personal activities, our academic activities, and our athletic activities.
Removing the dress code would create a significant and irremediable division between St. Albans and NCS. Although there are major differences across The Close, the two schools share guiding principles, school values, and similarities in student life. Taking an elective where one half of the class is wearing sweatpants, and the other is wearing a suit and tie, would be detrimental to the connection and cohesion of the two schools.
Comfort in school is an understandable goal, but comfort and standards are not mutually exclusive. There are many ways to tackle the challenge of presentable clothing at school, including more frequent free dress days, increased second-hand buying/selling within NCS, or even a relatively unrestricted uniform. This issue is not about whether we can or cannot learn and succeed in sweatpants, it is about what defines NCS. Our environment and student life sets NCS apart from its peers, and those differences would be greatly degraded if we were to throw out the dress code. The temptation of comfortable or athletic clothes is strong, but submitting to it would not compensate for the loss of NCS tradition, culture, and unity.