Clare Ettinger and her boyfriend James Thompson were thrilled to be attending their first high school prom together. The Prom theme was “Twilight in Paris” and it promised to be a memorable night. However, 17-year old Clare had no idea that her night would end early, all because of chaperones and dads who were scandalized by her cocktail dress.
19. Prom Night
Even homeschooled children go to the prom. A group of homeschooled teenagers who do activities together attended a prom affiliated with a local church. Clare Ettinger was extremely excited to have the opportunity to go to prom. As a tall, curvy girl, she always idolized Marilyn Monroe. When she started looking for the perfect prom dress, Clare wanted something sparkly and gorgeous. But there was one more thing that was important to her.
18. Carefully Selecting a Dress
Clare wanted to be sure she complied with the event’s dress code. Organizers required young women to wear dresses that were long enough to correspond to their fingertips. As long as the dress was below the fingertip line, it was within the rules. At least that’s what organizers said until Clare and James showed up at the prom.
17. Looking Fabulous
The prom was held at the Methodist Church. Clare and her date arrived dressed to the nines. Clare had blonde hair, lipstick, and sparkly silver dress. James and Clare were ready to dance the night away. However, the adults had other ideas.
16. No Rules Were Broken
As soon as Clare arrived, she attracted unwanted attention from the adults. A chaperone named Anne Duncan immediately told Clare that her dress was too short. Patiently Clare showed her that the dress was longer than her fingertips so she had not broken any rule. She politely told Duncan that the dress only looked different than what the other girls were wearing because she was tall and curvy.
15. Pulling Down the Dress
Many of Clare’s classmates were wearing dresses that were even shorter. However, they looked different to Duncan and the adults because they were smaller and more petite. Duncan told her “well, make sure it stays pulled down. It’s too short.” With that Clare and James hoped their problems were behind them. They hadn’t even made it into the ballroom.
14. Shorter Dresses
Once they entered the ballroom, Clare remembered laughing because “I Was Surrounded By Girls In Much Shorter Dresses Than Me, Albeit They Were Shorter, And Therefore Stood Out Less In The Crowd, But It Was Still Frustrating.” The other thing that stood out to the teens was the sheer volume of adults in the room.
13. Fathers Were Watching
“I Felt Violated By The Sheer Number Of Male Parents That Were Assigned To Do Nothing For Five Hours Other Than Watch Girls In Short Dresses And Heels Dance To Upbeat Music.” That’s when Clare and her friends noticed a group of fathers standing on a balcony looking down at all the young women. What’s worse was that they were frowning and pointing at Clare.
12. Dads With Impure Thoughts
Then one of the organizers found Clare and ordered her to go to the side of the church. It was Duncan again, but this time she was accompanied by another chaperone. “She took me into a corner in the hallway, with another woman – who I’m assuming was a parent chaperons. She also told me that some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thought.”
11. She Followed the Rules
Clare quickly rebutted these assertions. She had yet to even dance, so there could not have been any provocative dancing going on. She also explained that she had adhered to the dress code. “I never signed any documentation agreeing to adhere to any sort of dress code, and the dress code that was verbally communicated to me was followed to the letter.”
When confronted with facts, Duncan and the chaperone ordered Clare to leave. She and her friends had been there for less than 30 minutes. James came to Clare’s defense. “That’s fine, she wasn’t doing anything wrong but if you’re kicking her out then the group that she came with is leaving too and you’ll need to refund all of our tickets,” he said.
9. Security Agreed With Clare
Duncan refused to entertain the idea of a refund for anyone except Clare and even that was dubious. “I will not debate with you about this!” she yelled, forcing Clare and her friends to the exit. On her way out Clare asked a security guard if her dress was too short. He said he didn’t think it was, but the decision was not his to make.
8. Defending Herself
After prom, Clare decided to speak out about what happened to her. “I have long legs and I was wearing a sparkly dress, I didn’t look like most of the 13-15 year old girls there, I looked like a woman. As, I am so tired of people who abuse their power to make women feel violated and ashamed. I was told that the way I dressed and moved my body was causing men to think inappropriately about me, implying that it is my responsibility to control other people’s thoughts and drives.”
6. Chaperone Comments
As the furor spread online, the chaperones claimed they weren’t looking at her. But Clare and her friends knew what they saw. Duncan continued to claim that the fabric of Clare’s dress somehow made it ride up a few centimeters, and therefore it broke the rule. “The dress was right below her b*** cheeks by the time I saw her,” Duncan said. Imagine having a chaperone examining every inch of your body!
5. They Told Her the Dads Were Watching
Duncan claimed the fathers couldn’t have been watching Clare since there were “500” students in the room. But that ignores the fact that “When the lady kicked me out, they said the dads had complained about my dancing and that meant that they had to have been watching me.”
4. Bodies Are Not Shameful
Clare wrote about her experience online, did interviews and made a vlog telling women and girls that there is nothing shameful about their bodies. “This is a message to girls built like me, who can’t find jeans that fit! The girls with long legs, who are forced to prove that their dresses fit the dress code, just because they have more leg showing than most girls.”
3. Adults Were the Problem
“This is a message to the women who understand that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you pin a dress, you’re still going to have cleavage show when you bend over. Enough with the s*** shaming. I’m not responsible for some perverted 45 years old dad lusting after me because I have a sparkly dress on. And if you think I am, then maybe you’re part of the problem.”
2. Public Outcry
Clare’s story went viral. Some people pointed out that James was black, and it was possible the chaperones and fathers didn’t like that they were an interracial coupe. Many people were outrage by the way Clare was treated. But when they started peppering the organizers’ Facebook with comments, Clare called them off. She didn’t want the people who organized the prom to feel harassed.
1. Empowering Others
Nevertheless, the organizers still preferred to shut down their Facebook group rather than defend their actions, face criticism and engage with their critics. In the meantime, the organizers never refunded Clare’s money. Clare heard from hundreds of women who supported her and could relate to her story. They felt empowered by the way Clare handled herself. Clare is hoping that her story will start a discussion about dress codes and the shaming of women’s bodies at other school events.