At the beginning of my four long years at U of T, I made a vow never to wear sweatpants to school, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

It is easy to see why fashion and personal style are at the bottom of people’s priorities during the school year. However, I think dressing up can be an immensely productive experience amid everything that bogs us down. 

What you wear at school is something you can control

In a world of stress and extensive uncertainty, where it is easy to feel powerless in the major goings-on of society, we find a modicum of control in choosing what we wear. Our clothing can empower us by giving us a sense of authority in our university life — to me, that is nothing to be scoffed at! 

Moreover, the period between finishing secondary school and joining the workforce is one of the only times when you have total control over what you can wear. Without being hindered by things like dress codes, school uniforms, parental control, and the like, there is really no better time to experiment and find what clothes make you feel happy and presentable. 

I find it hard to communicate my personality through words, so it is supremely satisfying to express myself through my clothes. A choice as seemingly insignificant as the shoes we wear can say a lot to others. Clothing serves as a means of extracting one’s personal, internal self and presenting it on the outside. 

Think of it like making your bed

The theory that making the bed in the morning leads to an uptick in productivity, confidence, and happiness is widely known and discussed. Even U of T’s own Jordan Peterson raves about how making your bed can bring about order in your personal life. Although I rarely make my bed, I do put on a nice outfit every day — I can find order just as easily with snazzy jeans or my favourite army jacket. 

I understand the temptation to wear sweatpants every day; they are  comfortable and easy to put on and forget about. But when I wear them out, it conflates my “go-mode” with my relaxation time. Nothing is better than changing out of day clothes into a cozy sweat-suit, so why rob yourself of that precious feeling of winding down by dressing in sweats all the time? I see it as the same as wearing a suit at home — some lines are not meant to be blurred! 

Some tips to help you dress up every day 

Firstly, wear the clothes you own. This may seem obvious, but often, when people tell others to start “dressing nice,” they encourage crazy spending on a whole new wardrobe. I reject that advice. I encourage you to wear what you already own and what makes you feel confident and presentable. From this, you can learn the silhouettes, materials, and styles you love that instill confidence. Clothes are meant to be worn — and to me, this means wearing them until they become totally unwearable. Repeat your outfits. Repeat your favourite fit because it looks good, and then find interesting ways to spin it into something new! 

Secondly, scrambling for a good outfit 10 minutes before class is a recipe for disaster. What works for me is spending an afternoon in advance trying on almost all of my clothes, and taking pictures of what works and what doesn’t. This way, your bad fits stay in your Recently Deleted folder, instead of tossed together when you rush out the door. 

Also, creating themes for your outfits depending on the occasion is a fun way to avoid “clothing block.” I love watching movies, and I generally try to adapt my look toward something one of my favourite characters may be wearing. Another fun theme I’ve been running with is centring an entire outfit on an item that’s been dwelling in the depths of my closet, which has helped me escape a fashion rut. 

Our fashion senses tend to hibernate in the winter, but they don’t have to. These are just a few ways to get you thinking about your next outfit. Beyond looking good, there are many reasons why dressing well boosts your morale and self-expression. Now, please put down those sweatpants once and for all!