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A Nerd's Guide to "Nerd Chic" Style

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

A Nerd's Guide to "Nerd Chic" Style

Remember that magical day you were liberated from the iron fist of your mother’s rule?

Suddenly the shackles of her perfectly matching frilly tops and bottoms were torn off, and you were given the freedom to carve out your very own style destiny.

I was the tender age of 8 when my mother’s totalitarian regime crumbled, and my sovereign rule as a nerdy style gypsy over my closet began.

My first outfit concoction centered around my lime green track jacket that was previously used during my brief stint in a hit-and-run doorbell gang that involved obnoxiously jamming my Vienna sausage fingers into neighborhood doorbells and stealthily scuttling away. I paired this lime green wonder with corduroy pants and green suede penny loafers, and miraculously I looked fresher than the Fresh Prince and more regal than Thomas Jefferson in his 18th century attire.

I was a free woman, and in my freedom I experimented wildly with my closet’s offerings.

A colony of wolves howling against an ominous moon on a blackened tee? Absolutely.

Pepto-Bismol-striped leggings underneath that flowery skirt exclusively reserved for weddings? Even better.

I dressed in a way that was completely uninhibited, and the only rule that I lived by was to wear exactly what I wanted.

In the golden age of my youth, I was contentedly oblivious to the implications of a raised eyebrow or overt eye roll towards my outfit concoctions, but unfortunately now things are a little different. While I’d like to think that an independently-minded, middle child in the renaissance of her thirties such as myself lives with utter disregard for the opinions of others, I’ve found that I am still a bit soft. I care sometimes a little too much about a furrowed brow in my direction.

And I’ve found the more that we take note of these looks of disapproval, the more we subjugate ourselves to yet another oppressive regime of rules and safely matching ensembles. It’s as if we’re voluntarily entering back into our mothers’ style shackles with no fun in sight.

If there is a way that we might return to our glory days of wearing exactly what we wanted without consequence, the movement of “Nerd Chic” is our best bet to get there. When you think of Nerd Chic, you may think of corny, thick-rimmed, Dexter’s-Laboratory-style glasses, pocket protectors and pants that are hiked up to camel toe proportions. But I assure you, Nerd Chic bears none of that. The spirit of Nerd Chic is a return to childhood and learning again what it is to dress without consequence. The rules are flexible: patterns are meant to clash, colors are meant to be expressive, and all this playfulness is tempered with just the slightest hint of structure. If you feel like your wardrobe has been a bit enslaved by rules and regulations, a lesson on Nerd Chic may be just the thing you need to bring a bit of freedom and expression to your style.

Kat wearing Peter Pan collar dress with criss cross sweater

Bibs Aren’t For Babies

When channeling Nerd Chic, a healthy dose of a Peter Pan bib collar will help get you started. The Peter Pan collar is a clothing collar with a flat design and rounded corners. It was originally designed for Maude Adams who played Peter Pan in its first New York production. The collar is a touch of whimsy, quirk and childhood all in one. For this look, I have paired an orange skater dress (a short dress with a fitted waist and a flared, A-line bottom) that bears a Peter Pan collar and layered a criss-crossed sweatshirt over it. I pulled the collar over the neckline of the sweatshirt, and suddenly the two become one. The silhouette of this outfit elicits feelings of youth and playfulness with a hint of elegance. This pairing can’t help but put a few giggles into the soul.

Kat wearing Tulle dress with moto jacket

It’s Tulle Time

When I think of childhood, I think of tulle skirts and my sister and cousin toddling to obligatory ballet recitals. It seems every child at some point was believed to have the power of dance in them and was forced to wear a puffy, flouncy, fantastical tulle skirt and pay for their parents misinformed intuition by way of dance recitals. While you may not have the power of dance on your side, I assure you, you will always have the power of tulle. You cannot help but smile when you wear a tulle skirt. You immediately want to twirl and say things like “Golly," “Gee Wiz” and “Nifty.” The tulle is the ultimate return to childhood, and pairing this whimsical skirt with a tailored piece like a fitted moto jacket is the perfect blend of uninhibited style with a touch of structure.

Kat wearing a graphic tee shirt with a skater dress

When A Nerd Gets Graphic

I cannot tell you how many wild wolf t-shirts I owned back in my younger years. Whether they were howling to an ominous moon, glaring hungrily into blank space, or running in a pack toward my left boob on a desert plain, I owned basically every configuration of wolf t-shirt imaginable. Wolves are not so stylish. However, graphic tees are a more fashionable nod to those strange and zany t-shirts you may have worn as a child. For this Nerd Chic ensemble, I borrowed a graphic tee from the eclectic closet of my partner in crime, the Hubbinator himself. The quirkier the tee, the better. I like to gather the fabric of the graphic tee to one side and tie a knot to secure a crop top like style and pair it with a skater dress. While both the skater and graphic tee ooze reckless abandon, you want to ensure that this look is balanced by pairing the loud and colorful tee with a neutral skater dress. If you go the route of flamboyant graphic tee and colorful skater, you may run the risk of looking like a confused tween, but I will happily leave that up to your own discretion.

Revenge of The Nerds

If you find your style is stagnating under too many rules and regulations, it’s time to get nerdy and bring back your favorite eclectic childhood style wonders. Giving them a hint of premeditated structure can turn these outfits from nerdy to Nerd Chic. If you want to explore how to bring a little Nerd Chic to your wardrobe, schedule a free style session with me and let’s get nerdy!

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Feb 24, 2019

Hey Meryl, So glad you are also an appreciator of Cats and Star Wars. This marvelous creation came by way of etsy, here's the link :


Feb 22, 2019

So cute! I'm such a nerd... I love star wars and cats. That shirt is hilarious. Where on earth did you find it?


Feb 21, 2019

Hey there carolmamas, aw, sorry to hear that you felt your experiment with the graphic tee was a fail. I will say that not all graphic tees are created equal. Some are "Very Me" others are not. IF the quirkier variety didn't work for you, you can definitely try some tamer ones like here: Hope this gives you a little inspiration!


Feb 21, 2019

Hey Kat, I have actually attempted and failed that exact outift with a graphic tee and skater skirt. I'm not sure where I went wrong but its adorable on you.


Feb 20, 2019

Hey renee, I would not think that stripes and floral go together either. I think the key for this outfit is that the flowers were very subtle, so it almost served as a more neutral palette. So glad to hear these looks surprised you!

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