A Catholic high school in the Detroit area has backed off plans to pass out “modesty ponchos” at prom to girls whose dresses are deemed too revealing, an idea that generated criticism.

The controversy began early last week when one of the ponchos was displayed in the lobby of Divine Child High School in Dearborn. A sign noted that the ponchos would be doled out “at the door” at the dance to people wearing dresses that did not meet dress code requirements.

When students strike a prom pose this year, they’ll likely be doing so in an outfit that showcases their personal style. Researchers have found that Generation Z is focused on individuality, and now, that state of mind is making an impact on prom style, from DIY dresses to a push for gender fluid options.


“Our intention with displaying the poncho was never to make students feel uncomfortable, but to remind all students and parents of our formal Prom dress policy, which has not changed for several years,” Haley said. “To be clear: The poncho will not be passed out at Prom. It was on display to proactively remind students of our dress code policies and eliminate any confusion prior to this special event.”

Haley said Divine Child, like many other private and public schools, is simply asking students and parents to follow the dress code when selecting prom outfits.

The ’90s saw a slew of prom movies — 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That and American Pie — in which female characters wore seemingly off-the-rack creations. However, students in 2018 are taking a cue from Molly Ringwald’s Andie from Pretty in Pink, who showed up to prom in a bubblegum original of her own design.

Elissa Stein, author of Prom Night: The Best Night of Your Life, sees a similar spirit in today’s students.


“(Prom is) reflecting what’s going on in the world as a whole,” she says. “It’s much more about individualism now. Individualism, personal taste and expression.”

Stein experienced the trend first-hand when her daughter (a 2016 grad) constructed her own hoop skirt out of refrigerator tubing for her formal at Brooklyn Technical High School.

“There were some kids who came in a pair of chinos and a skinny tie,” she says, recalling the evening’s varying styles. “There were some kids who came in full out tuxedos and arrived in a limousine. My prom experience, living through my daughter’s is true freedom in fashion.”

Divine Child junior Erin Wade said Tuesday she was “overjoyed, to say they least” when students and parents received the letter saying the ponchos wouldn’t be passed out at prom.

“I’m just really thankful that the school chose to listen to their students,” she said.

When the poncho went on display in the school lobby, Wade returned a dress she had purchased back in January, worried that its neckline would earn her a poncho. She’s now on the hunt for a new one.

News Reporter

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