The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

A crash course in collegiate dressing

“What should I wear to class tomorrow?” are words I’ve uttered a million and a half times thus far this school year. As a first year student on campus I’ve been faced with the dilemma of what to wear to class…what’s acceptable? What’s the norm? And how does it differ from what I wore just last year as a high school student?

I graduated from a high school where the hallways sometimes felt more like a fashion runway than just routes between classrooms, and the most important title someone could earn was “best dressed.”

At least in the circle I ran in, I always felt like what you were wearing mattered. Who had on the best boots, scarf, coat, or dress were bound to be talking points in the classroom and around the lunch table.

And while it may sound catty and vain (as many high school stories tend to) I never felt like that was the case. I felt like there was a true appreciation for what other people were wearing, how they were wearing it and most importantly where they got it. It wasn’t rare to see girls in heels, a dress, or skirt strutting down the halls and much like when stars on the red carpet get asked, “Who are you wearing?” it was always a question of “Where did you get that?!”
But where did this fascination come from? Why was it that for the most part everyone cared about what they were wearing? Is it as easy as blaming our society? I don’t think so. I think each subculture sets its own standards, rules, and expectations.
In my previous subculture, fashion became even more important when yearbooks came out in May and the most fashionable students were featured on the “Fashions and Trends” page. Many times the yearbook staff would ask these students who inspired their style and more often than not students would name other students, whether they were past graduates, friends, or just peers.

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This culture that I was previously immersed in has without a doubt affected the way I dress. I think it’s human nature to always want to be dressed for the occasion: you don’t want to be overdressed or underdressed, but rather dressed just right while still making a statement.

And in high school I knew what that meant. I knew what to wear in that environment to get it “just right”, but when you’re environment changes as mine recently has I think it’s only natural for your style to change too. I now feel as though I’ve had to rediscover what is appropriate for my environment while still feeding my love for style.

So many times I’ve heard variations of “in college you won’t care anymore what you wear,” or “you’ll just wear sweatpants to class all the time,” so is this the truth? Can it possibly be true that anything goes? My extremely unofficial observations seem to tell me completely not caring in college is a bit of an urban legend. UW-Eau Claire students Laura Schulist, Casandra Lee, and Geraldine Tong seem to confirm my hypothesis that it really comes down to personal preference, but they all seem to agree that fashion, to an extent, does still matter in this academic atmosphere.

“I feel like I need to dress up somewhat so I can impress my professors for references and such,” said Schulist, a junior communications major. “I want them to see me in a professional way.”

Sophomore communications major Casandra Lee agreed that you need to impress your professors, and she thinks Eau Claire students do a good job of that.
“I think people at Eau Claire do care what they wear and it’s fun to see the fashion; even now that it’s cold people look nice,” Lee said. Lee said she likes to wear what she’s comfortable in, but still look nice, admitting that sometimes she’s just so tired and it’s hard to put together an outfit.

Friend and fellow communications major Geraldine Tong, also a sophomore, agreed that even when you’re tired you should at least look put together for class, not like you just rolled out of bed.

After a semester on campus completely indulged in this new subculture and having time to grasp the rules and expectations I have come to some conclusions. I think it’s as important as ever to dress professionally due to the fact that this is not only a learning environment, but also a place to network and build professional relationships. While I’ve adjusted to a more casual atmosphere, and happily so, it is still important to look presentable on campus. Comfortable, casual, and collected… that’s the college thing and that’s this culture.


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A crash course in collegiate dressing