Marlene Dietrich first started wearing tuxedos as part of her cabaret act in the 1930s until it became her signature look, saying, "I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men." It's notoriously the only outfit that Janelle Monae ever wears on stage, saying, "Honestly, I don't believe in menswear. I focus on what pieces are most timeless, transcendent, match my lifestyle, remain remarkable, and command intriguing attention across the room at an art gallery." There's a long-standing history of women rocking the tails and tie, and we agree with Janelle: The black and white tuxedo is timeless, elegant, and classic.
So, why was Louisiana teenager Claudettia Love in tears this weekend after being told she would not be allowed to wear a tuxedo to the prom?
Claudettia’s resume is impressive: She's a senior at Carroll High School with an all-star academic record and a full scholarship to attend Jackson State University after she graduates. She's also openly gay, which both she and her mother recently told their local newspaper The News Star, they think is the real root of the issue. "I feel like he's taking his values and throwing them on my daughter because of what her preference is and what she represents," Claudettia's mother Geraldine Jackson told reporters Friday, speaking about her meeting with Carroll H.S. principal Patrick Taylor. "That's his exact words. 'Girls wear dresses and boys wear tuxes, and that's the way it is.'"
Not only is that patently untrue—just ask recent dress code crusader Morgan Ball—but it's also unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union has an entire section of their website dedicated to a "prom guide," where it explains that they receive calls each year from students who are denied access to their proms because they wish to bring a same-sex date or who are, like Claudettia, told that they must adhere to rigid gender norms in their dress and appearance. And while it might seem depressing that Claudettia's story is just one of many cases exactly like hers to make headlines, these previously fought battles have helped lay the groundwork for discriminatory policies to shift. Look no further than Tony Zamazal, the transgender teen who won the right to wear heels and dress to the prom last year, or Stacy Dawson, who crusaded for same-sex couples to be allowed entrance to his Missouri prom in 2013.
Fortunately, Claudettia’s story will have a happy ending—the National Center for Lesbian Rights just released a statement saying that the policy has been amended. In a state that has just introduced a bill much like the hotly-debated Indiana Religious Freedom Act, it's refreshing to hear that the School Board President spearheading the policy change (who also happens to be a minister) totally has Claudettia's back. "We've got to do what's right, and what is right is to allow this young lady to wear whatever she so desires to her senior prom."
Her tuxedo isn't the only thing that's a class act—so is the way Claudettia has handled the entire situation, stating, "The outpouring of support has been incredible and inspiring; it is a source of strength that I will keep with me as I move on the next phase of my education and life beyond high school."