Festival of Trees volunteer turned away because of what she was wearing

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Skyline High School senior was not allowed to volunteer at a charity event because she was wearing dress pants.

The incident took place at the annual Festival of Trees on Saturday. All proceeds raised from that event go toward Primary Children's Hospital.

Ellie Kaiser, along with dozens of her classmates, were volunteering at the festival as part of the National Honor Society service project. However, during check-in she was told she could not participate unless she wore a dress or a skirt. Only male volunteers are permitted to wear pants.

"I would definitely describe it as shock at first that's all I could feel," Kaiser said. "I felt the tears coming on -- I just didn't understand why they would be turning away volunteers."

Kaiser was given the option to wear a skirt over her pants suit, but she decided just to leave.

"It just didn't seem right to me," said Kaiser, who wore the slacks during the FOX 13 interview. "This is my most professional, modest outfit that I have -- this is my go-to outfit."

Festival Chair Marie Partridge released the following statement:  "In an effort to address the needs of more than 100,000 visitors to the Festival, volunteers are asked to wear a uniform of sorts to help set them apart from the crowd.

"We have an average of 4-5 children a day who become separated from their parents at the Festival of Trees, and it is our desire to make it quick and easy for our patrons to know who they can turn to for help."

"Honestly I think that's kind of a cover-up for a policy that's just inherently sexist," Kaiser said.

Ellie's mother said she couldn't believe a dress code like this could be enforced in today's day and age.

"She was very embarrassed and very hurt and it was very hard to console her," said Kaiser’s mother Sally.

"Just wearing a skirt does not mean you look good and does not mean you are professional it does not mean someone is going to pick you out of the crowd and say that's the volunteer," Kaiser’s mother said.

Kaiser said she hopes by standing up to the Festival policy she can create change in the future.

"What it stands for, for me, is you know equality of the sexes, me being able to wear the same appropriate dress that a boy could wear and still be considered professional," Kaiser said.

76 comments

  • Kenzlee

    So can guys wear skirts then too? I mean we want equality of sexes right? People get offended way too easily anymore. Just go with it. It’s not that big of a deal to wear a skirt for a day. We are women we have different parts…men have different parts. I mean this is kind of an out there comment but should men fight for the right to have periods and give birth? I just think it’s silly some of the things people fight for to have equality in. Better job opportunities and pay yes I get that….but some of this other stuff is silly. people need to quit being so nit picky about everything in this world. It’s a dress code. Follow it. You knew before what the dress code was. I’m sure if a guy wanted to wear a skirt he couldn’t. It’s not YOUR event so just follow the rules of THEIR event.

  • Todd Jaramiillo

    You are allowed to have a required uniform. Apple employees are currently in bright red shirts, the employees at hotdog on a stick are in their blue shorts with their striped shirt with that stupid hat, the employees at in and our burgers are wearing white pants with a white shirt with a red apron, the Utes are all wearing red or white uniforms, Hooters girls are in white tanks with orange shorts. It’s a uniform and companies and organizations have the right to tell people what to wear and it’s been that way for years. This is so much a non story and it’s another way the Media tries to cause trouble and hype things up. If it bleeds it reads and people love it when you lose they love dirty laundry

    • Bella

      i COMPLETELY agree!! I volunteered at the festival this year, and it is simply a uniform it has nothing to do with being sexist. Almost the whole entire board on the festival is women , who create the rules. Being a volunteer is doing what they ask, not causing a problem.

  • Dee

    I think that is the dress code for the Mormon church. So yes this state and all entities are run by the Mormon church. So what can we do about that?

  • Colleen

    Dee & Susie, have you ever attended a charity function as an invited guest? I would think you being there to donate your money is just as important (if not more) than volunteering for the cause. If that’s true then why do those events have strict dress codes? And when an actress wears pants on the red carpet….talk about getting blasted by fashion police! It’s not a “Mormon thing” and dress standards certainly do exist in this day and age. They told her she could wear the skirt over her pants, she wasn’t forced to remove her pants….BIG difference!

  • sharon hughes

    Women were required to wear dresses to school in 1956 when I was in high school. We froze as we walked to school in ugly tights and dresses. They changed it soon after that. I think this requirement for women at the Festival is backlash caused by homophobia which is prevalent today because of recent law changes. It seems odd to see a male dress as a woman, but pants are worn by everyone today — male and female.

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