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The Rules of Fashion

I can’t believe that another summer has gone by and that Labor Day will have sadly passed by the time this article goes to press.  I generally over pack, but the last long weekend of the summer tends to bring out the crazy in me.  I try jamming as many outfits into my weekend bag, hoping to get the opportunity to wear some of my favorite seasonal items…like white pants and jeans.  I’ll even pack all of my bathing suits in case I need the extra options.

Some fashion rules seem to be pretty well ingrained into our culture.  For example, you shouldn’t wear white pants after Labor Day weekend (at least if you reside in the Northeast).  In elementary and middle school I remember waiting for an arbitrary date until students were allowed to wear shorts.  There were always those warm weeks of spring when we suffered wearing pants in non-air-conditioned classrooms.  As recruiting begins, you will be inundated with even more rules about how you are supposed to dress. What’s an appropriate tie? One spray of perfume or two…you’ll be instructed to be “odor neutral.”  Consulting and banking recruits will even be directed to dress slightly differently.

Personally, the best part of fashion is the opportunity to be self-expressive and creative.  The rules, per usual, can be a little a restrictive.  However, at a high-level, even I must concede that the rules can be helpful and for the most part, boil down to a golden rule: be appropriate.  If you don’t know what is precisely appropriate ask a friend or just err on the side of conservatism.  I still call my parents when I get stumped – they have more life experience and generally know what I should do.

During recruiting, just make sure you are very polished in your presentation.  You can show your individuality through subtle details and accessories.  Women can choose interesting jewelry while men can choose a lucky tie.  My favorite interview tie has tiny little owls printed on it in a subtle color palette.

Luckily, we are back in school.  Although you will have several days calendared for business formal, you’ll have three-day weekends and plenty of school days to experiment with casual wear.  You can forget the rules and layer in pieces across seasons…you can even wear your white pants.

By Jonathan Z. Kiman

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