Gabi Finlayson was heartbroken after she was humiliated by school officials who considered her simple lace dress ‘too scandalous’ for revealing her bare shoulders. In reality the dress is a perfect example of modest elegance, but that’s not the school’s opinion. Shortly after arriving at Lone Peak High School’s preference dance, Gabi was taken aside and asked to cover up because her dress was too revealing.
“I didn’t want to make a big scene so I said, yes. I had a coat in the car so I had to go back and get it,” she told KUTV. She wore the heavy winter coat for the rest of the dance. “I still stayed at the dance because it had been something I looked forward to, but I did feel really embarrassed and ashamed,” Gabi told TODAY. “It was hard for me because that was a night I was supposed to feel really beautiful and special. This was really hurtful and it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough.”
Gabi felt embarrassed and angry. “Somehow my shoulders are sexualized,” she said. “Like it’s my responsibility to make sure the boys’ thoughts are not unclean.” Gabi was one of four other students out of 1200 attending the dance who were asked to cover their shoulders.
The school’s principal Rhonda Bromley cited the incredibly strict dress code, which states:
Formals, backless dresses and/or tops may not extend beyond the bottom of the shoulder blades. Girls’ dresses and tops must have a 2″ minimum strap on each shoulder. Shawls, boleros and other shrugs are acceptable if worn over the dress at all times. Cleavage covered.”
Gabi’s dress can hardly be considered revealing. She purposely selected the garment because it resembled the classic graceful fashion style of Audrey Hepburn and it fit within the school’s dress code, unlike the attire of many other students. “There were a lot of dresses that were very short, very tight, a lot more exposing or revealing than mine.”
Kristy Kimball, Gabi’s mother, is furious. In an interview with TODAY, Kimball said, “The message is sent to her and other girls in this community that what they wear affects boys’ thinking, and that they’re somehow responsible if boys have sexual thoughts about them, and that boys will think you’re a slut if you wear certain things. There’s a hyper emphasis on dressing modestly as a girl because you don’t want to be responsible for what a boy thinks. It’s a subtler version of victim blaming.”
Gabi isn’t letting the humiliation of this event get her down. She’s started an Instagram page devoted to helping empower other young women. “It was obviously really embarrassing at the time, but I would like to be an advocate for other girls who might feel insecure or self-conscious,” she told TODAY. “I see this as an opportunity for me to share my feelings and this situation and help others.”
Kimball applauds her daughter’s response. “Girls are under so much pressure in our society to look thin enough, to be pretty enough. And to layer on top of that, this idea that normal body parts, like a shoulder, is somehow pornographic and will make people think sexual thoughts? It’s really tough for girls to come away feeling confident in their own skin these days. And that’s all I want for my daughters, for them to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin and not be self conscious or ashamed or embarrassed of who they are.”