Debriefing Dress Down Days—Diving Deep into the Dress Code Debate


Wearing her comfy leggings, Sophia Cartafalsa ‘24 gives a thumbs up in approval of casual Fridays. (Jaya Iyer)

Written By Jaya Iyer, Editor in Chief

The dress code debate—it has been going on for years. Should students have a dress code? Should they wear uniforms? How strict should the dress code be? Most schools in the US struggle with these questions as they attempt to balance the students’ desire for personal expression with the institution’s standards of appropriate appearance. 

Charlotte Latin’s dress code might be strict compared to area public schools, but in the past few years, especially after COVID, the dress code has lessened in severity. At the beginning of this school year, CLS Upper School implemented a new policy, casual Fridays, where students may follow a revised dress code every Friday that offer students more flexibility in their school wear. 

The relaxed dress code first began for faculty in the 2021–2022 school year when Chuck Baldecchi, Head of School, began allowing them to wear jeans on Fridays. This perk was so popular that it sparked an idea with Hunter Murphy, Upper School Dean of Students—why not let students enjoy this benefit as well? To initiate the plan, she reviewed the dress code and decided that dressing down on Fridays would work the best so that the school’s scholarly appearance would remain the rest of the week. Murphy determined that casual Fridays would provide something to look forward to at the end of each week, and with just a few general guidelines, students could still uphold a scholarly presentation. “We want students to know that we are listening to them,” Murphy said. Murphy has been pleased with the results. In addition to most students dressing responsibly, she has observed a boost in morale on Fridays. “Students seem more relaxed, and also they are louder,” Murphy said. 

Most students indicated that they enjoy the freedom that casual Fridays offer them. Stewart Langley ‘24 said, “We have more opportunities to dress in more comfortable clothes, and it makes the dress up days seem less restrictive because now we have one day a week where we dress how we want.” Many students feel that casual Fridays create a new way to express themselves and celebrate what makes them unique. Tommy Beason ‘24 said, “I like how, more than usual, we can dress in a way in which we can show our identities.” 

The freedom of choice and the relaxed mindset of dress down days contribute to an overall more positive mood in the school. With one less thing to think about in the midst of a jam-packed schedule, Kadence Johnson ‘24 expressed her feelings. “On Fridays, I feel like I can learn better because I don’t have to worry about what I’m wearing or getting dress-coded. I am much happier when I’m in comfortable clothing because it allows me to stress less about frivolous things such as what clothing I’m wearing,” Johnson said. Samuel Haines ‘23 discovered another benefit of casual Fridays. “I can tell on Thursdays that when people realize that we now have casual Fridays after forgetting, their mood instantly lightens up now that they have something to look forward to. I like casual Fridays because I think that it’s a perfect transition into the weekend being able to express ourselves in a fashionable way. Being able to start the weekend off with positive energy makes all the difference in being able to maintain a sound mind while proceeding through a long school year,” Haines said. 

Upper School students were polled on their favorite casual Friday attire.

Student polls revealed the favorite choices of casual Friday attire. The most popular clothing items to wear by far are sweatpants and leggings. Thinking about dressing for the weather, Marina Horiuchi ‘24 said, “As it’s beginning to get colder, during the rest of the week I typically wear jeans to keep warm. But as everyone knows, jeans aren’t the most comfortable, and Fridays give me a chance to wear leggings or sweatpants which is really nice in the winter!” Casual Fridays allow students to share many fun outfits and clothing pieces that they cannot wear other days of the week with their peers. Haines enjoys the chance to wear his collection of graphic tees on Fridays. “I have a lot of them with really cool art that I always wanted to show off but never got the chance to because of the dress code we have here,” Haines said. Belle Nabors ‘23 shares this same excitement. “I love casual Fridays because I bought a lot of lounge clothes during online learning, and now I can wear them outside my house,” Nabors said.

Casual Fridays may also contribute to a higher level of school spirit. “There are a lot more people wearing Latin gear because they can match their gear more fashionably with athletic wear rather than a frilly skirt or khaki pants,” Johnson said. Students reported that the spirit for athletic events on Fridays has increased since the relaxed dress code. Mayes Fisher ‘23 noticed that more students attended football games this year. “Whenever we have dress down days on Friday along with a football game, there is a lot more participation because people have more leniency with what they can wear,” Fisher said. However, Horiuchi’s observations differ from Fisher’s; she felt that the dress down Fridays might hinder school spirit. “It’s not a huge difference, but dress down days might possibly lower the school spirit a little, as during the rest of the week, we are not typically allowed to wear clothes that represent colleges or professional sports teams, etc. so when we finally get to Friday, most people usually wear those clothes that they aren’t allowed to wear throughout the rest of the week instead of spirit wear,” Horiuchi said. Horiuchi also suggested a positive spin of how casual Fridays raise spirit in an unexpected way. “On dress down days that coincide with big football or other sports events, we have more of an opportunity to wear clothing that we like or have more of for the theme of the game. For example, the black out homecoming football game fell on a Friday, and everyone wore black to school, and we had the option to wear black leggings, sweatpants, sweatshirts, etc. since it was a dress down day.”

While students unanimously agree that they want casual Fridays to stay, some still feel that there are too many restrictions on both the dress code and dress down days. Ellie Chai ‘23 said, “I like being able to dress down, but I dislike how strict the rules are. If we are going to be able to dress down, I think it should be less restrictive. I got dress-coded for wearing a so-called backless shirt, even though I had a dress on underneath.” Many of the complaints come from the leggings issue. Wallace Roberts ‘25 said, “I dislike the fact that girls have to wear long shirts over their leggings because it is really hard to find the perfect shirt that will go that long, and it is inconvenient.” Kristie Shams ‘24 believes that the dress code overall should be changed. “I enjoy the fact that there’s a day to relax the dress code; however, I despise how it has to be a ‘special’ day in order to dress comfortably. Of course, there should be decency when going to school, but there is no need to ban items such as non-Latin shirts and leggings,” Shams said. 

Alden Fletcher ‘24 relaxes in his casual wear while reading his book for English class. (Jaya Iyer)

Since the teachers enjoyed the experience of having dress down days last year on Fridays, they think that it is fair that casual Fridays were extended to students. “I like how the casual Friday expanded from faculty to include the students. I think that students are thinking more about the dress code and I am hearing more conversations about needing to buy new clothes that are dress code ‘appropriate’,” Lisa Moreland, Upper School math teacher, said. Realizing the strict guidelines that students have had to follow for years, Jennifer Coble, Upper School science teacher, believes that giving students a break is deserved. “Our dress code starting with Lower School and then up through Middle School and Upper School has always been pretty rigid, and I feel we have added more items to it over the years to make it more strict (with the exception of the COVID year). I like that it gives a little flexibility for kids to express themselves in ways that the dress code prohibits,” Coble said. Teachers appreciate being able to wear jeans, Latin shirts and tennis shoes on Fridays. Lucas Ivey, Upper School history teacher, said, “I enjoy the ability to wear Latin attire instead of a button-down and a necktie. It makes getting ready for school less time consuming, and I’m more comfortable when I’m there.” Pete Sung, Upper School math teacher, is excited about the possibility of showing students outfits from his past because he believes it helps  them get to know him better. “For me, I think it might be fun for students to see some clothes from different colleges I attended or things I did in the military,” Sung said. Dr. Thea Moore, Upper School science teacher, never wants casual Fridays to end. “I would love to be able to wear sneakers everyday…or Birkenstocks (with socks of course).” 

Spanish teacher Hugo Caraballo lounges in his jeans after the end of a long week. (Jaya Iyer)

While the faculty clearly enjoys their time to dress down, they understand why it is limited to one day a week and not a sweeping change to a fully casual dress code. Chuck Edwards, Upper School history teacher, said, “I like that everyone gets to be more comfortable. I wouldn’t want to see dress down days everyday because I think there is value in dressing nicely for school and work.” Sung recognized that balance is necessary in a school environment. “I like giving people a chance to pick what they want. I’d love to see a little more freedom for people; at the same time, I know things can quickly snowball in an undesired direction, so it’s probably good where it’s at,” Sung said. Overall, teachers agreed with Murphy that students have been responsible in following the rules for dress down days. Joseph Teets, Upper School math teacher, said, “There are always going to be students that stretch the boundaries of dress code rules, but overall, I feel like the students are being responsible with the dress code.” Complimenting the students, Hutch Bibby, Upper School history teacher, said, “Compared to my last school, this is a huge upgrade regarding students dressing appropriately.” On the other hand, some students seem to be taking advantage of the more relaxed dress code. “I think the athletic wear, Lululemon and other inappropriate outerwear and impossibly short skirts or skorts that reveal parts that should not be on display outside of a gym or swimming pool is already out of hand. However, it isn’t practical to pull back on the leniency over dress code during COVID…students will keep pushing the envelope and I think the administration will eventually capitulate,” Moore said.  

The Upper School as a whole feels improved by the new casual Fridays policy. Hopefully, it is now a part of the school that is here to stay. Whatever direction the dress code ventures in the future, we will take it one step at a time. As Ivey put it, “Don’t try to take a mile when you’ve been given a meter.”