Sunday, July 18, 2021

Margie Kelley Breaks the Dress Code

Farr, Bridget. Margie Kelley Breaks the Dress Code
July 13th 2021 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Margie goes shopping with her father (her mother died when she was a baby) and gets the perfect skirt for the first day of 6th grade, but when she wears it, her teacher measures the distance from the hem to her knees and sends Margie to the office on a dress code violation. She has to wear an old pair of gym shorts instead, getting her negative attention. She and her best friend Daniela are interested in being on the Quiz Bowl team, but Margie finds sexism there as well. Most of the team are boys, and there is only one girl of color on the team. Margie starts taking notes about how girls are treated in class as well, and finds that they aren't called on as often. She is so angry that she wears her skirt again, gets dress coded, and has to spend the day in In School Suspension. There, she finds that girls of color have an even harder time with the administration and are dress coded more often. Boys who wear shorts that aren't long enough are completely ignored. Irritated, she decides to stage a protest that just gets her in more trouble with the administration. There are some teachers who are more progressive than others, but Margie and her friends still feel that the culture of their school needs to change. Will they be able to make their voices heard?
Strengths: This book is completely on trend with all manner of current social concerns. Body positivity, fourth wave feminism, intersectionality, gender issues, racial issues, and how to effectively run a protest are all covered in modern, politically correct ways. Margie is shy at first, but becomes emboldened when the situation motivates her. I enjoyed all of the details about Quiz Bowl teams and competitions. The principal and teachers are not depicted as being completely close minded, which is refreshing to see. Readers who enjoyed Mathieu's Moxie (2017), Pola's Leggings Revolt (2016), Schroeder's Don't Judge Me (2020),  or Firestones Dress Coded (2020) will want to add this to their reading list. 
Weaknesses: This ended a bit abruptly, and I wasn't wild about the depiction of the grandmother. While certainly all of my grandparents had dentures, Margie's grandmother, even if she was raised in Ireland, seemed unlikely to have them. (This article is from 11 years ago!) Margie is critical of her grandmother and her hidebound ways, but also is judgmental about what her grandmother wears and how she looks! Even though the first chapter starts with a protest sign reading "Clothing does NOT define us", Margie herself describes a teacher who addresses intersectionality and other current sociopolitical ideas this way: "She's definitely the most fashionable. Today she's wearing a floral tunic over black leggings and a thick neon yellow chain necklace." What we wear matters a LOT, and Margie herself delivers a mixed message.
What I really think: Since my students have been wearing pajama pants, athletic slides, ball caps, hoodies, midriff tops, blankets around their shoulders, and shorts so short that their butt cheeks practically hang out and no one has said anything this year , I don't think they will relate to this title. When we did have a dress code, it was equally enforced, and girls were never called out for "being a distraction". Perhaps this is the way things are in Texas, but here is Ohio we moved on from measuring shorts, checking how low necklines are, and prohibiting leggings so long ago that we had a teacher wearing running tights and a flannel shirt the other day. 
 Ms. Yingling


  1. I remember some mean girl told my niece when they were both in 6th or 7th grade that shorts had to be longer than their little finger (lying flat at their side, if that makes sense). This was when they were both on the bus and it was too late to change. Poor little Victoria! She was upset all day although no adult mentioned it (the mean girl later withdrew from school with personality issues, which I guess we saw early on).

    When I showed up last week at a local public library for my first real stint of being a librarian (and can I tell you that just working in the children's room from 6-9 was exhausting?!), I was started to see the assistant director wearing a skin tight outfit that looked like very short biking shorts and a matching tank! I thought I must be late and she had changed into a outfit to ride home in and started apologizing. Puzzled, she told me I was early and I swallowed the rest of my comments. Let alone, it was so cold I needed a sweater.

    1. We used to say that shorts had to be that long, and for a while it wasn't easy to find them for my daughters, who luckily are not overly tall. This year...pfft. I believe in a higher level of professionalism, and since jackets are inexpensive at the thrift store, there is no excuse! I will have to go back to posting my outfit of the day on my blog. The pandemic made it hard to put too much effort into dressing, but we'll see how many days in a row I can wear a skirt. I love it when students are surprised when I wear jeans! Congrats on the new job!