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Photo by Jeanne Malle/The Choate News

Ms. Zhao describes style as a reflection of a person’s personality


When speaking of fashion on campus, our community seldom mentions anyone but students. Whether the discussion be admiring or criticizing one’s style, the talk never revolves around anyone but us; I have seldom heard anyone commenting on teachers’ style choices. Is it just assumed that because of their ages and career choice, the world of fashion should be kept out of their lives? Ms. Dan Zhao, a Chinese teacher on campus, proved this theory wrong when I asked her some questions about her sense of style. Summarizing her style she said, “Simple, elegant, conservative, practical.” She continued, “I never follow or care about trends. It is all about the fit. Very often my clothes last for at least a few years. I have quite a few clothes that are 15 years old. I still wear them and like them. It’s very environmentally friendly.”

For Ms. Zhao, “how a person dresses reflects the person’s personality and perspective of beauty.” She elaborated, “My clothes are mostly in quiet color just like me: white, grey, black, brown, blue, beige, dark green, etc. I do use loud color a little now and then but only for accessories.”

When I asked her if getting dressed as a teacher was a different task than getting dressed for almost any other career, she replied without doubt, “Oh yes. I think that because I am in front of students, I need to show them something that I believe must be beautiful.” She continued, “I would really like my students to dress similar to me. I believe that it’s a great style. They might not dress the exact same, but at least learn to wear something nice and appropriate.”

The conservative style that Ms. Zhao has developed did not begin at the starting point of her teaching career, but in her childhood. “I was a very picky kid for my clothes, and my mom felt frustrated when she brought me shopping because I liked almost nothing,” she explained as she laughed at herself.

In raising her children, Ms. Zhao understands how important it is to let them choose what kind of style they want to have. She commented, “I let my kids wear what they want. My eight-year-old, he will choose something better than I can choose. That was really a surprise for me. It’s interesting how young they were already able to recognize what is beautiful and what is not. There are situations where I really dress up and my two year old will come to me and say, ‘mom, you’re beautiful!’ It was very crazy.” Her reasoning when deciding to give freedom of fashion to her kids had everything to do with her. “My style from when I was young is definitely not the same as the one from now. It takes some time for you to recognize what you are, what type of clothes belong to you.”

She believes it to be a necessity for any student to learn to dress appropriately, for although she admits these outfits may be conservative, she also sees that it is neither boring nor unappealing. It truly is important to embrace every aspect of your community, because who knows what hidden gems lie out there!

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