Sartorial Observer: Kelsey Leonard ’15

Frantically stuffing her chic canvas tote bag with art history books before fleeing Schow around dinnertime on a Friday night. Rhythmically tapping out poetry on her laptop in the back room of Tunnel City, latte nearby. Emerging from the dark on a Saturday night, sliding down a grassy knoll and subsequently jumping on top of the Record’s Photo Editor for a piggyback ride to a co-op party. These are the three choicest of my recent encounters with Kelsey Leonard ’15: In all, her outfits looked magnificent. Leonard is an intrepid athlete, yet she eschews the blouse-blue jeans-Saucony combination that is the cross-country team’s de-facto civilian wardrobe. I have a frustrating time describing individuals’ personal style in a few words, but if put to the task regarding Leonard I would say she is composed of a refreshing blend of collegiate Tumblr-prep and cheeky sweaters (mostly emblazoned with cats, Leonard’s spirit animal and personal logo of sorts). The Santa Fe native says it better, describing her style as a reflection of the phenomenon of “someone really preppy [being] raised in New Mexico.” What is easily apparent is that, while she stands out in Williamstown, when studying abroad next year she will blend in quite nicely amongst the vogue Italian women who populate the Roman palazzos in springtime.

Leonard approaches her daily outfits by finding certain pieces she really wants to wear and basing the rest of her clothing selection around that piece. One of her personal favorite items of clothing is a pair of unabashedly fierce leopard-print jeans, which, by her admission, are really the only pants she can be convinced to wear. Leopard print factors heavily into Leonard’s style; in fact, she has so many leopard print clothes that last year her entry took to calling her “Leopards.” I myself tend to refer to her last name as “Leopard with an ‘n’.”

When Leonard is not clad in her leopard pants, she will generally opt for tights or a dress, even in wintertime. She calls the biggest challenge of dressing up in Williamstown “looking cool and being warm” at the same time, so she can hardly contain her excitement now that sundress season is rolling around. Regardless of the weather, Leonard says she “can be relied upon to be over-dressed pretty much no matter what.” Though I’m not one to leave my room in sweatpants, I still often see Leonard and wonder whether there is a wedding in town I was not invited to. But the more I talked to her, the more Leonard’s approach made inherent sense. She simply derives a lot of joy from dressing herself each morning, and says she wishes everyone thought clothes were as entertaining as she does: “It shouldn’t be about blending in. I wish everybody wanted to dress up. It’s more fun!”

Leonard is by no means a style hater, though. As long as other people are being true to themselves she will “roll with anything” in terms of what they wear. But when I pressed her to name one “fashion” item that she would make disappear from this earth, she figured that sneaker pumps could probably be done away with, though she conceded that she is slightly jealous of the rare girl who can actually look decent in them. Rather than rag on other people’s outfits, Leonard is much more inclined to do her own thing: “I do it for myself. I think about it as a hobby, but at the same time it shows the world that I care about what I’m doing here and that I care about looking put together.” Her prime advice for others is to do what she does to stay on her style grind, which is to browse style blogs on Tumblr and around the web every now and then. She doesn’t follow the leading women’s fashion blogs as much, which have a way of getting somewhat out of hand with incredibly over-the-top outfits that look great at New York Fashion Week but would be ridiculous to be seen on a college campus. The blogs she follows are more in the “second or third layer” of downtown girls who illustrate really doable, attainable style. Leonard wisely makes a distinction between “fashion” and “style,” the former being more about trends and fads, the latter being about what looks good on each individual person, and what naturally fits their personality and body type. So while not every lady of Williamstown might be able to pull off Kelsey Leonard’s signature leopard-print pants, her sense of put-togetherness offers a great example to those who are ready to shake off the winter blues and begin celebrating life through what they wear.