I am a fifth year medical student in university and I’m having a lot of trouble picking out outfits to wear in the hospital. We’re not allowed to wear accessories or watches, and need to have our hair tied up. We also have to wear long white coats with short sleeves. It’s hard to have a feminine style and to feel comfortable and confident. Would you be able to give me some clothing advice? Thank you!
Yasemin, 22/ The Netherlands
Every decision we make requires some sort of compromise. In your case, Yasemin, a little sartorial sacrifice must be made for the sake of your future as a doctor of medicine. Dress codes definitely vary by university and by country so while jeans are allowed for medical students in one university, business dress may be the norm for another. Since you didn’t mention additional information about your own university’s dress requirements, I’m hoping that my suggestions will still work for you.
Use Color Cleverly
This is something I always recommend to all my readers. You don’t always have to stick to an all-black, gray or white wardrobe, especially if you have to wear a white coat all the time. Wearing a vibrantly colored top softens the serious mood of a black blazer and matching trousers on those days when you have to dress a little more professionally, like a meeting with professors or with senior doctors, etc. With your white hospital coat, opt for pastels which will be more visually pleasing to the eye, both for your patients and for yourself. Fresh spring colors like leaf green, pink, lavender or lilac, light tangerine and sky blue are also calming colors which may keep you focused even with such a hectic schedule. Look for button-down, collared shirts and blouse with elbow-length or 3/4 sleeves (if you have to abide by BBE or “Bare Below the Elbow” rules) in these colors, and with small patterns like florals, botanicals or even animals. The prints can be a great conversation starter too!
It never hurts to add a little seasonal flair.
Opt for Chic Details
Look for small elegant accents when you go shopping, Yasemin. Puff sleeves, lace trim at the neckline, embroidery, pintucks or shoulder epaulettes with shiny buttons are just a few examples of how they can turn a plain top into a sophisticated piece. You can team these with straight leg jeans, a knee-length skirt or with slim-fit (not skinny) trousers, and with your choice of pumps, flats, or sneakers.
For class days, with a little élan.
Dress to Impress
As a future doctor, you are always face-to-face with either a colleague or a patient, so you always have to look your best as much as possible (looking your best after a 48-hour clinical rotation is impossible, I know). Aside from separates, you can also wear dresses that skim the knee and come in a drapey soft fabric. Classic A-lines will work well for you, as well as more fluid cuts like shift dresses that can be belted at the waist for a more flattering effect. With skirts, pencil cuts are good, especially those with a slightly ruffled hem as they balance the width at your hips. You can also go for midi-length skirts with a subdued pattern and a lovely chiffon blouse tucked at the waist.
Patterns and dark colors make stains less visible.
I understand why jewelry and watches are not allowed, and why you also have to keep your hair back or tied up. So this is where you have to just practice tasteful minimalism, Yasemin. Opt for gorgeous studs or a tiny and demure, single-rhinestone ear cuff in lieu of your usual earrings. If you’re going to keep you hair tied all the time, invest in some cute and colorful hair ties (stands out even if you’re in scrubs), and some equally adorable hair pins to keep all those stray locks in place. Even if you have to scale back on your accessories, you can use makeup to enhance your natural features, such as a little waterproof eyeliner, carefully groomed brows, and a dab of cheek and lip tint for a nice rosy glow.
Good luck, Dr. Yasemin!