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Don't dress like Kim Kardashian - Queen's University of Belfast tells graduation students

Style tips for students' big day 'are offensive and condescending'

By Cate McCurry

Students at Queen's have hit out after the university issued a graduation ceremony style guide banning short skirts and cleavage - telling women not to dress like Kim Kardashian.

It said women should "think Grace Kelly" rather than the reality TV personality and socialite when choosing outfits. It led to claims that QUB was promoting "degrading and condescending" regulations ahead of its graduation week.

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The so-called style guidance has been criticised by students, who said they found it "deplorable" that an academic institution would tell women how to dress.

Graduates were greeted with the advice, entitled 'Style tips for graduation week: Wear it well' as they registered online for the formal event.

It stated that former architecture student Thom Dickerson, who runs his own self-titled private tailoring company based in Belfast, had shared his top tips for students.

Under a 'Build your outfit around your hood and gown' heading, graduates were informed how not to clash the hood and gown with their colour palette.

It also recommended that men, whether they wore Oxfords or brogues, should "stick to leather and dark shades".

Mr Dickerson went on to say: "Possibly the biggest mistake I see at graduation is girls treating the event like a night out.

"Graduation is a formal event and the dress code should match this. Short skirts and cleavage on show are totally out of the question. Think Grace Kelly, not Kim Kardashian, at least until the day is done: you can always change before heading out."

It further favoured "discreet safety pins" for ladies to wear to avoid any "last minute wardrobe disasters".

It stated that anyone who had represented the university at sport should wear the club tie, either in Trinity, Windsor or a four-in-one hand knot.

A scathing email sent to the university from a post-graduate and seen by this newspaper said that the advice was "offensive and condescending".

"I find that it gives legitimacy to the stereotype that university education is for the middle classes," she said. "As a woman, however, the part I find utterly deplorable is the way in which it advises women how to dress. Being told what to wear, being judged for our attire and being told certain attire says certain things about you as a woman is still a daily occurrence.

"I understand that the university wishes graduation to be a formal event. So, why couldn't they simply state 'formal attire'? Looking to the comparisons the university has made here, it's pretty degrading. The reserved, conservative Grace Kelly is the example of 'good' while the 'louder' more 'risqué' Kim Kardashian is 'bad'?

"Isn't that the same old, same old we've been trying to rally against for years now? The article draws a very definitive line between male and female attire. The most offensive part of it all is the way in which it confirms the stereotypical good girl and pits her against the stereotypical bad girl.

"And, furthermore the 'cleavage on show' being 'totally out of the question' feels like a piece of advice that would have been handed down to girls in a convent.

"Are we not a bit more mature than making cleavage out to be 'bad' or even 'sacrosanct'? I feel massively condescended to and genuinely offended to be offered this advice."

Queen's said the webpage included news, tips and information for graduating students. "This is a dynamic webpage which is constantly updated. It currently includes stories about the achievements of our most recent graduates," it added.

Other universities also issue guidance on graduation attire. On the Ulster University website, it recommends that graduates "dress appropriately".

"While the university does not prescribe what style of clothes should be worn... graduation is a formal ceremonial occasion marking an important achievement and stage in a student's life," it says.

"Jeans, T-shirts, trainers and other casual items of clothing are not considered appropriate... we recommend securely fitting shoes with a suitable heel height... as graduates are required to walk up and down ramps and/or steps to the platform to receive their award."

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