Punahou Covers Up

As skirts get shorter and midriffs barer, even Punahou is turning to uniforms


“Infamous,” high school junior Kristin Umetsu says, describing the attire of a fellow Punahou student. Specifics of said female’s clothing include skirts—hemmed to more closely resemble a belt than an actual piece of clothing—and halter-tops, covering little more than the essentials.

Clothing like this prompted Punahou to do something it’s never done before—require uniforms. The new policy is a last-ditch effort to curb the Britney-fied style that has become prevalent on Punahou’s campus.

Umetsu is on the attire committee, responsible for input on the soon-to-be-initiated “school wear” requirement. Although Punahou always had a dress code, it wasn’t working. At last year’s Halloween dance, girls came dressed—or perhaps undressed—as Victoria’s Secret angels, wearing nothing more than underwear, wings and heels.

In recent years, students’ attire has gotten so out of hand, prompting negative comments from visiting speakers and college recruiters. Anne Hogan Ezer, president elect of the Parent Faculty Administration (PFA), says, “This is not the public image Punahou wants to convey. The students are taking free expression too far.”

“No single issue has occupied more of the deans’ time and energy than enforcing the dress code,” Dean Marguerite Ashford says. In the past, violators received demerits and, in some cases, were sent home for the day, causing friction with parents, as well.

Next year, Punahou kids won’t exactly be sporting traditional plaid schoolgirl uniforms. Instead, different styles, colors and designs of pre-selected shirts and bottoms will be on the “menu of options.” Even so, some parents oppose the idea, arguing that the school wear takes away students’ free choice and individuality. Some students feel gypped, particularly the boys, who have not been displaying their midriffs. Riley Fujisaki, an incoming sophomore, says, “When you think about it, a small group is causing a big problem.” Ezer contends that a student’s individuality should come from a deeper place than his or her wardrobe.

The girls went out with a bang, Fujisaki says, covering up even less at the close of the year. Might as well go down in style. But, starting this fall, “students need to give it a chance,” says out-going PFA president Linda Goto Hirai. “Once they see the options, that they’re not going to all look the same, we’re hoping it becomes a non-issue.” Then again, when has a high school dress code ever been a non-issue?

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Honolulu Magazine March 2018
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