Port: Schools should cool it with the dress-up days

What's fun about a dress-up day when just about every day is a dress-up day?

School buses make their rounds on the first day of school at South Elementary in West Fargo on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — Can we talk about school dress-up days?

Because the situation is out of control.

I'm talking about the instructions from the schools to dress your child to match some theme. Like everyone wears a particular color, or school spirit regalia, or Hawaiian shirts.

These days were cute and only a little annoying a decade and a half ago when my oldest child commenced her trip through the public school system. But back then, they happened with far less frequency.

This year my youngest started kindergarten, and it's escalated to the point of being problematic.


School commenced in August.

It is now October.


Based on the calendars sent home by the school amid the forest-destroying blizzard of paperwork they carpet bomb us with (a topic for another column, perhaps), we've had maybe five school days that didn't come with an edict for sartorial customization.
This week it's western attire. The first day of the week is just jeans, but our tykes are supposed to be kitted out by Friday with jeans, a western shirt, boots, a bandana, and a hat.

It's optional.

It's not like my son will be docked a grade if he doesn't stroll into school looking like an adorable Wyatt Earp. But I also don't want him in class looking at all the other kids dressed up, wondering why his dad couldn't make an effort.

So this week, we'll be figuring out boots and a hat and a bandana, and it will only be a mild aggravation. It wouldn't even be that if these were the only dress-up days of the school year so far. Even if that were true, my thoughts would still turn to those families who aren't so lucky as to have our level of disposable income.

Can you imagine how challenging this aggressive wardrobe regime must be for parents who are struggling to make ends meet?


How difficult must it be for families that fight an uphill battle to keep their kids in well-fitting, reasonably untattered clothing?

Think about fighting to get your kids good clothes in good repair that will keep them warm and feeling confident during the school year, only to learn that it wasn't quite good enough because the clothes don't match up with the school's arcane costuming agenda.

Why should those parents, who are fighting the good fight to take care of their children, have to suffer a sense of humiliation because their family's meager wardrobe doesn't include something orange for orange day, let alone a complete western outfit?

We need to cool it with this stuff.

I imagine those who disagree with me will argue that these days are fun and engaging, and I certainly agree that they can be, except what's fun about a dress-up day when just about every day is a dress-up day?

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .


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Rob Port

Rob Port column sig
Rob Port

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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