The DM Manual of Style

by Stefanie Zychowski | 11/14/08 4:35am

Hello my name is Stefanie, and I'm a dork -- a total unabashed geek. I've been known to watch C-Span for fun, download Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus albums because I genuinely like them and tell painfully corny jokes at the most inappropriate times. Honestly, there's not much else to aspire to when you're a scrawny myopic klutz who spent her formative years socializing at an all-girls school. Luckily for me and my kindred dorky spirits, geeks are having their moment in the sun, heralded by actors (here's to you, Michael Cera) and musicians (see former Ivy League nerds Vampire Weekend and Chester French) who draw inspiration from painful years of being stuffed into high school lockers.

Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the fashion world. Flip open any magazine: All the beautiful people in everything from the advertisements to the editorials are modeling conservative looks -- the sort typically favored by varsity mathletes. Nerdiness happens to be extremely and counter-intuitively hip at the moment as trendsetters proclaim, "Le geek, c'est chic."

The explosion of fashion's affair with the bookworm can be traced back to two notable sources: Marc Jacobs and Luella Bartley are the chief proponents of stylish dorkiness. Since its inception in 1986, Marc's eponymous collection found its muse in the shy "awkward little sister" and attracted an suitably quirky following. Marc finds his inspiration in the fabulously offbeat such as Sofia Coppola, with her overbite and skinny legs, and in brainy artists like Cindy Sherman and Rachael Feinstein. Even now, after his own physical transformation from shlubby intellectual into buffed and bronzed party boy, Marc's aesthetic sympathies do not lie with the popular crowd, even if he is one of them.

Similarly, Luella Bartley's memorable spring 2008 homage to comic book geeks continues to reverberate throughout the fashion world. With surly models sporting superhero T-shirts, mismatched floral prints, high-waisted khakis, clunky boots and oversized spectacles, each outfit looked like something worn by a gawky 14-year-old obsessed with Star Wars and anime.

The overwhelming influence of Luella and Marc's aesthetic has filtered into the collections of fellow designers who also showed bookish and eccentric looks. This season, style's nerd herd includes such cutting-edge designers as Karen Walker, Trovata, Shipley & Halmos, Peter Jensen and Chris Benz, who were decidedly un-shy about using the runway to declare their love for socially awkward misfits. Clashing and mismatched prints, high-water pants and suspenders, sweater vests and Peter Pan collars, granny cardigans and penny loafers -- fall shows only needed calculator watches and designer pocket protectors to complete the costume.

For those who want to look just like Buddy Holly, stores are loaded with options. H&M has a great selection of so-dorky-they're-cool khakis in various styles. For the more cautious they offer a slim, skinny fit cut. Those who really want to get their geek on can check out the high-waisted, pleated, cropped and cuffed version. Grab a pair, tuck in your favorite polo shirt, add a colorful belt and you'll look fashionably studious.

Another easy and quick way to get nerdy while still looking enviably au courant? Grab mismatching items you already have in your closet. For example, pair a favorite striped T-shirt with a floral skirt or combine plaid pants with a checked oxford, buttoned up to the collar. For extra credit, throw on a pair of unnecessary eyeglasses -- the more outrageous, the better. While dark-rimmed Coke-bottle glasses used to be the true marking of an authentic dork, now, thanks to Luella and Chris Benz, they are the latest ironic affectation of every Williamsburg hipster. Inexpensive (Girlprops.com has dirty cheap crazy specs) and ultimately disposable, glasses are a low-key way to change around your look and invest in the trend. Paired with an air of supreme confidence, it's hard to go wrong.

Let's face it: here at Dartmouth, we are a bunch of dorks. We were the ones who spent our entire high school careers juggling AP classes and obsessing over GPAs and SAT scores while our friends did normal teenage things, like go to parties or talk to the opposite sex. While we might not be the same horrifically socially stunted mouth breathers that we were in high school, it is rare for even the coolest among us to leave their inner geeky kid completely behind. When fashion declares that nerd is the new sexy, perhaps it's time to openly accept your true dorkiness and take it to the next level. Dress like that World of Warcraft playing chess club member you know you are. After all, this season the geek shall inherit the earth.

Stefanie is a staff writer for The Mirror.