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Sunday October 21st 2018



The sweatpants epidemic

By Claire DeRoin —
A majority of students on Morningside’s campus walk to and from class, sit in the cafeteria, work in the science labs or do other things, clad in sweatpants all the while. Students donning sweaters or skirts are definitely in the minority.

One professor has taken note of Morningside’s sloppy dress code.

Recently, Dr. Rachel Robson created a Facebook event called “Cute Dress Day.” This was an invitation to all females on Morningside campus to dress up in a sundress or something of the sort in order to make the first day of classes a bit more tolerable.

There was a slight buzz on the event page’s discussion thread. Some students voiced their opinions that the student body, especially females, should not need an invitation or special day to dress well. An observation was brought up that most of campus can be seen in sweatpants and athletic clothes for the majority of the year, and that women rarely wear feminine wear at all.

Is the unofficial dress code on Morningside College campus way too lax?

“The way one presents herself definitely affects her performance,” Dr. Robson said. “When you feel like you look good, you feel better about yourself and present yourself more confidently. Dressing well physically changes the way you carry yourself. A tailored dress forces you to stand up straight, but sweats encourage slouching. Shoes with even slight heels make you walk more intentionally.”

In a completely unscientific observation that consisted of me sitting on a bench keeping a running tally of athletic wear vs. non-athletic wear, I found some numbers to back up what I’ve noticed.

I kept three categories: Athletic wear, which consisted of two pieces of athletic wear, such as sport shorts or sweatpants and a hoodie or t-shirt; Semi-Athletic, which consisted of one piece of athletic clothing, such as a t-shirt or hoodie; and Casual, which did not include anything that could be interpreted as athletic wear. After I averaged a few surveys taken between August 29 and August 31, 18 percent of females on campus were wearing a completely casual outfit. 53 percent of females were wearing two or more pieces of athletic wear, such as sweatpants and a t-shirt. The remaining 29 percent were wearing some combination of casual and athletic clothes, such as jeans and a sweatshirt or workout shirt.

At the same time and place, I kept A tally of males, as well. The numbers were similar to the trend in the female students. While 82 percent of females were wearing some sort of athletic wear, 84 percent of males were, too. Fifteen percent of males were wearing nothing athletic, and 23 percent were wearing a semi-athletic outfit.

Dr. Robson can often be seen in the Walker Science Center wearing dresses and high heels. She explains why she enjoys dressing the way she does.

“I think it’s important for me personally to dress in a feminine way when I teach. I’m a science professor, and science has a lot of stereotypes associated with it. Scientists are perceived to be socially awkward, and women scientists are perceived to be androgynous and dowdy.”

I discussed the athletic clothing trend with a freshman psychology major from South Sioux City, Nebraska. In the first few weeks of class, Katie Copple also noticed the sweatpants and t-shirts trend among females on Morningside campus.

Asked why girls spend so little time on their appearance around campus and when attending classes and so much time on their appearance when going out with the same people they see on campus, she gave me this answer. “If you’re going out on a date with someone you really like or care about, you are naturally going to take more time to get ready because you want to impress them; whereas at school, you don’t necessarily have something or someone to impress, therefore you don’t really care too much about what you look like.”

Does it bother professors when students don’t dress up for class but do dress up for activities outside of class? “No, not at all,” Robson responded. “What does bother me is when students don’t dress up for presentations.”

She doesn’t look down upon those students who do choose to wear athletic wear, however. “I appreciate the limitations on students’ wardrobes; there’s not a lot of space in your dorm room closets, and doing laundry is yet another inconvenient, time-consuming task,” she said. “I completely understand why folks tend to dress pretty sloppily and I of course don’t get too judgmental about that.”

Was the Facebook “Cute Dress Day” event a success? Yes, according to Dr. Robson. “I’ve had a few students in micro-biology ask when the next cute dress day is,” she says with a smile. She noted that students enjoyed knowing that they wouldn’t be the only well-dressed student. “Students liked to know that they wouldn’t be alone; that others would be dressing up as well.”