After months of promised revisions and clarifications, the three-page dress code released on July 26th has sparked discussion on traditional and contemporary modesty standards.
The code – which includes separate guidelines for school buildings, off-campus and Sunday Mass at school – comes with footnotes citing saints, scripture and the Catechism in an attempt to ground the guidelines in the teachings of the Church.
“As Catholics, we are called to something greater, we have a higher standard,” said Nicol Sperling, Head of Women’s Formation and one of the authors of the revised code. She continued, “…Modesty stems from beyond just dress. You have modesty in speech, modesty in action, and at the end of it, what is happening internally is the expression that comes out externally. And I think that the issues with the dress code is people having a problem of where their identity lies…I don’t really know how to fix that, except know who you are in Jesus.”
Some students find the dress code to be a good standard. “I don’t think that it’s an overly reaching dress code; I think it’s a pretty solid dress code,” stated transfer student Karen Case. “And I think that there was a need for it…if people were dressing modestly, then we wouldn’t have had to put it in place. It’s a little inconvenient sometimes, but at the same time being a Christian isn’t about being comfortable.”
“The dress code beforehand was a little bit more ambiguous, a lot of room for interpretation…now, the new dress code is taking a lot of the principles that were already there and flushing them out,” said RA Michael Matthews. “Being professional is very important and it’s something that the school really wants the students to be prepared for. JPCatholic, while not trying to limit the freedom of students, is trying to help them to foster the dignity that is within each and every one of them, whether you be a man or a woman, in the way that you dress.”
Some students see the dress code differently. Kit Krmpotich discussed the difficulties of dressing modestly in today’s society. “Modesty means different things to different people. I appreciated the citing of sources…I see they’re literally taking it right out of the Biblical texts. [But] this dress code is not gonna change the way men look at women. It’s good to have [a dress code] to set a standard. But I do believe that this specific one is targeting aspects of the way that people dress in a very negative way.”
“There needs to be some kind of learned respect,” Krmpotich continued. “In our society right now there is an over-sexualization of women and with the school saying that we should cover women up, they’re playing into the idea that women are sexual [objects]…and I think if they acknowledged more the beauty of women, it wouldn’t have to be as strict of a dress code.” Elisa Litke said, “I agree with modesty, but that’s [the dress code] is not modesty, it’s scrupulosity.”
Gemma Hotovy added, “’We have to be in the world, but not of the world’ is my way of understanding modesty. Modesty is a balance, and we shouldn’t lean too much to either side. I thought this school was going to be the mediator between all the bad stuff in the media world and extreme conservative Catholicism. But this new dress code is not preparing us for the world we live in.”
Some expressed concern that it may limit their creativity. “The main con is that it can limit individuals’ self-expression, which, of all times, should be explored during one’s college years,” said Anna Livia Brady. “If something warrants unwanted attention, that’s for the individual to discover and deal with themselves.”
Mrs. Sperling added, “I went to an art school – it wasn’t Catholic. And I was around a lot of artists that dressed normally. There wasn’t anything that was like ‘I have to express myself [externally].’ Our identity comes first, and our identity is being Catholic over anything else. Our idea of what we think the dress code should be is not merely our own opinion. It is founded in what the Church teaches – the Church is the truth. Truth is not relative.”