By Sharon Atieno Onyango
Published November 18, 2015
“You cannot get on campus dressed like that!” the security guard tells the final year university student at the gate.
The girl, dressed in tight trousers and a bare-back top with parts of her sprouting breasts pointing provocatively at the guard, attempts to force her way into the half-open gate.
“Don’t you know the approved Dress Code that you pledged to abide by on admission? Please go back and change!” the guard orders, closing the gate.
“I don’t see anything wrong with my dressing nor did my parents when I left home,” the girl retorts as a crowd of curious onlookers gathers to watch the unfolding drama.
The 23-year-old student of Broadcast Communication is let in but ordered to go straight to the Office of The Dean of Students where she is handed a two-week suspension letter and required to report back with her parents and a letter from her Pastor confirming her willingness to follow the school rules.
This drama unfolded at one of the two private universities in Nairobi that, alarmed by what they consider ‘irresponsible dressing’ among young students, have come up with a Dress Code that forbids students from wearing ‘revealing’ and ‘provocative’ clothes.
The Dress Code of Daystar University, for instance, stresses “cleanliness, modesty and decency” for both men and women. The standard of dress for women in this Evangelical Christian institution includes ‘below knee-length dresses and skirts when sitting and standing and ‘knee-length skirt slits’. Unacceptable dressing for female students, according to the Code, includes “low necklines, body-tight trousers, bare-backs, navel-gazers (tumbo-cut), and see-through clothing and spaghetti tops, among others.”
Men, on the other hand, are expected to wear “properly groomed hair without braiding it in any form of locks or braids. They are not allowed to either wear head-scarf, earring and studs, sagging trousers, hats or display their bare chest in class or chapel.”
The Code further forbids having tattoos and piercing of any part of the body for both male and female students. It however permits women to pierce their ears, if they so wish.
The Dress Code of Strathmore University, a Roman Catholic-sponsored institution, may not be as overt or as specific as that of Daystar’s. But it nevertheless urges students to wear ‘modest clothes’ out of self-respect and human dignity. It encourages students “to dress in simple, decent, modest and appropriate attire.”
Any student who fails to adhere to the Dress Code is either issued with a warning letter, sent home to change, suspended from school or even expelled.
Perhaps these schools are ‘protecting’ their students from self-styled ‘fashion police’ who have attacked and stripped women on the streets of Nairobi and other major towns in Kenya and across East Africa in the-not-so-distant past over what they consider ‘inappropriate dressing’.
Here, it is not uncommon to see women walking in the streets in body-hugging transparent elastic trousers and short T-shirts that expose pant-lines and the contours of their well endowed bodies. Some women wear push-up bras which make their boobs bulge out as if they want to free themselves from prison.
It is no longer shocking to go to an office and find women in mini-skirts which are not only tight but also show their thighs such that when they stand they keep on pulling the already short skirt down or extremely fitting blouses which, when they lean on a desk or when seated and you are standing above them, it seems as if their breasts are threatening to come out.
It is embarrassing to board a matatu public commuter vehicle, and when the woman in front of you stands to alight, her underwear or part of her buttocks are exposed because the small blouse she is wearing does not adequately cover her body. Some male passengers, too, are an embarrassment when standing in a matatu; their boxers and underpants are exposed.
And this disturbing mode of dress is not confined to streets, offices and matatus; even news presenters are caught up in the craze. Dressed in mini-skirts and short dresses, such people expose their thighs and panties on national television.
Although, we want to look stylish and fashionable we should not push the limit too far, nobody has ever complained of too much decent dressing.
Oscar de la Renta, a famous fashion designer once said,” Being well dressed hasn’t much to do with good clothes. It’s a question of good balance and common sense.”