All Dressed Up: Fashion on College Campuses

If “typical college student” was a type of look, it would probably go a little something like this: oversized sweatshirt, leggings, and sneakers to match.  


This comfy-cute ensemble is popular among college students for a reason. First and foremost, it’s practical; when your entire day is spent darting from building to building, it pays to dress comfortably. Secondly, it’s effortless – some days, we just can’t be bothered to put a real outfit together.



However, in an ecosystem where comfort takes precedent over everything else, we ask ourselves: where does fashion fit into the equation?


If you walk down the streets of a big city, you’ll encounter an incredibly diverse and colorful spectrum of fashion tastes. Clothes allow people to both define and express themselves without saying anything at all.


However, on college campuses, the spectrum shrinks. The sweats-and-sweatshirt look reigns supreme, normalizing it as an “acceptable” form of dress among college students. You can roll up to class in your literal pajamas, and people won’t look twice.



But there’s also nothing wrong with dressing up. College students can, in theory, dress as formally or unconventionally as they please. However, if a student dresses up, other classmates will often perceive this behavior weird, strange, or at the very least, “different.”


If a girl wears a statement outfit, she’s often asked, “why are you so dressed up today?” Although the question isn’t intended to do any harm, it makes the interrogated individual wonder – am I too dressed up? Since when did fashion, specifically fashion as a means of self-expression, become so alienating?


This isn’t to say that personal style is dead on college campuses, necessarily. However, it’s definitely easier to fall into the habit of wearing what everyone around you is wearing. It all links back to this idea of “not trying” – we never want to appear as though we’re trying too hard. However, fashion requires thought and effort, and people shouldn’t be shamed for that.



It’s a frustrating paradox: on one hand, college is supposed to be a formative period of self-development. It’s a time when students should feel free to experiment with different fashion choices and see which clothes make them feel their best. On the other hand, college is a time when students seek approval from others – especially from peers – more than they do during any other time frame. No one is to blame here, but it puts the people who do want to dress daringly in a tough spot.


So the next time you see someone going all out with their outfit, try to refrain from judging. Instead, replace any judgment you may initially experience with respect – wearing what you want isn’t always as effortless as it looks.