Prom drama erupts after Connecticut high school bans backless and slitted dresses
Angry teenage model says "stop" (Shutterstock)

District enforces strict dress code a week before the event – after much money has already been spent – and students who fail to comply could be barred


It wouldn’t be a senior prom without drama.

But the drama this year at Shelton High School in Shelton, Connecticut, is playing out a full week early and relates to a dress code enforced by school officials.

Since Friday 8 May, seven students have been told that the dresses they bought to wear to the prom were inappropriate.

According to the school’s officials, if the students show up to the prom on Saturday 16 May in their chosen dresses, they will not be allowed in.

As a result, students are now scrambling to get last-minute replacements – piling additional costs on to what is already an expensive rite of passage.

Related: Prom night can cost teenagers (and parents) a pretty penny

On Friday, Beth Smith, the school’s headmaster, announced that backless dresses and dresses with slits and cutouts on the sides are not considered appropriate prom attire. With the prom just a week away, the announcement led to quite a bit of outrage.

This year, US families planned to spend, on average, $919 on each prom-going teen – shelling out for tickets, a limousine, spray tan, Spanx, make-up, and “ promposals ”, which can cost up to $400. Dresses can cost hundreds of dollars, and those teens who want a unique dress often begin shopping for it months in advance.

This is why some Shelton parents are particularly upset with the timing of the school’s announcement.

Alex Gerics, a junior at the school who was interviewed by the New York Times , bought her dress back in March. It wasn’t until last week that she was told that her long black backless dress breached the school’s standards.

“They say it’s in the student handbook,” Tonny Montalvo, Gerics’ mother, told the Times. “There’s no specifics anywhere.”

But school superintendent Freeman Burr said the dress code was included in the handbook, which all students received at the beginning of the school year.

“Those guidelines were announced over the PA system, again, last Friday following concerns raised by some faculty and staff, and even some of our male students, who had some serious concerns about some of the prom dresses that were being shown,” Burr told NBC .

According to the dress code, which was obtained by NBC News in Connecticut, “halter tops, tube tops, strapless tops, see-through lace tops, strap tank tops ... are not deemed appropriate school attire and will not be allowed”.

It’s just your back. Like, everyone has a back and, like, sides

More than 500 students have purchased their $90 tickets to prom, according to the New York Times . Students who bought their tickets to prom were also asked to sign a prom contract. The prom contract only stated that “appropriate formal dress and behavior are expected” and that students dressed in unacceptable attire would not be allowed into the dance. It did not outline details of what the school considered appropriate formal dress.

Some of the students were confused as to why backless dresses and dresses with side cut-outs would not be allowed.

“It’s just your back. Like, everyone has a back and, like, sides,” one male student told NBC News on Monday .

It all comes down to decorum, according to the school’s officials.

“We want all of our young female students to be dressed beautifully,” said Burr. “Obviously, we want them to enjoy themselves. However, we also want them to be dressed appropriately – appropriately with class and dignity, and also dressed in a tasteful way.”

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