Are leggings too revealing to wear to school?
The debate over the tight-fitting pants, which have been the topic of controversy since the likes of Kim Kardashian first turned up in skintight spandex, has arrived in Sonoma County middle schools, and leggings are losing.
With less than two months left in the school year, administrators at several local schools are cracking down on the stretchy garments, telling girls to cover up the hip region or choose something different to wear.
"They are not pants," said Emily Dunnagan, principal at Petaluma's Kenilworth Junior High, where a storm of criticism and confusion erupted last week after the school warned girls their leggings could distract boys. The school instructed girls to wear leggings underneath other clothes that covered their hips.
Rincon Valley Middle School Principal Matt Marshall, chagrined even to have to broach the topic, instructed parents in February to make sure girls were wearing shorts or skirts over sheer or form-fitting leggings.
"You could see more than you wanted to see," Marshall said this week. "It was making some people uncomfortable, students and staff."
Though they differ slightly depending on the campus, school dress codes generally prohibit see-through clothing, sagging pants and other outfits that reveal undergarments or too much skin.
But some students seem stunned by the notion that leggings go beyond the line of decency.
"Aren't we in America?" asked Diana Figueroa, an eighth-grader at Santa Rosa Middle School, which is mulling new restrictions on leggings for next year. "We should decide whether we like it or not."
Sonoma County schools are not the first to wrestle with what Huffington Post style editor Jessica Misener once dubbed "leggings-pants-pocalypse." Schools in Minnesota, Vermont and Maryland already have waged high-profile battles.
Willowside Middle School has had a no-leggings rule in the dress code for several years, said Brett Page, the teacher in charge. While students still occasionally push the boundaries and are required to put on gym clothes or call home for a wardrobe change, "it's something that's easy for us because it's clearly stated in our dress code," Page said.
But the leggings issue crept up on some Sonoma County school staffers who had finally grown used to the ultra-tight, skinny jeans that many young people find fashionable.
Where jeans may fit like sausage casings, they at least have zippers, waistbands and, often, pockets, requiring construction and fabric weights that mask some anatomical detail.
Leggings are lighter weight -- some so much so they're practically transparent when stretched thin.
Girls say they like them because they're comfortable, come in lots of patterns, and are cooler in warm temperatures and less binding than jeans.
The trade-off is they're more revealing than anything else students might wear on the lower half.
One Santa Rosa Middle School student, Jacqueline Calder?, 14, said she already chooses not to wear leggings because "it shows too much."
"I think they're inappropriate," she said.
But most girls want to police their own dress. In particular, they object to the idea that what they wear should be dictated by the hormonal challenges of their male classmates, as some adults suggest when they tout outfits that won't distract the boys.