The Style at IE University: How do Students View their Dress Codes?

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Dress codes can be controversial topics: some people swear by them, while others believe them to be restrictive. Yet, there is an unofficial dress code at IE. 

I surveyed first-year IE students from Segovia, as well as interviewed some students to see what they think about a potential dress code at IE. 

University is a formal environment, meaning that there is already an expectation to dress professionally. Yet, one could argue that university is a time for students to find their style and voice, thus expressing their journey through clothing.

These two ideas can overlap – as not all forms of self-expression can abide by the standard of a “professional dress code.”

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Image courtesy of IE University’s Instagram (@ieuniversity)

When surveyed students were asked if they believed universities should implement a dress code, 90% answered no, while 70% believed enforcing a dress code at university is inappropriate

First-year LLB BIR student and class representative Lana Francella (pictured below) added to this idea: 

I don’t think dress codes (at IE) are necessary because we are adults and can make our own decisions. To me, clothes are a way of self-expression and how I make an impression on others. That means that we can make our own decision on how we look and there is no need for regulation on that because we consciously think, “What will people think of me today, or, how do I feel about myself today?” when we wake up and put on a particular outfit. 

This is probably the most critical question, and as long as we are taking decisions that make us feel good, I don’t think a dress code is necessary because we are not going to stay happy and pleased the way we would be by making our choices with our clothes [and what we wear.]” 

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Image of Lana Francella, courtesy of Lana Francella

But what about an unofficial dress code?

80% of students in the survey believe in an unspoken dress code.

There appears to be a certain stereotype on how IE students dress – “The average student is not average, usually wearing some designer brand, although not necessarily showcased,” says Valeria Herrera, first-year BBA student, and class representative. 

80% of students in the survey agree, believing there is an expectation among IE students to dress a certain way. When given the options of business casual, sports attire, casual, and formal, 40% of survey-takers chose casual while 60% chose business casual.  

What about the different degrees on campus – do IE’s degrees affect how people dress?

In the survey, 70% of takers answered “yes”, justifying it along the lines of expectations: 

Business-related degrees have a more formal dress code, meanwhile, more creative and humanistic degrees have a more casual and free dress code,” shared one anonymous student.

Francello shares her views on the matter of degrees affecting how we dress too: 

I do not think students from different degrees dress a certain way. I think it is a stereotype that, yes, we see the business people and they are going to dress the same, same with the law students – they dress the same, and all the design students – they dress the same…

But in my experience, meeting so many different people at IE and coming from so many diverse places in the world, everyone has a different idea of clothes and what is professional or not, and that differs from country to country. So, it’s important to realize that it’s not a case of BBA students dressing the same or Law students dressing the same – because I promise you, if you walk into my law class on a Tuesday morning at 9:00, sometimes you won’t be looking at us thinking, “Yes, these are future lawyers!” but rather think, “They are a group of students making their way through law school,” and right know, that’s all we need to be doing.” 

Do students believe the way they dress affects their studies?

20% of students taking the survey said maybe. However, psychologists have been studying the ‘enclothed cognition’ phenomenon, which describes how clothes can influence not only how we are perceived, but also our performance, including test scores. 

The formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person, and how people perceive themselves but could influence decision making in important ways through its influence on processing style,” states Abraham M. Rutchick Psychologist, at California State University.

Yet, the application of a dress code would imply that students can’t make the conscious decision to dress formally or professionally.

Here is what Francella had to say about whether a dress code is necessary: 

I think dress codes can promote many sexist ideas, and let me tell you, just because a girl is walking around in a skirt or crop top does not mean she is getting any less of a grade than you are. 

I think it promotes sexist ideals and increases the way we are micromanaged. And as adults, we now have the responsibilities in which we can have children and whatever legal action we take – all these things in which clothes don’t need to be regulated.

Whether one believes in dress codes or not: it’s important to maintain a balance between dressing appropriately for a professional environment and to keep true to yourself – expressing your style through clothing. Yet, perhaps even more importantly – it is trying to avoid falling into the traps of expectations and stereotypes of how one should dress. 

Though IE University currently holds no dress code, it would be interesting to see what it would be like if they implemented one, and how the student body may begin to maybe dress differently.

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