“I don't even know how to explain my high school aesthetic, but it makes me want to throw up.” -Gaby R.
When I was in high school, I looked very different.
I had short, manic-pixie-dream-girl-esq hair after cutting my long, blonde waves to a bob in the middle of my sophomore year. At the universally awkward age of 14, I moved to Houston. My life felt unequivocally shattered. It was a long road to rebuilding it. When I finally felt I had my feet on solid ground, I wanted hair that reflected the change. I needed to manifest my newfound control and stability– to make my confidence tangible.
This coincided with the “art hoe” indie-fication of a high school Eryn. I was influenced profoundly by my new school’s theater department. For a kid that felt alone, the upperclassmen– who got the lead roles in the musicals, auditioned for colleges, went to parties, and had their lives together in a way I could only dream–were easy to idolize. They listened to alternative music, like underground 70s rock and Tame Impala. They wore Doc Martens, linen dresses, and fun buttons on their backpacks; their instagrams were littered with grainy, artistic photographs of their infinite number of equally stylish friends.
The greater my role in the department, especially as props director, the more I leaned into the artsy vibe.
I tried to replicate the aesthetic. When in Rome. As I found my place within the department, I regularly donned wide legged mom-jeans and striped yellow turtlenecks and Van Gogh graphic tees. I wore burnt-orange cuffed corduroys and Grand Canyon-themed high-rise socks and lavender velour scrunchies. And yes, I rocked a curly bob. The greater my role in the department, especially as props director, the more I leaned into the artsy vibe.
And then I left Houston.
“I think there are a lot of clothes and accessories at UVA that we all feel everyone owns but us. So I think that, in a sense, shaped me to want to conform to the trends of the school.” -Addy L.
When I got to college, I was suddenly surrounded by 18 year olds who were Definitely Not Theater Kids. The transition was nothing like high school– I made friends quickly and easily. But when I looked around Grounds, I saw the same fabric patterns and the same clothing pairings over and over again. Was this how “normal” people dressed? Did I actually know nothing about fashion?
Did this sweater and these leggings perfectly walk the line of hot-but-not-like-I-tried? Did I look like someone worth a small smile or a quick conversation in the bagel line? Did I look like I belonged?
I bought seven different cropped tank tops, five different colored leggings, a Y2K-inspired heather gray zip up hoodie, Nike Air Force 1s, and a Patagonia sweatshirt all before Fall Break. All were frequent staples at the UVA dining hall. I remember changing my outfit three times before walking to get breakfast, because I so desperately wanted to blend in, but simultaneously, be noticed. Did this sweater and these leggings perfectly walk the line of hot-but-not-like-I-tried? Did I look like someone worth a small smile or a quick conversation in the bagel line? Did I look like I belonged?
“Coming to college, I was met with a larger number of people than in high school- and thus, a vast variety of styles and aesthetics. This influenced me to dress more to the style I wanted for myself, regardless of its popularity.” -Nina A.
With time, I began to ignore the passing outfits and pay attention to the ones I interacted with more personally. A lot of friends did dress exclusively in sports leisure, giving off sexy (and very rich) “girl next door” vibes. But my first year roommate consistently wore chic all black in an effortlessly cool, New York City way. Other friends wore Tevas and tie dye maxi dresses. Some even bought into that classic indie-art-hoe fashion line. Slowly, I realized the homogeneity of fashion at UVA was not as all-encompassing as it seemed. I began to realize no one’s actually watching anyone. No shrouded omnipresent figure is going to see me, or anyone else, wearing something other than Golden Gooses or an oversized flannel and deem me unworthy of UVA attendance, and more importantly, of others’ time. There’s no ‘perfect’ way to dress. Just like in Houston, I found stability. Only this time it was through authenticity, not replication.
With so many close friends with very different fashion tastes, I’ve begun to experiment– figuring out what looks good on me, and what makes me feel good.
With so many close friends with very different fashion tastes, I’ve begun to experiment– figuring out what looks good on me, and what makes me feel good. Some days, I strut in my old art-hoe era floral embroidered jeans. Some days, I work all black with a leather jacket. And others, I put on the UVA uniform of yoga pants and my lululemon running jacket. I let my hair grow out and I started dying it to a lighter blonde (back to its color from when I was 10– I’m not a complete fraud). I enjoy straightening it so it looks sleek, stylish, and unapologetically basic, but mostly I let my hair curl into its natural, uncontrollable waves. With my bangs, I give off anything from a bad perm to gorgeous femme rocker. Where some see chaos and inconsistency, I see freedom.
“Being at a bigger school lets me wear whatever I want and explore my style more…Being friends with a more diverse group has given me more exposure to different styles that then influence me.” -Tanvi Bhat
College has changed me. I’d like to think for the better. Growing older is always coupled with change– the way I dress has equally shifted. Who knows what I’ll look like next. A full goth moment or a sudden embrace of the sorority lifestyle are never truly out of the realm of possibility.
But somehow, I think I’ll manage to keep that hint of an artsy-indie-16-year-old intact.
“I believe I know more now about what I personally want to wear- unaffected by outside influences.” -Nina A.
A huge “thank you” for their quotes goes to Gabriela Rivas, Addison Lowman, Nina Alinsonorin, and Tanvi Bhat.