No dress code means more expression

A stock image of three young people in eclectic clothing, taking a selfie together. CREDIT: THE GENDER SPECTRUM COLLECTION
Expression through clothing, hair, and makeup is deeply important to students.

A cursory glance through the halls of Fanshawe College will make one thing immediately clear: Expression through clothes, hair, and makeup is deeply important to students.

In contrast to the strict dress codes at many educational institutions, Fanshawe allows students complete freedom to wear what they like, so long as it meets legal requirements. This has fostered a community of more open-minded and accepting students, as well as a school-wide culture that embraces expression. For many, this is liberating, as prejudice surrounding expression through fashion is all too common.

“In the past, I have faced prejudice for the way I dress, especially as I got older and had taken on a more mature style,” said Fanshawe College fashion design student, Star Leinen. “I remember even being criticized for wearing the same things as my peers in elementary school just because I developed earlier. It was like they wanted me to be ashamed of my body.”

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The decision to brand certain forms of dress as appropriate depending on who is wearing them is an issue that has isolated individuals that identify as anything other than their assignedat- birth sex. Fanshawe’s movement away from ideas based on gender roles has made many feel safer in the halls.

“At Fanshawe, it has been a lot easier to express myself. I get to do fun things with my clothes and makeup and not have to come to school worrying about what other people will say or if someone will make inappropriate comments. It is freeing to know that I am safe here and that if anything ever did happen, there are people I can go to, since it is not tolerated,” continued Leinen.

Fanshawe has made their stance on harassment incredibly clear, which is a source of comfort for many students. In the College Policy Manual, P208: RESPECTFUL COLLEGE COMMUNITY AND PREVENTION OF HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION, they state that members of the community have a right to be free from, “Inappropriate and unwanted comments about a person’s body, dress or appearance.”

Freedom of expression without fear of persecution creates a palpable atmosphere of acceptance that is pivotal to a healthy community.

“Freedom in how you can dress plays a huge role in how you feel in your own body, and it can even affect how you treat others. If you do not feel like you can be yourself, you may be uncomfortable and decide not to come out of your shell. When I wake up in the morning and get to put on my makeup and slap on some heels, I just feel like I have the confidence to take on the day. If I were not able to do that, I do not know if I would ever have the confidence to meet new people,” said Leinen.