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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

El Centro: Dressing up


Button-downs, t-shirts, suits, shorts, heels, baseball caps, sweaters, blouses, jeans, khakis, miniskirts, ball gowns. Every day we have the choice to wear any type of combination of tops and bottoms, gowns or even onesies. Yet, it is harder to find someone who is not wearing Tufts gear nor jeans nor leggings nor North Face jackets nor sweaters this season unless they are in some type of uniform. Why are there certain types of clothing we tend to reach for if we have all the world’s clothing categories to pick from?

Last year, I’d often find myself dressed up in formal outfits for no reason. I would pick out A-lines with ankle boots and pencil skirts with cardigans and would go weeks without wearing a single pair of jeans. Almost every day when I was dressed up, particularly when I was wearing dresses, people would ask what the occasion for the outfit was. The answer, at times, was indeed that I had an international relations speaker event or that I had an interview. More often than not, however, I would give an explanation repeated so often that, by the end of the year, I had made it into a formula. I would explain that when I’m sleepy, or when I’m stressed, I dress up to brighten up my mood. This reply was then received at times with a look of slight amusement and confusion, and we’d share a shrug.

On rare occasions, I would run into a kindred spirit. I can recall exactly two interactions last year when I shared an odd moment of understanding. We would ask each other why we dressed up and would be surprised to find that the other was dressed for the same occasion. I call this odd because what we had in common was not a strong sense of fashion or professional artistic inclination, but rather a busy schedule and a desire to be successful in our respective fields.

While focusing energy on fashion may seem like a deterrent from success, fashion can serve the dresser well not only in presenting them as coordinated and capable to the outside eye but also in setting the tone for their own frame of mind. In Japanese, there’s this phrase “ki wo hikishimete” which roughly translates to pulling oneself up, standing tall and composing oneself in preparation to tackle whatever may come their way. I believe that dressing nice serves as the string that tilts people’s heads up, straightens their backs, and adds a spring to their step and grace to their gestures.

Dressing up, whether in a floral dress, a pantsuit or in clothing that is unconventional to American college campuses, brings to the attention of others that the dresser is ready to provide a capable hand, a careful measurement or an elegant composition.