St. Catharine's has degendered their dress code for formal dinnersClare Coterill

In a first for the University, St Catharine’s has scrapped the gendered dress code of its formal dinners, freeing trans students from the institution’s out-dated and oppressive rules governing dining dress.

“This makes Catz formals a place to express yourself in a new spectrum of ways”, said Charlie Northrop, who spearheaded the campaign, in an email to the student body. “Men can wear dresses, women can wear suits, and non-binary people are free to define the outfits that feel most appropriate to them in a formal setting.”

Charlie began transitioning this year, and as the Formal Hall officer for the MCR, she was thrilled that the Dean suggested the wording of the dress code should be changed when she emailed to ask about it.

She says she was overwhelmed by the positive response from students on telling them the news, and feels ‘encouraged and proud’ that the students and fellows of St. Catharine’s were so enthusiastic about creating more inclusive environment for trans students.

Great care was taken to ensure the correct wording of the new dress code, says Ellie Chan, the college’s MCR President. In a typically academic fashion, there were lengthy discussions over the definition of a suit, and the fellows instigated a spirited debate over the differences between men and women’s formal shirts.

The dress code campaign was a committee-wide effort, and the combined work of the St Catherine’s MCR and JCR is inspiring other Colleges to adopt a similarly progressive ethos. Clare College has already emailed Charlie to request materials, so that they might match St Catharine’s progressive ethos.

The revised dress code for formal halls now includes the statement: “Members and their guests must be dressed in suitably smart dress. ‘Smart dress’ is defined without reference to considerations of gender identity or expression.”