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Nikki’s Inbox: A Style Prescription for a Future Doctor

Hello there. I’m a medical student preparing for my 3rd year at medical college. As we are entering the new term, we are supposed to go on ward rounds at the hospital from now on. The university has put strict restrictions on our clothing. We are not supposed to wear jeans, sleeveless tops, sneakers and above-the-knee dresses. We are expected to dress to look like professional doctors, and wear decent clothing that fits the standards. We are allowed to wear skirts with tops and dresses with professional footwear. No heels though. 🙁 I’m 161cm tall, 118 lbs. heavy, and have an hourglass body. I’ve been quite a fashion icon during the past years in college, so I want some help from you to continue dressing fashionably in a more decent manner. Can you give me a little help with some recommendations?

Isuri, 21/Sri Lanka


Any rules or restrictions on clothing can be stifling, especially if you like to follow or set trends, Isuri. But like I always say here, you can either view those rules as an obstacle, or use it as an opportunity to exercise your creativity. Now, which shall it be?

This is a good time to evaluate your style. I’ve always told my readers that our bodies are constantly changing, and so are our tastes. What you liked at 15 probably makes the 21-year-old you cringe in embarrassment. Right now, what you need is a functional yet stylish wardrobe that makes you look and feel professional, comfortable and easy to wear on a daily basis for the duration of your medical studies. This means having a good mix of separates and one-pieces that work well together.

Mock Two-Piece Dresses & Shirtdresses

I favor mock two-piece dresses a lot simply because they require little decision-making. Some are designed to look like two separate pieces, while others cleverly use color to make the top and bottom more distinctive. Either way, they’re easy to wear and style up or down, especially when you don’t have the time to agonize over your wardrobe. I also recommend shirtdresses, especially the collared ones, as they instantly make you look sharp, smart and chic!

Use Colors and Details

We often underestimate the power of color in our wardrobe. It’s a useful tool in branding, which you might want to use for yourself, Isuri. Clever use of color can set your mood and change the way others perceive you, like how pink is always associated with softness and femininity, or red for boldness. Mixing brights with neutrals like red with beige or tan, or a soft pink floral blouse with crisp white trousers can make your outfit look less boring and restrictive. Short or quarter-sleeve blouses, or shirts with vibrant stripes can make you look taller than your actual height, even without heels! Embroidery, contrast stitching, flutter sleeves, or even the slightest hint of illusion netting can totally change your outfit and show off your fashionable side.

The Right Length for Pants and Skirts

That restriction from your university on above-the-knee skirts and dresses is a practical one, in my opinion. Notice how your skirt or jeans rides higher when you sit down? The same thing happens when you bend over. Now imagine what would happen if you’re wearing a short skirt, or low-rise jeans.

Aside from my favorite silhouette which is the A-line, you can also consider knee-length or even mid-calf pencil skirts. However, I suggest you look for styles with more room at the hips and thighs, and preferably with side vents or a back vent to make it easier to move. You’d be surprised at how much they flatter an hourglass shape like yours!

For trousers, look for those flat-front styles with a hint of stretch and a slim-fit (not tight) silhouette. Again, this is for ease of movement. Since you’re petite, I suggest altering the inseams to reach your ankles. The last thing you want is excess fabric flapping at the heels that can make you trip, or worse, look sloppy.

Outerwear and Footwear

I have no idea if your university also has rules about requiring jackets or blazers for medical students. However, you have to admit that a smart blazer does wonders to an outfit, right? An actual blazer might not be advisable for now, but a light piece of outerwear is practical and helps complete your outfit.

Cardigans are the easiest thing to wear and own! They’re practically wash and wear (unless they’re made of finer materials like cashmere or fur), and go with just about anything. Go for rounded necklines so you can easily close the topmost buttons if needed. As for blazers, the collarless version is a great alternative to the usual style with a smart-casual vibe.

I prefer flats to heels myself, but that’s because I prefer comfort over style. Flats are definitely not boring, Isuri, and they’ll be your best friend over hours and hours of rounds at the hospital.

There will be days when you’ll be too drained to figure out what to wear, and that’s perfectly okay. You are a person doing your best. Here’s to your great future as a doctor!

P.S. If you’re sending a question, please don’t forget to include any helpful information about your body type or shape, your tastes or personality. You can include a selfie (link only please) or a photo of your clothes (which I will never publish without pre-approval). Thank you!

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