How to Dress For College

If you are going back to college after the summer break, or if you are starting college, you have probably thought about your wardrobe. After all, when you are young and beautiful, it is natural to want to dress beautifully and in a way that expresses your personality.

Casual wear is a college student’s inalienable right

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the classic student style of untucked shirt, faded jeans, and all-season flip flops. At most colleges and universities, this is the uniform that students wear to classes, beer parties, and on-campus events, like rock concerts and cram sessions. 

The days of casual wear should be savored and cherished because you may not land a job that lets you dress for comfort post graduation. 

There are a few occasions when you may want to dress up. If you are attending a formal event, like a sports banquet or a sorority or fraternity dinner, then it is customary for young men to wear suits and ties and young women usually wear dresses, sometimes even full-length gowns. 

If you are in any doubt about what to wear to an event, ask the event organizer. If you are the event organizer, be sure to indicate what the appropriate wear is in your invitations. Keep in mind, also, that many colleges are limiting the number of students who can gather indoors. Using the KVA Plan to keep parties and other gatherings safe is a good idea.

Avoid Extremes of Fashion

College is a wonderful opportunity to reinvent yourself, but you don’t want to make the mistake of getting negative attention for fashion extremes. Spiked mohawks, multiple facial piercings, and eight-inch platform heels certainly make you stand out, but extremes in your appearance can frighten your professors and fellow students. Worst case scenario: you end up isolated and no one has your back. 

There are some fashion mistakes that can make you a campus joke or scare off potential allies and even potential life partners. Here are a few of the fashion mistakes you want to avoid. 

Pink, purple, orange, blue, or green hair

It is the right of all adolescents to play with their hair color, but avoid going too far. No one will blame you if you want to put a streak of cobalt blue in your raven locks (or a streak of red in your blonde), but don’t go changing your hair color every week. 

People simply will not recognize you (especially your teachers) and that can hurt your ability to forge friendships and convey a consistent personality. Unless you have a really strong personality, one that can withstand being the campus joke, you also don’t want to dye your entire head a color that is rarely found in nature.

Rule of thumb: If you find people shying away from you at parties or other social events, take a look at your hair and clothes. Many students avoid peers who look too far outside the norm.

Mohawk or skinned head 

In general, you want to avoid wearing any symbols that carry freighted messages. You may not intend to make people think you are a neo-nazi when you shave your head, but you need to know that at least some people will assume you are. 

Similarly, you might be a straight A student, but if you wear a Grateful Dead shirt every day, people will think you drop acid and shirk responsibility. You can avoid getting labeled and being reduced to a stereotype by steering clear of clothes and hairstyles that are associated with hate movements, gangs, and drug cultures.

Prison tattoos 

Tattoos are very popular, and studies show that many young people around the world are getting them. And there’s nothing wrong with a tattoo of a rose or dragon or a delicate celtic cross or a sketch of your mother or girlfriend posed in front of an anchor. 

Your parents will wig out if and when you get a tattoo, but for your peers and professors, it’s business as usual. Do not, however, get a tattoo of a swastika, gang symbol, car crash, weapon, cuss word, or anything else that looks violent. 

The acid test here is whether it looks like you got it in prison. If you’re unsure whether a tattoo you are contemplating is truly scary, ask a friend to look at it and give you an honest opinion before committing skin to ink.

Conspicuously out of season clothes 

There once was a student at a small midwestern college in the United States who wore shorts through the entire academic year. And his college was in northern Indiana. That means he was walking to class in shorts–during multiple blizzards. 

Admittedly, it was a small campus with little to do, but this guy’s one eccentricity became somewhat legendary. It made his fellow students cold just to look at him. On a daily basis, he had to decline kind offers to lend him a pair of pants. 

Students made references to his shorts in their compositions. He was mentioned in the school play. A couple songs were composed to honor his shorts. He seemed to weather all this dubious attention with aplomb, but then he didn’t return to college the next year. 

Few people can handle that much negative attention. You’ve been warned. Pack the sundresses in a drawer until late March. 

Too many piercings 

Getting something more interesting than your ear pierced is a rite of passage, and I wouldn’t want to deprive you of that important life milestone, but too many piercings, especially on the face can give people the impression that you are anti-social. 

As a general principle, if one more piercing is going to make it difficult to eat your nachos or pull off a sweater or scare off any dates, think it through. 

Too formal

Few students make the mistake of dressing too formally for college, but you want to avoid this extreme just as much as you avoid the others. Your fellow students will understand if you don a suit and tie for a date or a fraternity outing or to give a class presentation, but if you dress like that every day, they will think you are weird. To be honest, your professors will also wonder what’s wrong with you.

To conclude, it’s easy to dress comfortably AND appropriately for college. Be creative, but avoid looks that scare people off. After all, college is about making lifelong friends, future business associates, and financial partnerships.

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