Slater recounts Debbie’s experience being sent home from school in 1968 because her skirt was too long. Debbie’s story is told as a poem and has several short lines, many of which describe dresses and clothing. “Sleek or flouncy / cinched at the waist / pleated, knitted / patterned, plain,” Slater writes.
The structure of Slater’s poem makes it resemble a skirt on the page. Multiple short lines make the poem narrow and long, much like the skirt Debbie is suspended for wearing to school.
Debbie went to El Camino Real High School, where the girls chanted “Pants! Pants! / Let Girls Wear Pants! / Debbie and her friends stood up / on two fabric-swaddled legs / and won.” Even then, the girls couldn’t wear blue jeans or mini-skirts, so Debbie made her own dress “from an Indian bedspread.” However, Slater writes, “That ruffled draping skirt, they said, / was just / too long.”
The dress code at El Camino Real High School reflects the commonplace discrimination of girls in public schools. The school has banned blue jeans, skirts, and dresses that are too long, and the female students must protest in order to wear pants in general. This many restrictions on clothing make it exceedingly difficult for girls to find suitable clothing for school.