For the first 18 years of my life, I barely had to worry about what I wore.
That’s what happens when you attend private Catholic schools. Before I was 5, my parents obviously handled my wardrobe. And after that, until I came to MSU, I woke up each morning and put on a white oxford blouse, a plaid skirt, knee high socks and a navy blue sweater.
Sometimes, if I was feeling rebellious, I’d paint my nails a forbidden ruby red, or sneak an animal print scarf under my sweater vest. Scandalous, I know.
Even on weekends, my outfit was rarely a concern. Barring the occasional school dance or outings with my friends, as a student-athlete, my weekends were spent in one-piece bathing suits, basketball jerseys or track shorts and Nike shoes. And when I was home with my family, it was sweatpants time.
Then I left home. I was worried about a lot of things when I came to college. Would I make friends? Would I get good grades? It didn’t really occur to me until that first week of class that I just didn’t have that many things to wear. I’d never needed to.
Fortunately, I’ve never felt MSU is a place where you have to look drop-dead gorgeous for your 8 a.m. recitation, or you’re only accepted if you wear expensive designer labels. So it still wasn’t something I put too much thought into.
Then, I started getting internships. And internships meant interviews. Not just for the jobs themselves, but as a budding journalist, it meant interviewing important people for stories, every day.
Suddenly, my wardrobe wasn’t just a nuisance, it was a professional advantage or disadvantage. It’s a lot easier to be taken seriously when you look like you know what you’re doing. Fake it till you make it, right?
Even at times when I felt inexperienced or intimidated by my assignment on a given day, dressing well and dressing professionally made me more confident.
Caring about what you wear and caring about it at an early age isn’t a sign of vanity. In fact, it’s smart, especially for students.
There are a million things that can make a college graduate or a job applicant stand out in the real world, but some of them are out of your control. Looking well put together is something relatively easy to take charge of. And you don’t need to be wealthy or a faithful subscriber of Vogue to do exactly that. I promise you, I’m neither.
As editor-in-chief, being on the other side of the job interview process, I know it makes a difference. As a student I was undoubtedly more lenient than other employers, but I can honestly say I looked at student hires differently, comparing the ones who wore jeans or yoga pants and the ones who put on a dress or a tie. It’s such a simple way to show you’re serious about the next chapter of your life.
Sweatpants will always have their place in my closet. But discovering my own personal style in college was a rewarding process, one that I believe will help me going forward.
When we leave MSU, we want people to know we’re educated, confident, competent people. And it’s on us to dress the part.
Celeste Bott is the editor-in-chief of The State News.