There are undeniable benefits to school uniforms. Uniforms create a sense of unity and cohesion amongst the student body, and they can make getting to school on time easier by removing clothes as a difficult and time-consuming decision every morning. Many professions require workers to wear uniforms, if not strictly identical attire then at least similarly professional-looking outfits. Plus, many schools that implement a uniform policy report lower rates of bullying and peer pressure.
However, one downside of uniforms is the lack of originality and style they afford students who like to experiment with their clothes. If you have a teen who wants to explore their fashion aesthetic, here are a few ways you can help them do so — while still following the letter of their school’s uniform law.
Encourage Experimentation Outside School
Your teen isn’t going to school 24 hours a day, seven days a week; even if they are in boarding school, they will have off periods when they don’t need to don the school uniform. You can encourage your teen to experiment with fashion outside of school hours by filling their wardrobe with clothing they express interest in wearing.
Before school starts and as the seasons change, you should go on shopping trips with your teen to acquire a few new pieces for their closet. It is imperative that you listen to them and avoid forcing your own aesthetic onto them. If you believe that a particular article of clothing is inappropriate, you can refuse to purchase it, but you might allow them to spend their own money if they so desire. After all, if you want your teen to find their own style, you have to give them both the tools and the opportunities to do so.
Familiarize Yourself With the School Dress Code
Every school’s dress code is unique. You should go through the uniform policies with your teen, so you both understand exactly what degree of personalization is permissible and which will result in trouble with school authorities. You should pay close attention to the variety that your teen is allowed within the uniform, but you should also note how long certain components must be, like sleeves, pant legs and skirts. The dress code should express what amount of makeup and hair styling are allowed and what types of accessories students may wear. Though not expressly clothing, these elements are just as important in personal style, and if they are more liberal within the uniform rules, your teen might want to gain greater skill in cosmetics, hair and accessorizing.
Finally, you and your teen need to know the consequences for breaking the dress code. Most schools have increasingly strict punishments for each infraction. The first breach, for example, might earn only a warning sent home to parents, but the second might involve some form of detention that could go on your teen’s permanent record. If you disagree with any rule or consequence, you should stand up for your teen and address the school authorities directly, as the code might be old and happily changed by the current administration.
Invest in a Wide Range of Basics
Typically, schools give their student body some wiggle room when it comes to its dress code, so students can dress themselves to their own degree of comfort. This is especially common when it comes to unforms for girls, which usually include a diverse array of bottoms such as skirts, shorts and some form of khakis or chinos. On top, many uniform policies permit various neutral shades of polo as well as button-ups and some sweaters, sweater vests or cardigans.
You should make sure that your teen has all of the uniform options available to them, so they can mix and match the components as they see fit. In some ways, this limited amount of experimentation can feel more freeing than when the entire world of fashion is available to them, as too much choice can be paralyzing.
Whether you wanted your teen to go to a school with a uniform or the uniform policy is an unintended consequence of attending a high-quality institution, you need to ensure that your teen has the space to explore their identity through fashion. With the right components of the uniform and plenty of space outside of school for non-uniform clothes, you should have a happy, healthy and stylish teen.
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