Style and fashion play a huge role in my self-expression, especially as a queer person; I utilize it to build my confidence and express my creativity.
When I was younger, I limited my style most of the time to jeans and flannels as a way to feel comfortable. As I’ve grown into my identity and sense of artistic style, I have developed it into something that is my own.
I call my clothing my “cloth armor” because it asserts a sense of self-respect and confidence. It pays homage to a quote by American fashion photographer Bill Cunningham: “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” Recently, I decided to further experiment with my fashion, whereby I often study fashion influencers and utilize Pinterest to find creative inspiration and unique ways of styling.
Most clothing I wear is second-hand, which helps reduce costs. Thrifting is a huge trend especially amongst college students and Gen-Z individuals because it goes against the grain of fast fashion which is commonplace. Especially brands like SHEIN, which produces “trendy” clothes for super cheap at the expense of damaging the environment.
Observing the diversity around campus, there are very predominant styles that permeate our culture. A majority of the campus community wears athletic wear or comfortable clothes, such as sweatpants or leggings. For me, however, dressing up even when I have no special occasion provides me with the confidence to carry me through the day.
Alternative fashion also dominates as a large majority, with elements of clothing that may be seen as unconventional, but ultimately break the norms of traditional expression. This could be due to our proximity to New York City, where experimenting with fashion is routine for many student bodies.
Alexia Cole, a junior chemistry student who has a more alternative style described, “My personal style is a little different than everyone else’s. I like to show my individuality through what I wear, my hair, and accessories. Though sometimes it is a bit nerve wracking to wear something that stands out. The key is to have confidence and not be afraid to show off what styles you like!”
Shirley Gonzalez, a sophomore studying business management with concentration in marketing and is interested in going into fashion marketing professionally, stated, “I believe a good outfit reflects a good attitude and is a small peek into someone’s personality. As people tend to say, ‘if you look good, you feel good.’”
“I personally get intimidated and tend to dress in order to ‘fit in’ but there are days in which I want to make myself feel good and wear items such as shirts or statement earrings. I shy away from that in fear of being seen as ‘extra’ or ‘overdressed.’ It shouldn’t be that way though. It’s okay to want to fit a certain look but it’s also okay to be true to yourself and be comfortable in what you wear. Personal style is a form of expression and creativity that varies within everyone and that’s what really makes fashion in itself so interesting,” Gonzalez continued.
Valentina Pane, a senior business administration student who recently studied fashion abroad in Italy over the summer, reflected, “My own personal style was heavily influenced by my time in Italy. I learned that if you want to wear something, wear it no matter what the occasion and that style is all in confidence.”
These students similarly address how style can add to overall confidence. More so to dress in such a way that is different from the norm of college students because some feel that they can stand out like a sore thumb at times. On the flip side, I personally have received tons of generous feedback and built up a reputation of dressing up among the campus community, who motivate me to ultimately be myself and continue pushing the bounds of what I wear.
Corey Dzenko, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Art History, stated, “Lots of things impact what a student wears to the classroom, such as time of day of the class and what they are doing before and after our meeting. What they wear to class when I see them might not be the fullest expression of their personal style.”
For anyone aiming to change their personal style, look for inspiration that appeals to you and set up a sense of basics as well as some eye-catching pieces to build around. Then, the next step is to just be yourself, not be afraid to experiment, and ultimately have fun!