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How To Dress as a 40-Something Coed

· Sophomore Year

When you reach a certain age, you have come to define and accept your sense of style. You have honed it to fit your life, and your career. If not, there is a whole beautiful world of Pinterest to get some tips. But what happens when life changes? A curve ball like getting a new job in a different field? Or in my case going back to school?

As someone in that position I had planned my first day of school outfit very carefully. Perhaps a little too carefully. Imagine a lovely spring leaf green sleeveless trench style dress, and rust colored suede heeled sandals. Classy, and professional, I wanted to send the message that I am serious, and ready to go.

Why did I put so much effort in? 

It’s completely in my head. When I make the effort, I feel good. When I feel good, I work harder and do better. It is just that simple. Purely psychological. I can't do my best work if I am in sweatpants or leggings (I don't even own any). If you are able to, go for it! I am not here to demonize anyone’s style!

I thought it was perfect. Until the professor showed up. Honestly, I did not even know she was the professor. Sporting a messy bun, leggings, and a strappy tank, she looked just like some of the girls in the class. Did I show up to the wrong room? Was this yoga instead of remedial (excuse me, developmental) math?

After I started looking around I realized that she fit in more than I did. Everyone was dressed casually, and I stuck out like a sore, spring green thumb. A rose in a field of daisies. You get the idea. This point was driven even more home when a student, dressed similarly to the instructor, asked if I was the professor.


Not that I mind being mistaken for the professor, but I just felt over dressed! Since then I have tried various combinations to “dress the part”. I have tried the jeans with a t-shirt combo, dresses in a more casual cut and even sneakers. What didn't I try? Yoga pants, leggings, or anything resembling the sort. Right for some people perhaps, but I could never. They, and I know I will be crucified for this, are not pants! And the one time I dressed down in jeans, t-shirt and sneakers with not-so-done hair? I felt ick, did ick, and just wanted to stop playing dress up (or down).

So, what's a 40-something coed to do?

Denim seems to be the great equalizer. When I pair a denim jacket with one of my dresses it splits the difference between too dressed and not dressed enough. And with a pair of slip on sneakers? I can bring the whole look down to casual town. A denim skirt with the right sweater, tights and boots has also been a go-to outfit to look good without feeling overdressed.

Dressing well gets you noticed. In a good way. Professors treat you differently (whether they will admit to it or not) and girls thirty years younger than myself have commented how much they like my dress or shoes. 

Part of college is networking, and what instructor is going to partner up, hire, or mentor someone who can't even take the time to groom themselves a bit. And as older students we should know better. So, next time you are tempted to show up anywhere with messy hair, sweatpants you might want to think better of it. An extra ten minutes might just make the difference. Besides you never know who you will run into...

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