How to Follow the College Dress Code While Still Looking Smart

College is often described as the time of ultimate freedom. No one is there to micro-manage what you do or what you wear anymore! While it is true, there’s a small asterisk when it comes to outfits – most educational establishments have a dress code for their students.

But what do those rules mean for you? Do they mean you have to overhaul your entire wardrobe? And how can you still look fresh while abiding by those rules?

Keep in mind: it might take a while for you to figure out a perfect wardrobe for yourself – but you’re there to both have fun as well as study and get an education, a professional essay writer perhaps. This journey will for sure come with tons of style challenges, misses and hits. It takes time to find your calling both in work as well as in style… but while you’re at it practising remember a few style tips.

First, a Word on the College Dress Code

At most establishments, the dress code isn’t strict at all. As long as you don’t feel like showing up half-naked in class, you’ll be fine. That said, there are still some items that are typically prohibited:

  • Shorts and skirts that are ‘too short’ (i.e., reveal buttocks);
  • Graphic t-shirts with profane language in the print;
  • Any clothes that reveal underwear or private parts;
  • Baseball caps, skullcaps, do-rags, bandannas.

Make sure to check in with your college’s or university’s guidelines: they may have some extra restrictions to them. Some establishments, for example, ban or restrict clothes like halter tops and midriff blouses; others don’t allow shorts and jeans on particular occasions.

Why Dress Up in College at All?

As you can see, a typical student dress code is quite lax. So yes, you can wear a pair of sneakers, a hoodie and sweatpants to every class if you want to. And you’ll see plenty of freshmen doing exactly that.

But let’s make the case against it.

Whether you like it or not, people will still make assumptions about you based on how you dress – and professors are people, too. So, if you keep showing up to class in sportswear during the whole semester, they might draw up some unpleasant conclusions about you.

But the fear of judgment is hardly the only reason for dressing up to college:

  • If you love the outfit you’ve put on, it’ll boost your mood throughout the day;
  • Wearing at least one formalwear item can boost your self-confidence;
  • Dressing up doesn’t mean you can’t express your personality through the outfit – it’s the exact opposite!

6 Tips for Mastering the Business Casual Look

If you want to look presentable every day of your college life, the business casual style is what you should aim for. Here’s your mini-guide to nail it.

1. Leave These Items in Your Closet

Let’s kick things off with the list of garments that don’t belong in a business casual outfit:

  • Sportswear (leggings, hoodies, sweatpants, and the like);
  • Distressed jeans;
  • Graphic t-shirts;
  • Any low-cut and baggy items.

Apart from that, remember that your clothes should never have stains or holes. They should also be ironed if needed. Otherwise, you’ll come across as a slob.

2. Throw on a Blazer to Smarten Up Your Look

If you don’t have time to put together a well-curated outfit because you’re buried in coursework assignments, don’t worry. You can still look stunning without putting any time or effort into planning your outfit!

All you need to do is put on a casual look – a plain t-shirt and dark jeans, for example, – and add a blazer on top of it. And voila! Your look is no longer plain casual.

Don’t have a blazer in your closet yet? Go get yourself one – it’s worth the money! Remember to stick to an easy-to-match color to make it as versatile as possible. (A black blazer is your best go-to option.)

3. Pair a Formal Top & Casual Bottom

This is another quick formula for putting together a business casual outfit that leans into the casual part of it:

  • Formal top. This means putting on a blouse or a button-down shirt. It can be plain or with a pattern, but it has to be well-fitted. You can throw on a vest or a blazer on top of it.
  • Casual bottom. In this case, you have the green light to wear plain khakis and jeans – or a skater skirt if that’s your jam.

4. Pay Attention to the Shoes

The shoes you choose for your outfit can make it or break it. First, let’s be clear: sandals and flip-flops are a no-no if you aim for the business casual style. Most sneakers are also out of the question, except for suede ones – they can get a pass.

Here are the types of footwear you can add to your business casual outfit:

  • For women: flats, close-toed pumps, low heels, Chelsea boots;
  • For men: dress shoes (Derbys, Oxfords, boots).

Besides that, remember to keep your shoes tidy and untarnished. If you don’t have the right footwear yet, keep in mind the same advice as for the blazers: opt for the color that would go well with most of your clothes.

5. Adapt to the Occasion

Business casual takes the best of two worlds, but it’s not a monolithic style with strict rules. Dark skinny jeans with a plain t-shirt and a blazer qualify as business casual. But so does an outfit that consists of a pencil skirt and a button-down shirt with a pattern.

Think of this style as a spectrum: you can lean into either its casual part or the business one. Which end of the spectrum you’ll want to be closer to depends on the occasion itself:

  • Everyday classes. Go ahead and let yourself enjoy the casual part of ‘business casual’; go bold with colors and patterns.
  • Class presentation. If you want an extra confidence boost, you can dress a notch more formally than usual.
  • Interviews. If you’re up for an interview of any sort, you’ll want to embrace the formalwear for this occasion.
  • Campus events (fairs, etc.). Most colleges and universities will warn you about the dress code in advance. If you’re left to your own devices, however, it’s better to opt for more of a formal outfit for these events.

6. Make Sure Your Clothes Fit You Well

This message has been peppered here and there already, but it’s better to highlight it. That’s because it’s a rookie mistake that even postgraduate students keep making. They borrow a formal suit from their friends or family members, and it looks too big or too small on them.

That makes them look ridiculous instead of presentable, undermining any message they want to send. So, make sure that your clothes for important occasions (interviews, for example) fit you well – baggy garments aren’t going to come across well.

Final Thoughts

Don’t forget: your clothes speak for you before you have a chance to open your mouth. So, make sure they tell the right story – and reflect your personality, too.

If there’s any final piece of advice worth giving, it’s this: remember to prioritize comfort when you dress up. If you’re uncomfortable in your outfit, it won’t boost your mood and self-confidence. What’s worse, it’ll also undermine your ability to concentrate on the task at hand, be it answering the interviewer’s questions or paying attention in class.

xoxo D