In Defense of School Uniforms and School Dress Codes and Dressing Up

I see many who claim that the reason their high school sends them home for wearing yoga pants or shirts that show too much "shoulder" is to keep the "guys" from being distracted, which is a sexist reason, and girls should be able to wear clothes that "look good" to school.

This, to my mind, shows educators and students both are missing the point.

Some religious sects mandate modest clothing for women at all times because suggestive clothing is distracting for men (hijab, bhurkha, sheitl, etc). I agree that these rules are completely sexist and have no place being enforced by public schools or workplaces in this country. Similarly, educators modeling clothing dress codes for the same reason are completely sexist and should be kicked out of schools and workplaces.

Other religious sects encourage modest and nice clothing (Sunday Best) for people attending church for an entirely different reason. This reason I can support.

Dress codes have long existed - probably for thousands of years. Clubs and restaurants require gentlemen wear ties and jackets. Businesses and some professions have long had dress codes requiring suits. Hospitals require nurses and doctors to wear scrubs. These are not a question of whether a suit or scrubs is less distracting than other garments. These rather serve a different purpose. (In the caes of scrubs, hygiene. In the case of ties and jackets, probably not hygiene. But what?)
A much mocked book from the 1970's was called "Dress for Success." It argued wearing more professional-looking clothes enhanced a person's career. More recently, an academic study in a peer-reviewed journal showed that students who were more professionally dressed did better on standardized exams. What is going on here?

Higher, more professional levels of dress demonstrate respect for the school or work environment, and in this way benefit the dresser (not the observer). It's almost like an unconscious seed which runs as follows: "I can succeed at dressing the part of someone who is successful in this environment, therefore I must be able to perform the part." To extend the benefits of dressing well to not only the top students, but to all students, public schools define and enforce dress codes or uniforms.

But even schools that don't have uniforms can enhance the respect they demand from the students by demanding they respect a dress code. Not for anyone else, but for the students' own sense of self. If everyone had to dress up for the SAT's, and then everyone did better, is this such a bad thing?

Whoever you are, wherever you are, dress for yourself. Dress for who you are, but also who you want to be. Dress as if your grandmother was going to be there (if you like your grandmother). 

Another reason to dress non-provocatively (beyond it demonstrates you don't have sufficient respect for the school environment or yourself) is that everyone who sees you can be titillated. Do you really want that? Marlene Dietrich could distract men with the tone of her voice or the twist of her lips. Women, so can you. When you want to. Don't share with everyone what is worth directing at one or two guys.