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You don’t need to wear a ball gown to cram for midterms, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for sweats. Throughout the next week, many students will pull all-nighters and rush to hit minimum word counts. Coffee pots will be emptied and sleepy parents will be called by their tearful, strung out kids.

This week, comfy clothes that take less than two minutes to pick out and that double as pajamas (so useful when a study session turns into a much-needed desk nap!) will tempt your overworked brain and library-bound body. But the academic stress of midterm week should not be used as an excuse for a deterioration of style. On the contrary, putting in the effort to construct interesting and aesthetic outfits is an easy and justifiable way to take creative respites from your studies.

Midterms week sees many students putting their non-academic lives on hold: bailing on rehearsals, lacking sleep, skipping meals, delaying showers, ignoring friends, and widely overlooking those activities that usually fall under the “things that make me happy and functional” category. And while the best advice I could give would be to not do all the things listed above or make select concessions only as needed, I’m sure that I myself will not be able to heed my own advice. With a totally balanced week as the ideal, the minimal baseline of self-care in actuality should be a composed wardrobe.

No matter your level of test-related anxiety, you have to get dressed every day. It is a necessary action that cannot cause even the most precocious student to guiltily fret about neglecting their work. When there isn’t time to do the things that normally take your mind off of schoolwork, you missed your workout and your solid eight hours, your daily accoutrement is the perfect opportunity to guarantee a daily exercise in creativity and meditation.

Think about what shirt goes with those trousers. Try on some clashing patterns and see if they work. Wear fun pants. Wear monochrome. Layer up, pare down. Take a few moments of midterm-week-appropriate relaxation before your closet each morning exploring colors and textures, before you get started on problem sets, essays, and a 30-minute presentation. Allow yourself a few moments of escape from textbooks, ones, and zeros, even when you feel like your brain should only be full of French verb tenses and the names of seventh-century caliphs.

And if a moment of tranquility is not a compelling enough reason to pay attention to your clothes — think of it as an academic measure. Wearing a coffee-stained fleece, half-frenzied, hair disheveled, you approach a test half-defeated. You don’t look your best or feel your best. Your chapped lips are splitting in the corners. The pristine pages before you taunt you with their crisp black and white appearance. If you dress well — composed, confident — you’ll feel ready to test well. You look better than the test does. You are in control of the situation. Bring it on. 

If you succumb to the sweats, moreover, it is a confession that, at least for the next week, you define yourself by the letters between ‘A’ and ‘F.’ Appearance means nothing, and you, as an individual, are reduced to uncompromising grades.

As University students, the majority of us regard school as our first priority. The gravity of grades can seem unhealthily astronomical this week. This can lead to distress, mental health flare ups, and honor code violations. By taking pride in how you look, even when you’re stressed and worried about your exams, you acknowledge that regardless of this week’s stress, grades are not the only thing that matters. You recognize that there is a world outside of the orange bubble. A world where what you like to wear, explore, imagine, and create genuinely matters. You wear a physical reminder that you are more than what you’re studying.

Even though New Jersey is not generally considered a fashion capital and no one is planning on rolling out a red carpet on Prospect Avenue, dress up. Dress up, because for the next week it just might keep you sane.

Noa Wollstein is at a sophomore from Plainview, N.Y. She can be reached at noaw@princeton.edu.

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