Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How College Students Dress

College Casual
A lot of people will tell you that clothes don't matter as much in college as they did in high school. It is much more acceptable to wear, t-shirts, sweatpants, and other comfy clothing in college, but that doesn't mean that all personal styles are welcome. When it came to fashion, my college could be divided into two groups: people who cared about clothes and people who didn't. This may sound all-inclusive, but it wasn't. Almost all of the people who cared about clothes wore preppy clothes. (A few also wore hippie clothes and high-fashion clothes, but that was it). Then the rest of the students were more causal and just wore jeans and t-shirts.

College "I care how I look"
This seemingly chilled-out environment left out tons of styles that you see in high school:  goth, emo, punk-rock, funky, glam, creative, and tons of personal styles that didn't have a name. Styles that people put a lot of effort into, but do not fall into the category of dressing "nicely." I knew plenty of high school kids who put just as much effort into their goth or emo styles as other kids put into their preppy appearance. But in college, you never see things like goth or emo; styles other than preppy, hippie, and sophisticated/artsy just aren't acknowledged as real styles, no matter how much effort the person put in.

Shirt over tank top (college style)
"Effort" is a strange word when it comes to style, because we use "effort" to mean looking nice by societal standards, regardless of how much time a person actually spends on their appearance. Take layering for example: if you wear a tank top under a long-sleeved v-neck shirt, it looks nice.  If you take that same tank top and wear it over the long-sleeved shirt, it looks much more casual, even though both choices take the same amount of effort.

Tank top over shirt (my style)
Here's another example: the most time-consuming part of getting dressed for me is picking out an outfit. If I have a job interview, I am much more concerned about having every hair in place than I would normally be, but I only have one interview outfit that I always wear. If I'm going to a pool party, I'm less concerned about looking perfect, but I have many more outfits to choose from. I would probably spend weeks thinking about what I can wear and trying on different combinations.  So even though I look nicer at a job interview, I actually put a lot more time and effort into dressing for a pool party.  We shouldn't assume that someone who dresses "nicely" puts more effort into their appearance than someone who doesn't because different styles can take equal amounts of effort.

Finally, casual is a style. It's not a lack of rules. It's not a safe zone where you can dress however you want. It is a style, and there can be casual cliques with the attitude that you're supposed to reject fashion, that you don't belong if you plan your outfits a week in advance. I remember the awkward glances I got in college when I asked people what they were wearing to a theme dance - like we were supposed to be beyond that sort of thing. I toned my personal style way down in college because I felt way more self-conscious than I ever had in high school; people who weren't preppy weren't expected to care about clothes. It was weird to wear anything that got attention and made you stand out.

My Style
My Style
Even if you go to a college that's less preppy, alternative styles are usually hippie or artsy/sophisticated.  It's rare to come across the younger, more rebellious styles that you find in high school. Colleges aren't more accepting of personal styles in general - they just have different group of socially acceptable styles than high school.
My Style

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