By Alison Tan (23S03A), Anamika Ragu (23A01A), and Nor Akmal (23S03A)
“Doesn’t ‘drip’ on its own mean something different from ‘dripping’?”Ms Chuang Sulynn, Literature Department
Indeed it does, and more. With the sweltering heat of living on the equator and attire regulations looming over us every time we reach for something from the closet, having ‘drip’ (fashion and/or style) in Raffles Institution seems to be a mammoth task.
Despite this, our teachers make do rather impressively.
The Best Accessorised section features teachers with unique additions to their daily outfits. Whether it’s through being ‘iced out’ (with jewellery) or supporting local businesses, even the smallest forms of self-expression can tell invaluable stories.
We begin with Mrs Nicola Perry from the Literature Department, who is rarely seen without iconic silver fairies adorning her ears and a silver pendant of a Chinese character around her neck. For her, jewellery can hold a great deal of personal significance.
These earrings in particular remind Mrs Perry of her late mother, who was “a wonderful storyteller”.
“One of the first things my parents took me to see at the theatre was a pantomime of Peter Pan, and I was entranced at the thought that, by clapping my hands and saying that I believed in fairies, I played a part in bringing Tinkerbell back to life,” she recounted.
“Years later, I bought my mother a clay sculpture of the Queen of the Fairies for the bottom of her garden, so she’d always have fairies [there].
“When she died, we claimed [the sculpture],” she explained, ensuring the fairy magic remained in the family by eventually passing it down to her own daughter. Later on, Mrs Perry found the earrings in a market in Fremantle, Australia, another sign of the ‘fairy magic’; or at least that everything would be alright in the end.
“It’s always worth having something (perhaps a little frivolous) but necessary to remind you that there’s always hope and imagination that will keep us alive regardless of the odds.”Mrs Perry, on her fairy earrings.
On her neck, she dons a silver pendant of a Chinese symbol meaning ‘healthy’, something she found herself relying on during a difficult time in her life several years ago when she was struggling with an unexpected, personal health-challenge. A serendipitous moment occurred amid such ‘insurmountable odds’ when this seemingly innocuous silver charm in a jewellery shop caught her eye. On asking the jeweller to translate the character, she knew it was meant for her.
From that day onwards, the necklace became her “totem, giving hope where there had seemed to be none.”
Next up is Ms Chuang, also from the Literature Department, who recently donned strikingly coloured hair which has (unfortunately) since washed out.
“I usually dye my hair either red or purple, which I’ve been told is better for my skin tone,” says Ms Chuang. “Dyeing my hair, for me, is also a form of self-care.”
While Ms Chuang prioritises comfort, she also tries to be sustainable, especially with her accessories. “I use a reusable mask because I’m trying to be more environmentally conscious and support local brands,” explains Ms Chuang. “This is from a local brand called Little Sarong.”
The Best Coordinated section features teachers with impeccable fashion sense; their outfits will impress students and teachers alike. Their personal styles also reflect their deeper considerations— beyond their comfort and the aesthetic—when deciding what to wear everyday.
Highly requested for this article and greatly admired, Ms Nicole Magno from the Knowledge Skills Department brightens every student’s day with clothing that she views as a form of self-expression. For the interview, she donned a military jacket from Zara and faux leather boots, exuding “founding father vibes” (as described by one of her students.).
Exploring eye-catching yet put-together outfits is a passion of Ms Magno’s. She thoroughly enjoys people’s reactions to what she wears, especially when she sets out to explore various themes or colour palettes.
A key guideline she always returns to is ‘OTP’ – occasion, time, and purpose. With the formality and professionalism required as a teacher and Ms Magno’s affinity towards bold pieces, a certain level of balance is then reached.
“It’s fun to try wearing a style that would still be appropriate in a school setting because that restriction allows me to be a bit more creative,” she said. “It’s almost like being put in the box forces me to think outside the box.”
However, Ms Magno didn’t always have an interest in fashion. “It wasn’t until I went to university that I met friends who were very expressive with the clothes they wear,” she explained. “I had this one friend who wore steel-toed boots; it was such an interesting contrast between how feminine she looked and how masculine her boots were.”
This is what inspired Ms Magno to explore new avenues of versatility in her style, such as wearing boots with formal attire (e.g. dresses) to create a comfortable yet interesting juxtaposition.
Still, such a chic sense of fashion that balances playful rebellion and professionalism does not come without much trial and error. Ms Magno admits that she has grown a lot over the years, and her idea of what is fashionable has changed as well.
In future, she hopes to incorporate more Filipino styles and cultural clothing into her daily wear: “I really want to discover more about my heritage, as well as the motifs that are used in their clothing.”
On the other hand, for Ms Mok Hoi Nam (Y5 Mathematics), her fashion choices highlight the emphasis she places on comfort and presentability.
“I prefer skirts and dresses, partly because I think I look better in them, and partly because jeans are too warm,” said Ms Mok. “When I do wear pants, they tend to be pleated, flowy pants that are more cooling and comfortable.”
“As a teacher, you want students to pay attention to the lesson and not your clothing, so I don’t like to wear things that are too distracting or too casual,” explains Ms Mok. Instead, she prefers looking smart at all times, opting for blazers instead of sports jackets.
“I got this blazer from Japan, but I don’t remember the name of the brand as it was quite long ago,” says Ms Mok. She clarifies that she doesn’t often buy new clothes, instead choosing to wear her existing pieces for as long as possible to make the most out of them.
Many of Ms Mok’s views on fashion were influenced by her mother, a seamstress who taught her everything she knows about maintaining her clothing. In fact, fashion is an essential part of how she and her family communicate.
“My dad used to work in the textile trade, and my sister and I share a wardrobe because we have a similar build,” Ms Mok says. “So for my family, we connect through the language of fabrics.”
Last but not least, we have the only male teacher featured in this article—Mr Ngiam Xing Yi (Y5 History), whose fashion sense centres around a personalised collection of short-sleeved batik shirts.
Mr Ngiam obtains his mandarin-collared shirts from tailors, who’ll use a batik print of his choice purchased from other retailers. Although he cites comfort as a reason for wearing custom-made shirts, sustainability has also become a contributing factor.
“I used to shop from fast fashion brands like H&M. But as I grew more aware of the environmental impact that these brands have, I decided to stop, or at least buy less. Now, I’m more into tailoring clothes.”
He also adores leather shoes, specifically Chelsea boots – and he’ll always try to match his outfit with a fun pair of socks.
However, outside of a school setting, Mr Ngiam dresses much more casually. If he isn’t running any errands, he will simply wear a singlet, shorts and everyone’s favourite Asadi slippers.
“My wife likes to say that I have an uncle outfit,” he admits.
Unfortunately, we were unable to obtain any photos of Mr Ngiam in said outfit. Regardless of his ‘uncle’ status outside of school, his iconic batik shirts cement his status as the dapperest History tutor in RI.
All in all, drip is subjective, and is often dictated by more than just physical appearances. Our clothing can reflect our personalities, convictions, and what we hold dear to our heart – showing that every outfit has a story to tell.
Whatever your opinions are on teachers’ fashion in RI, there is no denying that having a variety of styles showcased in school makes for a much more interesting JC experience. In other words, if you have a teacher whose style you love, don’t be shy: tell them you love their drip! Who knows: they may even be featured in next year’s Teacher’s Day Special.