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Education

Over-the-top school dress-up weeks have parents feeling grinchy

The holidays are busy enough without throwing "dress as your favorite Christmas song" into the mix.

grinch dressed in an ugly christmas sweater, tweet complaining about school dress-up days

Time to rein in the school dress-up days, folks.

Hey, kids! Happy December! We know that school can feel like drudgery, and it's been a few months since school started, and we want you to not hate coming here, so we decided to do something fun and festive that we think will create a sense of school pride and spirit! It's school dress-up week!

What this means is that during the busiest time of the year, when your parents are already up to their ears in holiday prep, shopping for and wrapping gifts, planning and attending work parties and end-of-year recitals and concerts, trying to navigate the emotional complexities of holiday family drama, trying to make your Christmas magical by moving that frickin' Elf on the Shelf every night, etc., we're going to add to the to-do list by pressuring them to help you come up with specific outfits to wear to school for an entire week. Doesn't that sound neat?

Dress-up weeks are fun on paper, and they can be fun when they're kept super simple. "Wear red or green!" is easy enough. "Dress as your favorite Christmas character!" though? Not so much.


Parents are crying uncle on over-the-top dressup weeks, saying it's just too much. A mom who goes by Mariah on X shared her frustration with how "ridiculous" the whole thing has become.

"I have 2 kids and 9 different dress up days next week," she wrote, before laying out some of the significant problems with said days:

"1. It expects families to be able to go out at the drop of a hat and get multiple Christmas character shirts and ugly sweaters at the most expensive time of year. It’s just another way to alienate kids whose families can’t afford a bunch of extra stuff or the mental load of the extra work.

2. It also assumes EVERYONE in the school celebrates Christmas and creates a whole week out of dressing up for it. Most people do celebrate Christmas where I live but then it’s even more alienating for people that don’t."

Then she offered a simple solution: "Have a PJ Day on the last day before break and call it good… please."

Mariah is certainly not the only parent to feel strongly about dress-up weeks—or months. Some parents shared that their young elementary school kids—second and third graders—had dress-up days the entire month of December leading up to the holiday break.

It's one thing when it's high schoolers who might have the ability to take themselves to a thrift store or whip together some kind of outfit themselves, but for elementary school kids, it's 100% on the parents.

Some teachers are even weighing in with why they dislike dress-up days as well, both for the annoyance and the lack of inclusivity.

Some people offered solutions that allow those who enjoy dress-up days to have their fun while taking the pressure off of everyone else. For instance, one teacher shared that her school dress-up days are always a specific way of dressing up OR wearing school colors. She said many of the students opt for school colors so no one feels like the odd one out for not wearing their PJs or holiday socks or whatever.

She said it's helpful for her as a teacher as well, since dress-up days are a lot of pressure and can mean spending extra money that a lot of teachers don't have to spend.

What if schools moved the dress-up days to January, when the holiday hustle and bustle has passed and the long winter could use an extra dose of fun? What if they kept them super simple, sticking to colors or general things that are easy for everyone, like "Wear your favorite comfy pants" or "Silly hairstyle day" or something like that.

The bottom line is to not let school dress-up days turn into the road to hell paved with good intentions. Rein it in, folks, for the parents' sake.

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