Fashion is unique to each individual, and it can really change the way we feel about ourselves. Clothes are a fun way to express yourself, but sometimes there are dress codes or times when certain clothes are inappropriate, like for work or formal events. As business students, we often have to dress business casual or professional, which restricts some of the freedom to express ourselves through clothing.
I talked with UBWA members Prateeksha Prabhakar and Erin Brandwein about their interest in fashion and their thoughts on business and office dress codes.
Prateeksha is a second year student, majoring in operations management and minoring in fashion and retail studies. She is also the current VP of Programming for UBWA. Prateeksha was born in India, so she grew up seeing women around her wear saris, an Indian garment, which always caught her eye. She mentioned how her mom never wore a sari, but rather jeans, crop tops, and mini skirts. This showed her that everyone has a different style and dresses how they want. When Prateeksha was in third grade, she began to design her own clothes. As she has gotten older, she has become more interested in the sustainability aspect of fashion, and her passion has now shifted more towards the business side of fashion.
Clothes play a big role in how confident Prateeksha feels. Prateeksha chooses her outfit every day based on her mood or what she has going on during the day. If Prateeksha is going to be doing something more active, then she will lean towards athletic clothing, but some days she likes to dress up and wear more makeup. She said that if she doesn’t like her outfit, she feels more timid because she doesn’t want to attract attention to herself.
Erin is a first year finance major and a member of the Gala Committee. Erin says fashion is a big part of her life, and she enjoys all the parts that encompass it: getting outfit inspiration, shopping, and putting together an outfit each day. Erin said the “outfit [she] wears is a big determiner of how confident [she] feel[s].” Erin emphasized that she always wears a nice outfit to class because that is what makes her feel the most confident. Erin feels the most like herself in jeans and a cute top, but recognizes that others may feel more comfortable in a sweatshirt and sweatpants. For Erin, her outfit is a way of saying something without making a sound. She tends to dress more elegant and sophisticated to reflect how she wants to be perceived. When Erin wears what she feels confident in, it leads to being more productive and feeling ready to take on the day.
I asked Erin and Prateeksha what they think about office or business dress codes and if they are necessary and/or too strict. Prateeksha does think that dress codes can be necessary at times, but sometimes they are too strict. Prateeksha said that when everyone is wearing “black, navy blue, or gray suits, [it can be] boring because everyone is wearing the same thing”. Prateeksha does enjoy wearing blazers and slacks, but she likes to pair a blazer with jeans if she can or wear a more colorful or printed blazer to stick to her own personal style. Erin really enjoys getting to dress up in business attire as well. She says it makes her feel powerful and respected, which helps to boost her confidence, especially when she is in a male-dominated setting. Like Prateeksha said, Erin finds dress codes do get pretty restrictive when they dictate what colors you can wear or require a specific uniform to be worn because then it is harder to express yourself and wear what makes you feel good. Erin said that when she does have to adhere to a dress code, she will try to accessorize with jewelry or hair clips, and that sticking to your own personal style with a dress code just takes some creativity.
Whether or not you are someone who is into fashion, we make a fashion choice every day by deciding what to wear. For some people this is jeans and a cute top, for some it's a suit, and for others it may be sweatpants and a sweatshirt. There are times when we may not have a lot of control over what we wear because of a dress code, but we can try to adhere to our personal style by accessorizing with things like jewelry or clips, or by wearing fun colors rather than the typical black and navy blue. Clothes are a key part to confidence for many people, so wearing what you feel best in can help to bring out your best and most productive self.