UPDATE (Oct. 06, 2019, 6:21 p.m.): This article has been updated to include comments from event planner Stephanie Voth.
Darcy Krueger was all set for her senior year homecoming dance.
She selected a black jumpsuit she already had in her closet and dressed it up with heels, jewelry and coiffed hair. But the 17-year-old says she was denied entry into the dance by the event planner.
Why? Because she wasn't wearing a dress.
"I was very surprised and confused," Krueger told TODAY about what happened when she arrived for the Tampa Bay Homeschool homecoming dance on September 27. "I had been standing in line in front of her (the event planner), but the moment she saw my legs move she immediately denied me entrance. It felt very dismissive and inconsiderate."
Event planner Stephanie Voth told TODAY in an emailed statement that "the dress code is submitted and approved by the parents of our community group."
"My role is to decorate, enforce and execute the event," she added, before clarifying in a follow-up response, "The dress code issue was a pantsuit does not qualify as a dress."
"I got the impression she was not open to having a discussion about it. Even though she said I looked great, the only solution offered to me was to put a dress on and come back," Krueger explained. "That was not an option for me once I realized the only reason I couldn't go in was because I wasn't wearing an actual dress. I just couldn't support that idea. My initial reaction was to call my mom since she had dropped me off there to just come and pick me up and go home. I didn't want to be there anymore."
The dance, which is not associated with any particular school, was held for homeschool students in the Tampa Bay area. Tickets cost $50 and Krueger was looking forward to attending.
The dress code for the event states the requirement for "semi-formal dresses for young ladies," and dress pants, button-down shirts and ties for boys. The dress code allowed strapless, knee-length and two-piece dresses with less than a two-inch gap at the midsection.
"We highly discourage dresses that are too revealing and that are simply too short," the code stated. "Dresses that expose a plunging neckline or backlines are NOT appropriate. You will not be allowed in if your dress is questionable."
"I had read the dress code, and while the word used was 'dresses,' the other, more clearly stated rules seemed to be the emphasis," Melissa Krueger, Darcy's mom, told TODAY. "Jumpsuits are commonly worn by women for special events and are readily available for purchase when shopping for semi-formal attire. Jumpsuits were not listed in violation of the dress code, as were jeans, t-shirts, etc. It didn't cross my mind her outfit would be in violation."
Darcy's mom took to Facebook to express her disappointment and immediately people began chiming in with words of support.
"She looks extremely chic, upscale, tasteful, dressed up, and very stylish! Love the look, nothing wrong with it for a semi formal or even formal event! Gorgeous and great sense of style," commented one Facebook user.
When photographer Jennie Ellis saw the story on her newsfeed, she reached out to offer to do a photoshoot for Darcy, free of charge.
"Darcy's mom and I have mutual friends so I saw she had posted on Facebook," Ellis told TODAY. "I want girls to know they are strong," she added.
Jennie and Darcy went to a local park for the shoot, the first professional one Darcy had ever done. And although she was nervous at first, she loved the idea of sitting on a trunk, which Jennie said symbolized any baggage she had been carrying.
"She was exuding strength and confidence. I didn’t give her any poses, she did that on her own," said Ellis. "By the end she was so electrified."
Jennie says she admired that Darcy did not change her clothes when asked to by the event organizer.
"What I hope for her is that she knows she has a voice," she said. "I want Darcy to feel like Darcy can speak up for what is right. Maybe some other girls wouldn’t have the nerve to stand up for this."
"Jennie helped me channel the strongest sides of myself and was really easy to work with," Darcy said of the experience. "Every time I look at these pictures I am reminded that you can rise above disappointing circumstances and own them, instead of them owning you."