Prom is one of the most important life events there is for a teenager. If you’ve been homeschooled then the night would naturally be a pivotal moment for celebration and camaraderie. One homeschooled Virginia teen, however, had that moment ripped away from her when she was kicked out of her own prom.
Seventeen-year-old Clare was hugely excited for her prom night. Indeed, she had even picked out the perfect dress: a glittery silver number that she had found after searching in six different stores. She had finally found something that she loved and – having saved weeks’ of tip money from her job – could afford.
Writing on her sister’s blog, Clare noted that the prom dress code was simple. “Ladies, please keep your dresses fingertip length or longer,” it read. Accordingly, the teen took care to check the length of the dress several times before leaving the store. Clare even tried her outfit on with heels, just to make sure that she would be complying with the rules. And she was confident that she would pass the test.
Describing herself as a tall and curvy girl, Clare had a particular goal that night – a Marilyn Monroe look – and she thought she looked classy. But when she showed up to the dance, hosted at a local Methodist church, the problems started.
Despite her meticulous preparation, when Clare arrived she was told that her dress was too short. But after quickly demonstrating that her outfit passed the fingertip test, the pretty partygoer was allowed to enter the prom. And Clare could only laugh when she went inside and saw that many girls there had dresses shorter than hers.
Even so, Clare had made it inside and was ready to celebrate the special night. A few minutes later, though, she noticed a line of dads looking down on her from the balcony above. Understandably, Clare and her friends felt deeply uncomfortable. And then, shortly afterwards, she was approached by a prom organizer, who took her aside.
“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.
Somewhat shocked, Clare defended herself and tried to clear up the situation. “At this point I said to her that I hadn’t been dancing at all! Much less seductively and that, even if I had been being inappropriate, they should issue a warning instead of just kicking me out,” she wrote.
Unfortunately, though, her attempts to resolve the situation failed. With the organizer now insisting that her dress was indeed too short, Clare was told that consequently she would have to leave. That, however, wasn’t the last indignity.
Clare’s exclusion from the prom had left her date and friends understandably upset. So much so, in fact, that they told the organizer that if she was going, then they would walk out with her – despite having spent only half an hour at the dance. But in spite of their protestations, Clare’s friends were told that the incident was “none of their business” and that only she would have her ticket refunded.
Visibly upset and with tears rolling down her cheeks, Clare was escorted out. However, as she left, she asked the security guard to clarify the situation for her. “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.
At this point, Clare felt disrespected, violated and angry. Indeed, she admitted that her group yelled profanities on their way out – and she personally flipped off the security guards.
However, speaking to WTVR, parent chaperone Ann Duncan said that she disagreed with the teenager. She explained that while the dress may have initially looked like it was the right length, as soon as she moved, it popped up. Additionally, Duncan thought that the outfit’s spandex fabric might well have resulted in it riding up.
The prom volunteer also moved to deny the claims made against the group of onlooking fathers. Duncan claimed that in a busy room it would be almost impossible to tell where they had been looking. 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.
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. She said her long legs and sparkly dress probably made her stand out, adding that she was tired of people trying to make women feel bad about their bodies.
“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. “This is a message to girls built like me, who can’t find jeans that fit because your ass is just too damn big! 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.”
Clare’s story soon went viral and was picked up by a wide range of news outlets. Many readers had their own opinion about what had happened and what the “real issue” was. Indeed, some even suspected that it might have been a race issue, as Clare’s date was black. However, the guy stated that he didn’t feel skin color had played any part in the incident, as the situation was already out of hand before anyone realized that he was her date.
Following an online backlash targeting the organizers of the event, Clare called for calm. Furthermore, she asked people not to harass the prom coordinator or leave comments about her. Meanwhile, the Homeschool Prom Facebook group deleted any comments referencing the incident. And soon afterwards, the page was deleted.
At the same time, Clare received an outpouring of support, with readers responding on Facebook, her blog post and across the media. Despite the story going viral, though, the Richmond Homeschool Prom never reached out to Clare to discuss what had happened. Furthermore, following private negotiation, her date was the only one to receive a refund for his ticket.
Still, although she did not receive an apology from the prom board or the individuals who had asked her to leave, Clare has moved on from the incident, going on to study for her finals. She 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.