The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts December 16, 2005
O Style
Bad hair? Dark circles? What to do during exam week. 

by Emily Ascolese

Every year the snow descends and we stop sleeping, stop showering, stop doing laundry, stop eating well-prepared, non-processed foods, stop with the makeup, the hair brushes, the flossing, with the coordinating of socks and shirts, and we descend, ourselves, into a fog of computers, pajamas and flashcards.

In the last weeks we see each other before retreating to our families and the cold stretch of Winter Term, we lock ourselves in our rooms, hide in the deepest alcoves of Mudd, move into A-level; we subsist on caffeine and (non-trans fat, organic) snack foods.

In the face of finals, questions of fashion become exceptionally trivial. The unfortunate reality is that even though we may cease to care about what we’re wearing, we still have to bother with getting dressed.

For some, the main issue is one of pragmatism: we must be dressed, we must be warm, and we must be comfortable in order to face the grading gauntlet. For others, maintaining style in times of stress is a matter of confidence — for instance, an acquaintance of mine who has since graduated used to come to every test in a suit and tie, just to make sure he was taking it seriously.

And then there is the matter of the boyfriends, girlfriends and crushes we are separated from over break; will their impression of us from this flurry of final days be carried through the next six weeks?

Whether you opt for the route of comfort or wish to maintain the illusion of style, there are tricks for getting by. Working at the Review has made me a veteran at looking fashionable (or less like a zombie) after three hours of sleep. My tactic is to plan ahead, keep a stash of nice and comfy clothes on hand and own a great hat.

By “plan ahead” I don’t actually mean laying out your outfits in advance the way your mother did for you on the first day of kindergarten. What I mean is that you should do your laundry now.

If the task is too daunting, if you fear that the mountains of crumpled garments on your floor cannot be subdued until your Honor Code is signed and behind you, it’s okay. Just grab a handful of your cutest, nicest, comfiest or luckiest items — whatever is going to get you through — and head to the laundry room. If you’re out of quarters, head for the sink; there is no shame in hang drying. When you’re done, keep this survival gear in a special place, an end of your closet, a section of your drawer, some place you can get into and out of quickly. You now have a Finals Survival Pile.

What you keep in your FSP is up to you. One tactic is to organize by consistency — blandly colored clothing, such as dark jeans, can be worn repeatedly without being noticed. Another is diversion — if you’re wearing your hippest, most eye-catching skirt, no one will notice that your skin has gone all oily from stress or that you still have the same highlighter mark on your arm that you did yesterday.

The most pragmatic criteria for stocking your survival pile is, of course, comfort and warmth. But pajama-wearers beware: it may seem like a great idea to slink off to your early morning test in flannel pants, but there’s snow outside, and it’s hard to concentrate on linear algebra with wet ankles. Don’t attempt without boots.

The most important element to the finals survival style plan is, of course, the hat. The hat is key. This will allow you to skip any part of the hair-grooming process — showering, brushing, drying, whatever — unnoticed. If you don’t like hats, I suggest fooling yourself and those around you that you’re of the hipster persuasion for the next few days. Start now; it may take some convincing.


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