As 17-year-old Clare and her boyfriend James Thompson made their way to a home school prom, themed “Twilight in Paris,” they were thrilled for the night ahead of them. They felt good, they looked
great, and they were ecstatic to finally unwind with friends. Her boyfriend had even purchased them tickets to the prom way in advance. Nothing, they thought, could take this night away from them.
Indeed, she had worked hard to pick out the perfect dress: a glittery silver number that she had found after searching in six different stores, eventually finding it at Macy’s. She couldn’t
wait to show off her “gorgeous, silver, and sparkly” cocktail dress to all her friends. Little did she realize, it was this dress that, for some, would push things way too far.
But for Clare, this was the perfect dress. After months of saving up her tip money from work, she had finally found something that she loved and could actually afford. But it wouldn’t
be so easy: her new dress would need to pass the notorious fingertip length test. So she relaxed her arms at her sides, praying that her dress hem falls below her fingertips.
Clare carefully noted that the prom dress code listed on the registration form was simple, which asked girls to keep their dresses semi-formal at a fingertip length. And although it was a
close call, the dress made the cut. She was confident that this was the perfect dress. Even so, there was just something about this dress that would make everyone lose their minds.
“I’m all dolled up, channeling my inner Marilyn Monroe with my blonde hair and bright red lipstick,” Clare recalled, writing on her sister’s blog. But before her big debut, she needed to do just one final test. And unfortunately this time around, her results came up a bit short.
To ensure that she would be complying with the event’s rules, she had test the outfit with heels before going out. But this time the hem of her dress dangled dangerously close to her fingertips. Any exaggerated moves, like dancing for
example, would cause it to hike up her thighs. But as long as she moved gracefully, all would be well. And yet as soon as she showed up to the dance, hosted at a local Methodist church, she was confronted.
Upon arrival, she was immediately approached by administration. Despite her meticulous preparation, one of the organizers, Ann Duncan, stopped her at the door and said, “Honey, that dress is too short.” Unafraid and confident in her elegant outfit, Clare boldly shot back at Mrs. Duncan “What is the rule?”
As Clare expected, she responded, “Fingertip length.” Clare went on to explain that the dress simply appeared short on her because she’s a tall, curvy girl with long legs. However, Mrs.
Duncan informed that her dress was just inappropriately short, and that it failed to comply with the dress code. It would seem Clare would have to fight her way in.
But Clare wouldn’t budge. After quickly demonstrating that her outfit did indeed pass the fingertip test, the pretty partygoer was begrudgingly allowed access to the ballroom, albeit with a threat: “Well, make sure it stays pulled down. It’s too short.” Unfortunately for Clare, that was only a warning shot. The real battle had yet to begin.
Indeed, Clair later wrote, “When I got into the ballroom I laughed, because I was surrounded by girls in much shorter dresses then me, albeit they were shorter, and therefore stood out less in the crowd, but
it was still frustrating.” Even so, Clare had finally made it inside and was ready to celebrate the special night. A few minutes later though, Clare and her friends spotted something sinister looming just above their heads.
Clare’s boyfriend James described the dance as pretty awkward, and heavily chaperoned in comparison to previous years. He said that a lot of people were standing around talking in the center of the dance floor. But the thing that really made things awkward was the line of chaperones and dads looking down on them gawking from the balcony above.
Understandably, Clare and her friends felt deeply uncomfortable. “I felt violated by the sheer number of male parents that were assigned to do nothing for five hours other then watch girls in short dresses and heels dance to upbeat music,” Clare wrote on her blog post. “I think that it is sick and wrong that they assigned them to sit on
a balcony above us and look down on us and single us out for our clothes or dancing.” Nevertheless, they paid them no attention. They couldn’t let that ruin their night, could they? Sadly though, their prom was doomed from the very beginning. Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Duncan stormed over to her again. This time, she was clearly on the warpath.
Mrs. Duncan beckoned her over and escorted her off the dance floor. “She took me into a corner in the hallway, with another woman – who I’m assuming was a parent chaperone – and told me that some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing
was too provocative and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts,” Clare wrote in a blog post. It seems like the dads were the ones thinking impure thoughts. If anyone should be sent home, shouldn’t it be the gross dads?
Furthermore, saying her outfit causes “impure thoughts” isn’t much of a stretch from “she asked for it” when people blame victims of sexual assault for what they were wearing. Are the
thoughts and actions of young men and their fathers really her responsibility? According to the school, yes. Well, Clare wasn’t going to take this lying down. It was time to fight back.
Fired up, Clare defended herself and tried to clear up the situation. After making it abundantly clear that she wasn’t dancing at all, she once again showed Mrs. Duncan that her dress was the appropriate length, but she just wasn’t listening. “I never signed any documentation agreeing to adhere to any sort of dress code,
and the dress code that was verbally communicated to me was followed to the letter,” Clare said. Her concerned friends tried to intervene in the conversation and testify that they hadn’t been dancing, but Mrs. Duncan brushed them off, saying it “was none of their business.” That’s when Clare’s boyfriend said enough is enough.
Clearly disgusted, he told the administrators “That’s fine, she wasn’t doing anything wrong but if you’re kicking her out then the group that she came with is leaving too and you’ll need to refund all of our tickets.”
Immediately after, all of them demanded a refund on their $25 tickets. But for Clare, seeing that a mere $25 refund was hardly enough to cover the trauma she just went through, came up with a better idea.
After heated, yet respectful, negotiations failed, James attempted to get the prom’s manager involved. At that point, Clare said that Mrs. Duncan became enraged, repeatedly saying “I will not debate with you about this!” So when James continued to press her even further, Mrs. Duncan snapped, calling on a chaperone to finish this once and for all.
When Mrs. Duncan got security to escort them off the premises, Clare was heartbroken. The moment she had been waiting years for had devolved into chaos. Visibly upset and with tears rolling down her cheeks, Clare and her group of friends were all thrown out of the prom “because I stuck out,” she wrote. “I have long legs and I was wearing a sparkly dress, I didn’t look like most of the 13-15
year old girls there, I looked like a woman. I am so tired of people who abuse their power to make women feel violated and ashamed.” “I was told that the way I dressed and moved my body was causing men to think inappropriately about me, implying that it is my responsibility to control other people’s thoughts and drives,” said Claire. It was then and there that Clare hatched her revenge plot.
As she was being escorted, crying, from the venue, Clare says she asked the security guard what he made of the situation. “I asked the security guy if my dress was compliant with the dress code and if he had noticed any inappropriateness in my behavior and
he said he didn’t think I did anything to get kicked out but it wasn’t his call,” Clare wrote. And despite that the fact that they were all told they would get refunds for the tickets, Clare was the only one who got her money back.
“We walked out of the prom, frustrated and angry and feeling very disrespected and violated,” Clare said. But Clare wouldn’t let it end there. She took to the internet to blow the whistle on this injustice, and women the world over heard her message loud and clear.
Since the incident, angry people from all over took to the Facebook page of the Richmond Homeschool Prom to express their disgust at the situation, and the administrators deleted all the comments. Now, it appears that they have deleted their page altogether. One person, however, is standing up for the decision to kick her out.
“The whole situation made me feel violated, walked over, and ostracized,” wrote Clare in a blog post. “How is it that what I look like and how I dress constitutes the level of respect you give me?” However, when pressed by CBS News, Mrs. Duncan had another side of the story to tell.
She says the dress may have been the right length when Clare arrived, but that the outfit’s spandex fabric caused it to ride up. “It was right below her butt cheeks by the time I saw her,” Mrs. Duncan told WTVR. While Mrs. Duncan says she didn’t see Clare dance, her comments that the dads were gathered
on a balcony staring at her are unlikely. “It was very crowded,” Ms Duncan said. “There were 500 kids there, so to be able to even say what they were looking at would be really difficult.” But Clare is standing behind her blog post, and released a scathing video along with her boyfriend to counter Mrs. Duncan.
“I was informed by more then one friend who stayed at the prom throughout the course of the evening that there was some truly dirty dancing,” Clare retorts, “and that there were several couples making out and grinding on the dance floor, and yet out of a group of 500 people, only one person, (me) got thrown out for inappropriate dancing.” “I think both parties
could have acted a little bit differently obviously but the way that it went down it was fine because people need to follow the rules,” Callie Hobbs, a student who went to the dance. She says she saw Clare “grinding.” Nevertheless, Clare continued to stand up for herself, writing about the prom online and recapping the events of the night on video and in interviews.
“When the lady kicked me out, they said the dads had complained about my dancing and that meant that they had to have been watching me,” Clare fired back. The seventeen-year-old felt that she had been targeted because her body was more mature than those of some of the other
girls in the room. “This is a message to girls built like me, who can’t find jeans that fit!” Care wrote in her blog. “The girls with long legs, who are forced to prove that their dresses fit the dress code, just because they have more leg showing then most girls.”
“This is a message to the women who understand that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you pin a dress, you’re still going to have cleavage show when you bend over,” Clare wrote. “Enough with the
slut shaming,” Clare continued. “I’m not responsible for some perverted 45 years old dad lusting after me because I have a sparkly dress on. And if you think I am, then maybe you’re part of the problem.”
Ever since the story has gone viral, Clare has received an outpouring of support, with readers responding on Facebook, her blog post and across the media. And yet, neither the Richmond Homeschool Prom nor the individuals who had asked her to leave
have ever reached out to Clare to discuss what had happened. “We were verbally promised a full refund for our group, we received only a refund for my ticket, they need to refund 5 more tickets for our group,” Clare wrote.
Nevertheless, Clare stands by her posts and hopes the attention that the incident received has contributed to the examination of dress codes in both her own community and others. The case perfectly illustrates the problems kids and parents face and poses a dangerous question.
With teenage girls shopping for the perfect dress, selections bordering on the wildly inappropriate to many parents, are we living in a culture that sexualizes girls at younger and younger age? And as a parent, what can we do to mitigate this?