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What (Not) to Wear to the Ath

April 14, 2010

Madison Shimoda
What (Not) to Wear to the Ath

When I tell my friends at other schools about the Athenaeum and the amazing speakers with whom I’ve had dinner, they always express jealousy. (“What? You had dinner with Maureen Dowd? I lined up for tickets for her speech for two hours and wasn’t able to get one!") You’ve probably heard this on your CMC college tour and during your orientation and from your professors and from a million different people but we are so privileged to have an institution like the Athenaeum at CMC. There might be some debate about whether our school is academically balanced and whether it’s a true liberal arts college or not, but one thing that is indubitably an exemplification of our liberal arts agenda is the Athenaeum. The Athenaeum, an arena for learning and exchange, demands our utmost respect, and one way we show respect is how we present ourselves. CMC students are generally conscious of their attire, but of late, there have just been too many people inappropriately dressed at the Ath. Just like you would not wear a tight mini-skirt to an interview, you should probably leave the mini-skirt in your laundry basket when you attend the Mitt Romney dinner tomorrow.

Here are some tips that I’ve garnered from my friends, family, professors, and bosses that might help you when you decide what to wear when you next attend an Ath function.


  • Do NOT wear polo shirts—The polo shirt is an athletic shirt—you wear them when you play polo, tennis, etc. They were part of my high school PE uniform. Do not wear gym clothes to the Ath. (Even if it's from Band of Outsiders.)

  • Do NOT wear casual shirts with a collar. Just because it has a collar does not mean it's a dress shirt. (Personally, I think you should avoid cheap dress shirts as well. They rarely fit well and turn a weird color after a few washes. If possible invest in a good, crisp white shirt. It doesn’t have to be Dior Homme, J. Crew makes nice shirts too.)

  • Do NOT wear shirts in the following colors: red, black, sky blue, or any neon. You are not going to a nightclub in the Meatpacking district or a rave.

  • Do wear dress shoes. Please don’t wear sneakers with your waistcoat. You are not Justin Timberlake at the Grammy Awards.

  • Do be careful about how many buttons you leave open on you shirt. It's fine if you don’t wear a tie to the Forum’s Idea Night but we don’t want to see your chest hair, even if your significant other may dig it.

  • Do tuck in your shirt. God forbid you’re wearing a polo, but if you are, tuck that in too. No exceptions.


  • Do NOT wear skirts that are shorter than three inches above your knee. Remember that annoying rule back in high school? Yes, it applies at the Ath also.

  • Do NOT wear heels that you cannot walk in. This isn’t so much a dress code issue but more of a safety of the servers carrying trays of food issue.

  • Do NOT wear anything that you would wear to TNC.

  • Do wear a jacket, cardigan, or shawl over a dress or top that might be dangerously revealing. I’ve also gotten away with some dresses that might be more black-tie with a suit jacket. It also helps hide any unsightly bra straps.

  • Do accessorize. The boring formal LBD that your mother gave you can easily be jazzed up with jewelry, the right shoes, and purse.

  • Do NOT wear sundresses to the Athenaeum. They are not formal. Also, the color-blocked dresses I see every so often at the Ath, also not formal and also so very 2008.

Instead of doing suggested outfits, as I normally do, for the Athenaeum, I thought I would showcase some of what I might wear to the Athenaeum and how I combine pieces that are not always formal so I don't need to have a separate formal wear wardrobe. (As you will probably notice, I don’t wear a lot of color.)

If you have additional tips or ideas, please feel free to leave comments below. See you at the Ath!

Items in this set:

Old Navy Womens Grecian-Jersey Tops, $20 Seersucker Bow Jacket, $34 IZ Byer California Picot-Trim Linen Jacket, $22 Women's skirts - pencil - Stretch double-serge pencil skirt - J.Crew, $98 - Bottoms - Skirts - 2067842529, $9.80

My color palette is black, white, grey, and navy blue. That way, I can throw on an outfit when I'm rushing and still not look like a total mess. I don't usually like Mary Janes but when I saw these soft ones in the Chinatown in LA, I had to get them.

Items in this set:

dELiAs > Jenna Tulle Dress > apparel > dresses > sleeveless, $50 Regina Chambray Dress, $40 Vintage Dresses - Find a Vintage Cocktail Dress at Ballyhoo Vintage, $35 Gray Sleeveless Sheath Dress, $35 Beaded Top Empress Earrings - Cream/Gold, $8.80

Dresses can easily be jazzed up with cute accessories. I like to pair feminine looking dresses with edgier accessories like a studded belt to give it an element of surprise.

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