How Do Students Feel About Free Dress?

A select few days each year, ASBC sends out that email that Mr. Beamer has announced that—the following day—no one has to wear a uniform. One would think the intuitive response for every student who reads this email would be immediate excitement. But how do Bishop’s students really feel about free dress?

Wearing a uniform everyday can become boring, so it stands to reason that specific days can be an effective way to balance between tradition and student expression. Eliana Birnbaum-Nahl (’23) explained, “I like free dress because it’s a way to wear clothes that are fun, expressive, and comfortable.” However, as school uniforms go, Bishop’s is one of the most versatile. From the variety of colored polos and wide variety of sweatshirt options in every color of the rainbow, to an outsider, the uniform might not look like a uniform at all. In a given classroom, the probability of two people wearing the exact same outfit is low. Additionally, the traditional uniform—as well as the original uniform when Bishop’s was an all-girls’ school—involved skirts to the knees and no sweatshirts. 

Some think the desire to avoid judgement can be a source of stress and a waste of time. “I don’t like [free dress] because it’s stressful. I don’t have to waste time in the morning with a uniform,” explained Andrea Rix (‘22). Bella Myer (22) agreed, saying, “I hate free dress–I feel like I take too much time deliberating my outfit choices.” However, Andrew Chang (‘22) had the opposite perspective. “It doesn’t take too much time,” he explained. “I prepare the night before. A lot of free dress outfits consist of jeans and sweatshirts anyways. It’s just a chance for more comfortable bottoms and more vibrant colors.”

Nadia Bitar (‘22) supports free dress. She believes that the purpose of the uniform is well-intentioned, but “some of the guidelines—like no logos on socks, no sweatshirts on dress day, and only white long-sleeved shirts underneath polos—seem not to have a real purpose. It feels like an arbitrary regulation of creativity.”

Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder how free dress days are chosen. They appear at the end of almost every quarter to relieve the stress of the “Quarter Crunch” when teachers pile on tests. This year, students got free dress for two days—the week before cumulatives.  But Annie Fang (‘22) “would like free dress during Cumulative Week.” Comfort could significantly reduce the level of stress students tend to deal with during cumulatives. Annie thinks that with more targeted regulation, and maybe a survey of students to see which days would be the best to not require uniform, free dress could become a more effective way to stress less.