Dress circle

While most students do not want to be told what to wear to college, they would not mind guidelines on how to dress for class, finds Sharmistha Ghosal

You thought you’d bid goodbye to the uniform in school, and now could rock college in your ripped skinny jeans and a crop top, or a hoodie and leggings, hmm? Think again. Though it sounds cheesy, and old-fashioned, many colleges are now focusing on a dress code. It was not just Calcutta’s Scottish Church College that came out with a notice for dress code (in case, if you’ve missed the news: the college’s rector issued notice detailing specific dos and don’ts on how to dress in the college, which was later withdrawn). Last year, several colleges in Chennai imposed a strict dress code not only on campus and also in hostels. 

Rounak Bagchi, a third-year student of history in Scottish Church College, says, “Although the notice was withdrawn, no one is allowed to wear shorts. We have been verbally asked to dress decently.” An official from the college, who doesn’t want to be named, agrees, “We did withdraw the dress code in the face of stiff opposition but a new notice to dress properly was issued.”    

Netai Chandra Dey, dean of student affairs, IIEST, Shibpur, believes that authorities of higher education institute shouldn’t bother about how students dress. “However, during campus placements we ask students to dress in formals,” he says. “We don’t mind as such but big companies tend to prefer students who dress and behave properly.” Wearing formal clothes gives students an understanding of how they should dress once they join the corporate life.

The dress code in IIT is “decent” and “safe” for a specific work environment. Says Soumya Mukherji, dean (student affairs), IIT Bombay, “There are certain dress requirements [overalls] for places like the machine shops. But we don’t object to students wearing tattoos or ear-rings.” According to him, since IITians comprise the brightest minds in the country they don’t need to be bothered by something as trivial as what to wear. “Besides, in a multicultural country like India, one should not impose any specific dress.” Echoes, Pradip Ghosh, registrar, Jadavpur University, “We have a liberal approach and students are intelligent enough not to cross the limits of decency.”    

While strictures on what to wear generally infuriate most students, there are many who support some sort of dress code in college. The topic of our debate (see Your Voice on page 4) last week received almost equal numbers of views for and against the motion. Many of these students think that you don’t have to look at a dress code as something as regimented as a uniform but there’s no harm if an advisory is issued by the college authority. Says Joeeta Sengupta, an MA student at Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta, “A dress code is necessary because there are many students who don’t understand the difference between what you wear to a party and what you wear to college.” Agrees, Shourya Basu of Techno India College, Salt Lake, Calcutta, “Some students don’t understand the simple fact that you can’t go to college dressed in loungewear. Not just students, on occasion some teachers also dress in a bizarre fashion.” 

If students at professional institutes — such as budding doctors who wear an apron in medical college — can abide by dress codes then why can’t students at other colleges do so, asks Tintin Dasgupta, who is studying microbiology at Asutosh College, Calcutta. 

Dressing is a form of self-expression, believes Tanima Debmalik, second year MBA student, Symbiosis International University, Pune. “When students leave college and enter the corporate or professional world, they won’t get a set dress code but will have to depend on their own discretion as to what to wear and when. So rather than imposing a strict dress code, colleges should teach them how to make the right choices regarding their outfits in different walks of life.” 
Look at that dress code in college as something that is preparing you for your working life. After all, when you are asked to wear business casuals to office, you should know what sort of clothes the are!    

Designed by Sreetama Chowdhury, NIIFT, Calcutta


Tips on what to wear, when


  • Pair your jeans with pastel-coloured cotton shirts or cotton kurtis. Wear with Kohlapuris or sandals
  • Go ethnic in a fitted salwar kurta — small jhumkas and a little kajal will up the style quotient. Boys can try striped kurtas with jeans 
  • Use a long cotton dupatta as a wrap-around skirt with an interesting belt or a brooch. Match it with a basic cotton kurti, suggests designer Agnimitra Paul 
  • Wear collared T-shirts in solid colours and without any graffiti on them. Denims should be indigo, sky blue or grey. Wear contrast sneakers or ankle shoes with them


  • A cotton churidar kurta with a Chinese collar in a pastel shade or a nude colour in fabrics such as linen or cotton (avoid anything heavily embroidered)
  • If you prefer western wear, try palazzo pants with a fitted, striped shirt or a cropped linen jacket with a pencil skirt, suggests designer Agnimitra Paul 
  • A formal white straight fit dress with a small black round collar and a deep blue formal overcoat with a large collar and small golden buttons is the choice of Aparajeeta Mukherjee, third-year student at INIFD, Calcutta. A black leather bag and black pumps complete the look
  • Pair a navy-blue suit jacket with dark blue trousers and a light blue shirt. Add grey tie with polka dots for a trendy touch


  • If you have the figure, you can wear hot pants and a funky top; prints, colour blocking, sequins — wear whatever your heart desires
  • For those not much into experimenting, there’s always the little black dress (LBD)
  • Boys, try out a tuxedo for that suave look. You can also go for coloured leather jackets. But don’t wear colours that don’t go with your complexion 
  • Pair colourful accessories with black or grey. This goes for both boys and girls


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