If you don’t live in a college town or have teenage kids, you may not have the fortune of knowing the nuances of all the fashion and lifestyle trends among the 18 – 22 set. I, on the other hand, as both an employee of and a student at a large midwestern university, have a front-row seat. This is a blessing and a curse.
I’m still young-ish enough that I can blend into a traditional college class if I dress the part, so on the one hand I try to gather enough information to show up in class and not be mistaken for the professor. On the other hand, I don’t want to get so caught up in dressing like I’m twenty that I start looking ridiculous to everyone else in my life.
I am fortunate enough to work in an office that doesn’t require formal business attire, so on the days I go to class I make a point of avoiding skirts and heels. In the winter I usually go with jeans and a sweater with boots or fashion sneakers. In the summer it’s jeans, a work-appropriate t-shirt and flats or sandals. If you think this all sounds perfectly acceptable and college-y, you’re right. I blend in, I look the part; no one usually finds me out unless I I get to know them and describe my situation.
This does not, however, mean I look like all the other girls in my classes. On the contrary. Dressing in jeans and a nice shirt is bordering on formal in the classroom. As much as I would love to be in a financial position to stop working and attend school full-time so I could graduate more quickly, let’s take a peek at what I might be wearing if my fashion choices were not tempered by the real world of eight-to-five office life.
If I wanted to go whole hog student, I would first and most importantly replace all of my pants with black leggings. This is the everyday uniform of college girls. In the winter, it’s difficult to tell them apart because the leggings are almost exclusively paired with Ugg boots and North Face jackets. Nevermind if your level of fitness should cause you think twice about your choice of leggings as pants. Everyone is invited to this party. I know what every girl on campus would look like if she were naked from the waist down and covered in black spray paint. And this knowledge does not enrich my life.
The next staple of my student wardrobe would be a collection of slipper-like footwear. College students have no use for what most of us might call shoes. Everything is some variation on the slipper. Most include a fur lining. The exception would be flip flops in warm weather. Arch support or shoelaces are frowned upon.
Once comfortable with the leggings and slipper look, I might move on to the pajama fashions. Most commonly seen in the form of sweatpants and bed hair. If I were talking about college boys, I might be referring to actual gym pants and actual bed hair (as in, I got out of bed and didn’t look in the mirror before leaving for class, therefore there is a giant smashed area on the side of my hair that I am unaware of). But with regards to girls, the pajama fashions are an art. Sweatpants (often emblazoned with metallic words across the butt) are artfully draped half in and half out of the tops of Ugg boots. Does this sound overly critical? It does, but I assure you I’ve seen it enough times to know it is intentional. I would also have to learn how to do a “messy” ponytail. The ponytail that says “I just rolled out of bed and swept my hair into this adorable mess.” I’ve rolled out of bed and swept my hair into a ponytail. It isn’t pretty.
I will admit guilt to wearing certain college attire on weekends. Living in a college town makes it easy to get away with wearing slippers and yoga pants to the grocery store. I also, on several occasions, attended evening review sessions wearing jogging shorts and flip flops. Maybe on a couple of those occasions my hair was in a sloppy ponytail and still wet from a shower…maybe.
I’ll confess to wanting to fit in, to look young, to be “hip.” We live in an incredibly youth-centric society and it can feel good to “get away with” being mistaken for a college kid sometimes. It feels like a luxury to be able to walk the fine line between youth and adulthood. But the fact is I’m 31, soon to be 32. I am a professional with a full-time job. I’m not a college kid, not really. Slapping on some leggings and Ugg boots will not make me 20 again. But really – thank god for that.