See the Long-Sleeved Gown That Got a Plus-Size Teen Booted From Prom
It’s supposed to be the most special evening of a student’s high school experience. But thanks to a controversy over her dress, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, teenager Alexus Miller-Wigfall’s prom night turned into a nightmare. Her floor-length red gown was deemed inappropriate by school officials, who chose to boot her from the event and subsequently gave her a one-day suspension from school.
According to Miller-Wigfall, who is a senior at the SciTech division of Harrisburg High School, although the gown fully covered her body, the school’s assistant principal said the size of her breasts was an issue. Miller-Wigfall said she received compliments from other educators—including district superintendent Knight Burney—but she was asked to leave the dance. Three days later, she was notified that she would be suspended for one day because her gown did not meet the prom’s dress code requirements.
“[The assistant principal] said, ‘You have more boobs than other girls. The other girls have less to show,’ ” the teen told Penn Live.
After pushback from Miller-Wigfall’s mom, Alisha Sneed, and backlash from the community and on social media, district officials decided that Miller-Wigfall would not have to serve her suspension on Friday. “The Harrisburg School District believes that proms are celebratory and memorable events in the lives of its students. Our administration, school board, faculty, and advisors strive to ensure that students enjoy themselves immensely while abiding by attire guidelines and expectations that support and promote the elegance of the prom season,” the district said in a statement. Neither school representatives nor school district officials were available for comment.
Sneed said her daughter was targeted because she is plus-size and “not flat-chested.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” Sneed told the newspaper. “I don’t see anything wrong with that dress. What do they want her to wear, a turtleneck?”
It’s fairly common for schools to have a dress code for prom to prevent attire that may be particularly revealing or inappropriate. As is the case with rules for the rest of the school year, prom regulations tend to focus on what girls are wearing. Guys attending Harrisburg High’s prom were required to wear a tuxedo or a suit and were prohibited from wearing sneakers. However, the attire rules for girls required dresses to be approved in advance—they couldn't be backless or have a high slit or a deep V-neck.
The emphasis on girls’ outfits is often perceived as slut shaming; critics say schools are making girls cover up so they don’t provoke a sexual reaction from boys. Or, in some cases, from their fathers: Last May a teen in Richmond, Virginia, was booted from her prom after one of the chaperoning dads complained that her “provocative” dress was causing other dads at the event to think “impure thoughts.”
Sneed said she sent photos of the dress that her daughter planned to wear to the April 25 event to school officials. The initial design was rejected, so the dress, which mom and daughter created, was modified to include longer sleeves and more fabric over the bust. The school district’s spokesperson, Kirsten Keys, told the paper that the teenager’s dress wasn’t approved by the school’s deadline.
Some people are outraged by more than the dress code enforcement. On her popular site Phat Skinny Chic, blogger Jay’L Harris expressed concern over the body shaming that Miller-Wigfall experienced. In a post on Monday, Harris detailed the pain and embarrassment she had suffered as a 12-year-old with double-D breasts—something she couldn’t help.
“I remember grown women telling my mom how to dress me so my boobs wouldn’t show or I wouldn’t tempt their sons and husbands,” Harris wrote. “I believe the administrator [in Miller-Wigfall’s case] did more harm than good. She punished and tarnished a young woman’s character to save teenage boys from lusting.”
As for Miller-Wigfall’s mom, she maintains that her daughter’s gown was gorgeous.
“I strongly feel there was nothing wrong with her dress,” Sneed told Penn Live. “My daughter’s dress was tasteful and classy.”