Brisbane school under fire over strict rules for students' formal dresses

A Catholic girls’ school in Brisbane has been accused of sexualising teenage girls by forcing them to have their formal dresses approved by the school.

In an email sent to parents ahead of last weekend’s formal, Mary MacKillop College requested photographs of every dress so they could be vetted, according to The Courier-Mail.

“The HOHs (Head of Houses) haven’t seen or approved everyone’s outfit for the night though, so please submit a photo of your dress or suit on the Microsoft Form below so we have all your photos in one spot to check,” the email said.

A booklet was also issued to students with photographs of what dresses were considered appropriate and inappropriate.

It stated that “students are required to wear a formal attire (no plunging necklines or low backs below the waist.)”

Five dresses with red lines through them
A list of dresses deemed inappropriate was circulated to students at Mary MacKillop College ahead of their formal. Source: The Courier-Mail

A student at the school says many girls had their dresses declined before Saturday’s event.

“We get it thrown in our face that we will ‘make the male teachers uncomfortable’,” she told The Courier-Mail.

“We had the same conversation for our Grade 11 semi-formal. They’re legitimately sexualising 14 to 17 year-olds.”

A parent at the college said everyone is expected to be a bit more “prim and proper”, dressing appropriately and conservatively, because it’s a Catholic girls’ school.

“I do know one of the girls was made to wear a shawl over the cleavage area,” she told The Courier-Mail. “She was told that she needed a shawl, and if she didn’t bring her own she would be given one on the night to wear.”

Five dresses
The school also sent around images of dresses it deemed appropriate for the formal. Source: The Courier-Mail

In a statement to The Courier-Mail, Mary MacKillop College denied that there was a process in place to approve dresses. The school is yet to provide comment to Yahoo News.

Dress codes for formals are widespread at Aussie schools

The issue has divided parents with many arguing that dress codes for formals are needed, and saying the practice of schools approving formal dresses is common around Australia.

One Aussie dressmaker told Yahoo News Australia that it’s common practice at 75 percent of private schools.

“Bremer State High in Ipswich does it and has done it for years,” one person said on Facebook.

“Think that’s bad? Call out King’s Christian College,” wrote another, “they give the girls a PowerPoint presentation on what shapes they are and what dresses ‘suit’ their body shape. Fat shaming 101."

One parent wrote on Facebook, "some of the outfits these girls wear are disgraceful".

“If the parents aren’t setting boundaries around this type of thing then the schools need to.”

“The things girls wear today is unbelievable,” another mum told Yahoo News Australia, “but I think there should be some trust in the girls."

While many have hit back at the student's claim that a dress code is in place to prevent male teachers from feeling uncomfortable.

“The problem here is not the dresses but that apparently male teachers cannot keep their eyes to themselves, and control their urges,” one person posted on social media.

“Will we ever evolve past this abhorrent victim blaming culture?” another user added.

Mary MacKillop College
Mary MacKillop College is facing backlash over its alleged approval process for formal dresses. Source: Google Maps

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