For twelve years, I wore plaid everyday. I was school-girl chic complete with knee socks and a peacoat long before the look was born and long after it died on the runways of New York and in teen fashion magazines.
Growing up in a uniform, I should have learned to shun fashion, realizing that what one wears is completely superficial, but instead day after day of starched oxford shirts heightened my interests. I wouldn’t call myself fashion obsessed. I never spent hours pouring over copies of Elle or Vogue , and on weekends, I didn’t camp out in the local mall, yet I definitely had a stronger interest in fashion than my uniformed friends.
By age eight, I had begun compiling a spiral notebook full of clothing designs. At ten with a desk full of notebooks, I had picked out a name for the fashion house that I would someday own. At this point, I had begun to obsess about fashion, at least a little.
When I was 14, I realized that my drawing skills had atrophied. Much to my mother’s chagrin I took this as my cue to begin tailoring my own clothes. Generally, I wouldn’t take a scissors to a piece of clothing unless I had paid almost nothing for it at Goodwill.
However, my sewing skills were less adept than my work with a scissors. The result was many an uneven hem and an embarrassingly large number of unsalvageable projects. That year, I happened upon my mother’s collection of brightly colored and wildly printed vintage clothes from the ’70s. For me, it was a blissful discovery. During high school, I always felt a little extra joy when I put on my flowered Docs or donned my vinyl pants.
It amuses me that after so many years of hating my school uniform, I unknowingly enrolled in a college that has a nearly codified dress code of khakis and Birkenstocks, swishy pants and flip flops with socks and black pants paired with a solid colored tank top (to be worn by females on Saturday nights).
Any interest in fashion exceeding a hominy on the many benefits of polartec fleece will make one the brunt of countless jokes. In past years, The Record has vacillated between ignoring fashion completely and running all-too-serious and self-important fashion columns that have proclaimed everything from “the death of J.C. Crew at Williams” to “never under any circumstances wear a turtleneck” to my personal favorite – “use your dog as a fashion accessory.”
Such articles could not be taken seriously nor should they be. Williams students should have the good sense to laugh a little about the preposterousness of the fashion industry.
I grudgingly agreed to write this article about the disgraced subject of fashion at Williams not to praise the latest fall designs or to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t wear. Fashion is something that should be taken lightly.
However, fashion is intrusive. I find it nearly impossible to believe that before coming here 70 percent of the student body dressed nearly identically. Clothing selection is a learned behavior.
I find it equally difficult to believe that a person can walk around completely unconscious of what he or she is wearing as hard as the person might try to put forth this attitude.
Developing a personal sense of style is healthy, and caring at least a little about one’s clothes does not make a person shallow. Granted, I don’t have the usual Williams sense of style. I own only two pieces of college apparel, and I like clothing in colors other than navy, grey, and beige.
Personally, I’m never happier than when I’m wearing an outfit I purchased used or on sale for less than twenty dollars and my purple sueded platform sneakers, but that’s just me.
I grew up in a uniform.