The unspoken rules of college dressing
Andrea Ang (The Philippine Star) - June 13, 2014 - 12:00am

Is it enough to follow the dress code? As someone who’s been in the trenches knows, it’s not. How do you stand out from the pack without getting kicked out of the classroom? Read on.

1. Befriend the dress code.

MANILA, Philippines - First things first: No one’s going to see your outfit if you can’t get into the damn classroom. As tempting as it is to wear shorts that don’t go past your fingertips, there is really no point in going to school if you can’t actually go to school. The key is to figure out how to work your way around the rules, which more often than not involves perfecting the art of light layers. Tie a jacket around your waist, learn how to fold your shorts properly, use sheer to your advantage—running away from every person of authority you come across just isn’t worth it, and constantly pulling your skirt down to check if your butt is fully covered isn’t either.

2. Do it differently.

The “matchy matchy realness with block R2 @angellyyy @candicechuangcandice @jadeuy” posts are cute the first couple of months as you bond with your new friends, but once done with increasing regularity, the subliminal becomes apparent: y’all dress boring, robots. If you must wear a denim shirt or a floral skirt, change it up with a left-wing shoe choice. Or mix some texture in. Or go full monochrome. ANYTHING, really, because the only thing worse than a group of freshmen blocking the way is looking like a group of freshmen blocking the way.

3. Make an impression every day.

In freshman year, my blockmates and I scheduled outfit days—Dress with Sneakers Day, Drapey Cardigan Day, Cute Underwear Day, so on and so forth—mostly because we were freshmen and, let’s face it, there’s nothing much to do but play cards and flirt with each other. In a way, we were all putting pressure on each other to not go to school looking like complete crap, but it was also another way of getting to know each other. After a few weeks, I had a better sense of who these people were and, of course, who they wanted to be: the Chinese girl who wore pants all the time became my slightly repressed friend with ultra-conservative parents who forbade her from showing her legs in fear of a school-wide panic over their daughter; the chill dormer from Cebu who wore shorts all the time became my five-minute-dance-party-between-periods partner who spent weekends teaching orphans music. People in school became less of a blur and more like a human being when you notice the everyday details.

4. Don’t wear that org shirt without putting up a fight.

Despite continuous lobbying to print them on baseball tees or at the very least a soft heather-gray v-neck, more often than not org shirts are hideous, unflattering things with suffocating necklines and dorky slogans. And yes, you have to pay for it. The ultimate sign of defeat, however, is wearing them as is with the sleeves folded twice as you walk out there door. No one likes a quitter, people. Cut that thing up—away with sleeves! And that suffocating neckline—or wear it with slouchy, linen pants. A suede skirt maybe, or normcore sweatpants? Style it up, style it down, either way, you can’t throw it out, so you may as well throw a cardigan over it.

5. Don’t be That Girl.

Once upon a time, all members of the female population wanted Physical Fitness class for PE, because the schedules were great, the teacher was notoriously lax, you could spend the entire time gossiping... and, as it involved mostly bodyweight exercises, you could technically wear  heels. Now, there is no unspoken rule about not wearing heels on campus, but don’t be That Girl who wears them during PE, because That Girl looks ridiculous, doing planks and running around the covered courts in four-inch platforms (“I can run in them naman cause they’re wedges!”). And trust me: everyone is watching her not because she’s a one-woman Victoria’s Secret show, but because they’re all waiting for her to trip. Don’t do it, girl. Just don’t do it.

6. Accept your school colors.

Did anyone from Hufflepuff actually look good in yellow and black? No, but they had to wear it anyway. You’re going to have to wear your school colors at multiple points over your stay, so you may as well invest in them—especially if you go to a school with a more interesting color palette, like pink and white. Pick something that fits well in a shade that flatters you. And if someone tells you that blue isn’t Ateneo blue or that green isn’t La Salle green, punch them in the face. Kidding.

7. Grace under pressure.

You will have oral exams, panel presentations, thesis defenses, and a whole bunch of things that sound exciting but are actually just exercises in Not Sleeping. I’m sure most people say that when you’re running on coffee, few hours of sleep and still not ready for whatever it is that’s going to make or break your GPA, what you’re wearing is the last thing on your mind, but I disagree: dressing well will empower you. Mindset is half the battle, and nothing exudes “I’ve got this” better than a favorite shirt you know you look good in, except, um, well, actually knowing everything you’re supposed to know. (Note: this trick has the lowest rate of success with Theology professors. You have been warned.)

8. Ask a girl who (platonically) loves you.

Few couples are reliable in terms of assessing each other’s sartorial choices. No, you do not look cute in everything. No, that does not make your muscles look more ripped. Do yourself a favor next time you want to make someone your girlnospacefriend, and ask a girl space friend. She knows what clothes are still “you,” she knows how to tap your confidence, and she knows which of your insecurities to reveal at a later time when you’re already solidly boyfriend-girlfriend and it’s too late to escape. But really, I can’t count the number of times my guy space friends would drag me off to the nearest mall during breaks to go shopping, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t secretly kilig that they trusted me enough to put in my hands the first face they show to the world.

9. Anything you wear in freshman year is forgiven.

Just wear it already. At worst, it’ll be something to laugh about in senior year. At best, your style will be so on point that no one will remember it was you.

10. People don’t care as much as you think they do.

I was late to school 80 percent of the time, because I would agonize over clothes every morning, right until the moment when my brother would push me out the door, telling me to just “wear whatever” and go to class. The truth: no one actually cares that much about what you wear. And once your day starts, your clothes become a fleeting thought—because honestly, even you don’t care that much. (Although admittedly, one of my professors so kindly ignored that fact that I had overcut his subject because he looked forward to seeing what I’d be wearing as I snuck into the back of the room, halfway through class, hair dripping wet, so maybe there are quite a few upsides.)

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