Meanwhile, in Catholic School ...

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Responding to our callout for weird dress codes, many readers who attended Catholic schools recall a strict set of rules. Or as Deborah Qualls summarizes it, “Catholic school. Enough said.”

Another reader, Angela Zalucha, gets more specific:

We couldn’t wear shirts with writing on them (and I think logos/pictures too), all because some girl wore a shirt with a pig that said “pig out.” How on earth is that offensive or in bad taste? #CatholicSchool

Kathie Enright Boucher remembers one day in the late ‘60s at her Catholic women’s college:

I was wearing plaid wool Bermuda shorts and coordinated cardigan and knee socks. I was sent back to my dorm room by a nun and told to change into a “nice dress.” To go bowling.

Charlotte Newman recalls a battle over nylons:

I spent four unpleasant years during the 1960s at a Catholic high school in Central New York. We girls wore brown wool jumpers whose skirts had to touch the floor when we were kneeling, but the really weird part of the uniform was located below the knees. In addition to Spaulding saddle shoes and brown or white ribbed socks, we had to wear nylon stockings. With seams. Under the socks.

I presume the seam requirement enabled the nuns to see that we were really wearing stockings, though we sometimes used eyebrow pencil to try to fool them. I believe that the rationale behind the rule was that No Lady Goes Out of the House Without Wearing Nylons, but maybe the Virgin Mary was thought to have worn them.

Bianca, who asked we not identify her further “since my parents still attend the church that the school is attached to,” describes an attempt to turn shoelaces into a teachable moment:

Our conservative K-12 private Catholic school in California had some extremely weird dress code rules. The one I remember most was the mandate for blue, black, or white shoelaces. Our dress code already required that we all wear lace-up shoes. My 13-year-old self’s attempt to weave green into our uniform for St. Patrick’s Day meant that mine were green. My classmate who started all the ruckus had rainbow colored shoelaces after hers broke. Apparently, staff deemed these “distracting” (but in hindsight, I realized they were upset that it could be perceived as supporting gay rights).

We ended up spending two weeks of class discussing shoelaces instead of history. I’m honestly surprised parents didn’t complain more, since they actually paid tuition for instruction time. I’ve never felt so rebellious for wearing sneakers since.