No plunging necklines or revealing splits will be on show at next month's Kerikeri High School Ball after students opted for "gender inclusive" formal attire.

The July 27 ball dress code was announced in the school's newsletter three weeks ago and included a detailed outline of what up to 350 Year 11, 12 and 13 students may wear on the night.

That included a high neckline on dresses that did not show cleavage, a split only to the knee and a full-length skirt to below the ankle for girls.

No spaghetti back straps or cut-aways across the chest were allowed and if students did not comply they would be refused entry.

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For young men the code was formal including ties to be worn at all times, one-colour suits and proper dress shoes.

"Boots, trainers, sandals and jandals are not appropriately formal."

The types of dresses the must not be worn at a high school ball, as decided by students who want an
The types of dresses the must not be worn at a high school ball, as decided by students who want an "inclusive" dress code this year. Photo / Supplied

White-tie, complete with tails, white gloves and a top-hat - which was the dress code for President Donald Trump's State dinner with the Queen in Britain earlier this month - was acceptable as were semi-formal business suits.

Principal Elizabeth Forgie said the dress code was driven by students and there had been no feedback, leading her to believe the ball committee had adopted the right tack.

"The students wanted something that was going to be more inclusive. It's gender inclusive."

She said it was not gender specific, and catered to any body-type, bodies of all "shapes and sizes".

The Ball Dress Student Advisory Group, made up of students and staff, made the decisions, Forgie said.

She said the drawings on the newsletter were done by the students and images of what was acceptable and unacceptable were supplied by them.

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The theme of this year's ball was a "closely guarded secret" but students took full ownership Forgie said, designing tickets, decorating the auditorium, and running the event with parents and teachers.

There was even some ballroom dancing with the highlight of the night the "Circle Waltz", previously known as The Gay Gordons.

Forgie said the ball had always been a very formal occasion but this year students decided to articulate the dress code to avoid any confusion or anyone being sent home.

"The last thing the students wanted is that someone might misinterpret what has always been a written guidance and we don't want to spoil anybody's night.

"We want to make sure that all students feel included by the dress code. And that it suits all kinds of students."

Sketches in a school newsletter supplied by students at Kerikeri High School on the style of dress acceptable at their school ball in July. Photo / Supplied
Sketches in a school newsletter supplied by students at Kerikeri High School on the style of dress acceptable at their school ball in July. Photo / Supplied

Hillcrest High School in Hamilton did not have a dress code for its school ball in August, other than formal, principal Kelvin Whiting said.

"Students can wear what they like as long as they are within those boundaries of formal attire."

Whiting said it had not been necessary to enforce a specific dress code, only to ensure the ball remained a formal occasion.

Evolution Clothing creative director Miranda Cobb said the dress code seemed out of kilter with young women's attitudes toward body image today.

"These kids are so used to seeing bodies on social media because it's so acceptable now to show and be proud of your body."

She had seen a magazine advertising campaign in London last week showing a size 16 model, wearing a bardot satin top and tube skirt, next to a size 8 model.

"Why can't a size 16 girl wear the same dress as a size 8? Nowadays these girls don't body shame each other. If a transgender person wore a plunging dress I think they would be supported."

Cobb said fashion was an important expression of personality.

"Restricting people's fashion choices is restricting who they are. You need to be able to let people express themselves, whether that's through clothing or music or art."

One of Evolution Bridesmaids' most popular ball dresses, the signature Wrap Dress, would not be acceptable at Kerikeri High School's ball. Photo / Evolution Clothing
One of Evolution Bridesmaids' most popular ball dresses, the signature Wrap Dress, would not be acceptable at Kerikeri High School's ball. Photo / Evolution Clothing

Cobb believed a plunging backline was more provocative and said the signature dress on the Evolution Bridesmaids website, a wrap dress with a high split, had been very popular at balls in previous years.

But she noticed dresses were more conservative this ball season, with many teenagers enlisting the help of their grandmothers to make one-off outfits.

Rainbow Youth communications manager Toni Duder applauded the principal and staff for following the students' lead.

Duder praised the school's effort to be inclusive because of past incidents at another school where students had been made to declare their sexuality to bring a same-sex partner to the ball.

"As long as the dressing descriptions don't shut out people who might want to dress differently.

"For example guys who want to maybe wear a more feminine outfit or women who don't want to wear a dress, or non-binary people who want to mix it up.

"I think it's really important that people are allowed to express themselves within reason."