Be fashionable. That's the dress code at Bhawanipur College. Whether dressing up is the student style in vogue or dressing down, the south Calcutta college campus is a no-holds-barred place to showcase fashion trends and make style statements. The trick is to be fashionably comfortable and knowing where the line is drawn.
A debate on fashion, the cultural connotations and modern trends, was the subject of a student-celebrity interface at Presidency College recently.
The unanimous observation from the panel, including actress Rupa Ganguly, film-maker Subrata Sen and principal Amitava Chatterjee, was that there's been a real revolution in campus couture.
'What we wouldn't wear anywhere else in the city, we wear in college, because we're comfortable,' says Madhumita Das, a first-year student of Jadavpur University.
In peer parlance, it isn't easy being accepted when you stand out. But now there's a new breed of youth ready to make a style statement and not just be fashionable.
Like Diya Lahiri, famous in JU for what she wears. 'It was tough at first, with the comments and looks I'd get, especially guys, because I didn't fit in,' recounts Diya, a third-year JU student. 'But in the past three years, things have changed. There's a girl in college now, with an eyebrow pierce!'
But when do the authorities say 'stop that' 'We don't have any sort of dress code. We have never had to haul up anyone because our students don't wear indecent clothes,' says JU registrar Rajat Kumar Bandyopadhyay.
At Bhawanipur College, cool is the couture call, right from the top.
'We don't have a dress code, as long as they're wearing something!' says Heena Gorsia, honorary general secretary of Bhawanipur College.
'So long as it's not vulgar or obnoxious, it really doesn't matter what they wear. There are students in burkhas and others in miniskirts. Fashion is what each person is comfortable in,' she adds.
Not everywhere does anything go. At some places the regulation is formal, at others it is reverse peer pressure.
Ask Medha Sarkar, a student of Presidency College. 'I used to wear short skirts, but I was teased so much by my group that I gave up. I felt uncomfortable with all the negative attention I received.'
At St Xavier's College, the diary mentions no 'objectionable' clothes and no or minimal make-up for girls.
Pedal-pushers are strictly forbidden. But free spirits have found a way.
'I wore a spaghetti strap top for a class where I knew the professor would have a problem, so I covered up with a stole. Pedal-pushers and make-up are par for the course. Sometimes students get caught, but it doesn't really matter,' says Christine Massey, a first-year student.
Principal Chatterjee of Presidency announced at the debate that colleges don't need a dress code.
But then, as Meghna Dass, moderator of the debate and a second-year sociology student pointed out, an official line is not the sole sartorial stricture for students.
'Even the aantel way of dressing is a way of conforming. There's tremendous peer pressure to fit in.' So, weather-beaten or weird, toeing the trendy line is still the tradition on campus.