Photo Sexy Clubwear Students discontented with a dress code at Stuyvesant High School demonstrated on Wednesday by wearing short-shorts, tank tops and spaghetti-strap blouses. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times The first hint of the looming rebellion came from the lips of Hao Yang, 17, as he practiced ballroom dancing outside Stuyvesant High School on Wednesday morning, the first licks of sunlight casting a long shadow that made a perfect dance partner on the wall behind him.
"It's Wholesale Babydoll Lingerie Slutty Wednesday," said Hao, a senior from Brooklyn, who is headed to Carnegie Mellon University to study electrical engineering.
Within minutes, sfdgfghgjng a demonstration materialized on West Street, in Lower Manhattan, opposite the entrance to Stuyvesant, one of New York City's most prestigious public high schools: Scores of giddy students, who had mostly come up from the nearby subway portals, were massing under a tree.
Some peeled off sweatshirts, revealing tank tops and spaghetti-strap blouses. One boy stepped over to the tree's trunk, took off his pants and emerged in shorts whose hem he immediately began rolling up along his thigh.
Continue reading the main storyPieces of paper were dispersed, some bearing the message "Redress the Dress Code" typed in the center in small letters, others featuring a printout of the school's clothing guidelines, but with a big red "X" drawn through them.
Continue reading the main story What people were seeing, the students explained, was some steam being let off over their long-simmering discontent with a dress code Stuyvesant adopted last fall to combat some clothing styles the administration deemed unacceptable.
One rule says that any sayings and illustrations on clothing should be in "good taste." Another calls for shorts, dresses and skirts to extend at least beyond the fingertips when arms are extended straight down. A third bans the exposing of "shoulders, undergarments, midriffs and lower backs."
But the rules have been prompting waves of objections by students, particularly now that summerlike weather has arrived and, many noted, the school's air-conditioning has proved to be less than reliable.
Photo “We’re not coming in, like, naked,” said Andreas Petrossiants, 17, left, with Gil Spivak, also 17.“This is acceptable to wear by society’s standards.” Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times Even before the protest on Wednesday, students had been listing their grievances in online forums and in The Spectator, the student newspaper, with many girls arguing that the rules, and the enforcement of them, were disproportionately aimed at them. They also complained about one solution that administrators had developed for offenders: making them wear oversize gray T-shirts.
"We're going to overpower the gray T-shirts," said Madeline Rivera, 18, a senior, before walking into the school. "We're outnumbering them now."
She said the rules seemed arbitrary, that staff members seemed to go after certain "body shapes," singling out girls whose bodies are "more curvy."
"It's a double standard," said Madeline, who wore a skirt that ended around her hanging wrists and a covered-up spaghetti-strap blouse, which she revealed shortly before entering the building. "I'm going to take this sweatshirt off and expose my shoulders."
Continue reading the main storyStuyvesant's principal, Stanley Teitel, declined to comment on the dress code policy or the protest, which involved several hundred of the school's 3,300 students. But students who participated said there had been no crackdown or mass distribution of T-shirts, suggesting that the school was just letting it play out.
A number of schools have dress codes, an Education Department spokeswoman, Marge Feinberg, said, noting that some even have uniforms. Valerie J. Reidy, the principal at the Bronx High School of Science, another elite school, said that there was a "pretty long" dress code at her school, and that it existed in written form for "at least 15 years, if not more."
Thank you for subscribing. An error has occurred. Please try again later. You are already subscribed to this email. View all New York Times newsletters.
Outside Stuyvesant on Wednesday morning, the students, many of whom said they had their parents' support, offered rationales for their protest. "It's called Slutty Wednesday to symbolize that we're not actually slutty," said Benjamin Koatz, 18, a senior from Queens, whom many students credited with helping to organize the event via Facebook and other social media.
"That's the stigma, against wearing short-shorts," he added. "But actually, were wearing what's comfortable."
Photo Students produced their own illustrated version of the dress code, complete with a red "X" to reflect their opinion of the rules. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times Moments later, Benjamin jumped atop a concrete wall, with the boughs of the tree hanging above, and gave last-minute orders as if he were a field general before a military siege.
He said students should stick together if anyone was "pulled over." He suggested some answers they might give to the staff: "It's a comfort thing"; "In New York City, it is legal to be topless"; "I thought I'd dress a little more conservatively"; "I'm my own person, so deal with it."
Onward, the students went at 7:45 a.m., up over a footbridge that crosses West Street, toward the school's metal doors. Below them, on West Street, were adult joggers and mothers pushing baby strollers, some in provocative spandex or midriff-baring shorts and shirts.
The wooden planks of the bridge gave the scene a boardwalk feel.
"We're not coming in, like, naked," said Andreas Petrossiants, 17, who marched forth in a tank top and shorts. "This is acceptable to wear by society's standards."
Continue reading the main storyOne sophomore, Sweyn Venderbush, 16, said at lunchtime that he had mixed feelings about the protest.
"I don't know if what we're doing today is the right message to send," he said, questioning whether the protest's name furthered the cause, even if it was intended to be tongue in cheek.
Nonetheless, Sweyn, dressed in a preppy jacket and knee-length shorts, had joined in.
"I had my shorts rolled up for two periods," he said. "Better to participate in some way even if I don't totally agree."
Joel M. Winston, a technology teacher, said he believed that the clothing rules were not overly burdensome, adding that he thought some teachers could also dress better. Mr. Winston said culture, and parents, were to blame.
Despite the protest, he said he had seen many days when students, without an organized event, dressed more scantily.
"Today's better than most," he said.
Eric P. Newcomer contributed reporting.