Why does work stress translate so much into our wardrobes?Pexels

Picture the scene: week five. Deadlines approach at an unfathomable rate. So now you have options. Reach out to a DoS or trusted supervisor. Let them know you’re struggling and need to move things around. A reasonable enough request right? Wrong. We’ve all been burned by the expectation that someone will care that you’re drowning under a mountain of work. Surprise! They don’t. Which leads us to option number two: crisis mode. Based on my own experience and that of the people around me, crisis mode is an inevitability that everyone must face during their time at Cambridge. My own recent spiral into the depths of a deadline-fueled, existential crisis left me thinking —“God I look a state!” My hair needed washing approximately two essays ago (I write them fast before anyone gets too judgmental) and I was living in the same ratty t-shirt and sweats.

No one had seen me for days so it didn’t really matter, but it does raise certain questions. Was this particular look saving me any time in the morning? Did I think that wearing softer materials would slow down the approach of three consecutive essays? Do we try to generate a feeling of warmth and comfort with our wardrobe that might stave off the encroaching feeling of failure and misery? At the height of essay stress I have been known to decide that I need to completely change my style, put together some of my favourite outfits, and treat Cambridge like my personal runway. So why does work stress translate so much into our wardrobes? Let’s take a look at the different crisis-inspired looks and how to style them to look your best, or maybe even your worst.

Number one: The catwalk crisis-er 

So your supervisor marked your essay with one big question mark. What are you gonna do about it? Be sad at home? Not a chance. This is the time to don a new maxi skirt (spring is coming!) and live your best Sidgwick-girlie life, perfectly accessorised. Convince the world that everything is fine, and maybe you’ll believe it too!

Number two: The glam denier 

You’re convinced you can have it all. “I’ll pre while I work!” you have optimistically proclaimed. And so you find yourself in a stunning club fit, perfectly fitting flares and cute top, or maybe dressed for a formal in classy-yet-sexy evening wear, glass of wine in hand… sat at your desk. Hating everything. It can be just the right amount of motivation to write those last 400 words, but more often than not you end up in a pit of frustration that you're not only not spending enough time on work, but you are also missing pres. So really everything is worse. But you know what? You look stunning.

Number three: The don’t-want-to-be-seen-by-anyone, will-be-hibernating-for-all-of-this-week-er

Why not stay in pyjamas all day when it seems like all of the joy has been sucked out of the world? When you are questioning why this university ever let you in in the first place, the comforts of soft seams and hopefully an adorable pattern might just be what it takes to make everything feel okay. Or, it might make you feel like even more of a disgusting mess who can’t achieve anything. Sometimes abandoning modern society’s expectations of style is a helpful cocoon of security, and sometimes you’re facilitating your own destruction. Good luck out there.


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So how should we dress when it seems that everything around us is crumbling? For the days where you are struggling with motivation and putting on a cute outfit might just save you, here are some suggestions. 

  • Jeans and a t-shirt might seem like a tired idea, but they truly are a classic and can be altered to any style. Whether they're the baggiest ever, or a tight fitting boot-cut jean, an oversized vintage T-shirt or a nineties baby-tee, this combination will always be a winner. 
  • Jackets. A very important item in any wardrobe. If you are wearing a beautiful coat or jacket, no one will look much further than that, especially if you monochrome the fit underneath. Contrast the colour of your outfit with the coat - if the coat is black wear lights under, if the coat is light, wear all black. P.S. wearing all black is a great way of looking put together with very little effort. 
  • One statement item. Keep it simple. Pick one item you love and know looks good, whether it be statement boots, a brightly coloured jumper or patterned trousers. Keep everything else very simple, and you immediately have a killer outfit. 

Remember — there is no right or wrong. If the way you can best focus is in a 70s style suit, a May Ball worthy dress, or pyjamas you’ve had since you were sixteen, then no one can tell you otherwise.