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Dress code takes effect today

August 25, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

After spending eight hours Saturday shopping for school clothes, parent Shirley Dice said she left Valley Mall feeling like half of the clothes she bought for her children won't be in compliance with Washington County Public Schools' systemwide dress code.

"It's a lot harder" to shop for school clothes, Dice, 43, of Clear Spring, said Sunday during a return trip to the mall.

Shopping time has doubled for Dice, who was shopping for two of her girls. Shorts go back on the racks because they are too short. Shirts are left in the dressing room because they are too shear, too revealing or a combination of both, she said.

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The systemwide dress code to prohibit clothes such as revealing tops, baggy pants and chained accessories goes into effect today as students return for the first day of classes at county schools. It was approved by the Washington County Board of Education in June.

Valley Mall store workers have noticed a change in shopping habits among their customers.

Alicia Cornwell, sales associate at Deb, said the store has sold a lot more lightweight sweaters and jackets, which teens are buying to cover up their tank tops and shear shirts, both of which are dress-code violations.

"Moms are holding back a little bit more," she said.

Krissy Barr, a sales clerk at G + G in Valley Mall, said teens and parents alike still are sifting through the store's racks but they are bringing the more conservative clothing to the cash register.

The systemwide dress code was given to G + G, as well as other mall stores, Prime Outlets and independent stores such as Target, Kmart and Wal-Mart, after the code was approved this summer, said Shulamit Finkelstein, co-chairperson of the dress code committee for the school system.

Barr and another sales associate recalled a time when a mother, who didn't know about the dress code, approached the counter with a handful of tank tops. Later the woman got the list of dress code rules and took all the shirts back, she said.

Christine Lohr, a sales associate in the juniors department at J.C. Penney in Valley Mall, said when someone brings a tank top to her counter, she doesn't remind them about the code.

She said many people seem hip to the new rules, commenting that they received a copy of the policy through their child's school or read about it in The Herald-Mail.

"I think they all pretty much know what to do from here," Lohr said.

Brenda Page, 41, of Hagerstown, said she has had a hard time shopping for her daughter, who attends Broadfording Christian Academy, a school with a dress code similar to that of the county school system. She also has a son in the county school system, but said he is easier to shop for than her 14-year-old daughter.

Page just returned a shirt her daughter bought at American Eagle Outfitters because it was too shear.

"As a mother, I like to see my daughter more covered up," she said.

But Page also said she worries about what she will do if she can't find clothes in the mall for her children to wear that aren't banned by the dress code.

Joe Delosier, 41, of Smithsburg, said he doesn't worry about the dress code so much when shopping for his elementary school-aged children. One of the young girls with him grumbled as she touched her fingertips past the hem of her shorts.

"I think it's good for high school girls. How their parents let them out of the house wearing that stuff, I don't know," he said.

Parents definitely are more in tune with the dress code than their children, said John Manley, a sales associate at Hot Topic in Valley Mall.

Manley said the store, which carries dress code no-no's like baggy pants and chain accessories, hasn't noticed teens avoiding the store because of the new rules.

"I don't think they care. I don't think they are worried about the dress code," he said.

James Gibbs, manager of Black Enterprise in Valley Mall, said teens are shying away from shirts with numbers printed on them and from some of the baggy jeans the store carries.

Nicole Goff, sales clerk at Sears in Valley Mall, pointed to the display mannequins in the store's juniors department. The mannequins were wearing clothes without any writing on them. Collared dress shirts were placed prominently in the store.

"I don't know if it's just what's in style or if they just set it up that way because of the dress code," she said.

Josh Fiedler, assistant manager at American Outfitters in Valley Mall, said the store still sells a lot of tank tops and short-shorts despite the code.

"They're getting pickier, but we haven't done too badly," he said. "They can still wear jeans."

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