Something you should know about me is that I would have never decided to attend school in Iowa if it were not for a standout program in an area of study that I love (and my parents' barring of the east and west coast while I still live under their roof). I'm majoring in apparel design at Iowa State University, a school known for both its never-ending terrain of farmland and its randomly placed, yet impressive fashion program.
Many universities are not like mine, or shall I say, many colleges are not like mine. We AMD (apparel merchandising and design) students are a tighter-knit group. We follow roughly the same class schedule, go through the same core classes, and basically spend every day with each other.
"Don't be like the rest of them, darling," a quote by Coco Chanel that you'll probably see in sticker form slapped across the laptop cases that belong to 80% of the fashion student population. Ironic, how we as the so-called "creatives" are trying so hard to scream individuality, when we all are slowly morphing into dupes of each other.
Maybe it's just college. Not really knowing who we are, and continually trying to figure it out. But a small part of me looks around my classrooms and thinks, maybe the desire to be different is so strong that we're actually losing our sense of individuality, the one aspect of ourselves that makes us truly different. Standing out seems to be the main focus, so we dress like the models we see on our Instagram feeds or the off-duty celebs we observe in the tabloids to stand apart from the crowds of students hustling their way to class. We dress to impress, what can I say.
I've always been an experimental dresser. I started to change up my style when I came to Iowa State because I noticed how differently many of the people surrounding me dressed, and I never found a problem with this until my parents came up to visit one weekend, about a month after I'd started classes. They took me to the mall, which seemed like hallowed ground after being on a college campus for a month straight without leaving. That sounds dramatic, but it was true. I think everyone's first month of college felt like a caged eternity.
I was sifting through racks of clothes and showing all the pieces to my mom, my number one style critic, and I kept saying how "everyone wears these." After a while my mom turned and looked at me saying, "You've never cared what anyone else was wearing. Why do you want to look the same as everyone else now?"
She may not have realized it, but this question has stuck with me. Why do I want to look like everyone else? Why do so many people dress so similarly, with their Carhartt hats and Dr. Martens? Why do I do the same? Not that there's anything wrong with it, it's the style nowadays. People follow trends, that's how clothing businesses make their income. But why have I and so many others so easily fallen into the "popular" style if it's not the way we originally liked to adorn ourselves?
Maybe this isn't a big deal. People change their styles and gravitate towards what they like everyday, and that in itself is self-expression. But what if the mainstream way we like to dress hints at something deeper, a loss of self-identity and a struggle to draw a veil over it?
Our bodies are our temples. We can go through life decorating the temple as differently as we want, whenever we want, but in the end, it is the foundation that makes a temple stand. I strongly encourage you all (and myself) to present yourself in a way that exemplifies who YOU are, not the way everyone else is. I can assure you that you'll still see me on campus with my black Carhartt and beloved Docs, but I will be keeping in mind the idea that the Taj Mahal and the Pyramid of Giza are two great structures, but entirely different and beautiful in every way.
"Individuality will be always one of the conditions of real elegance." - Christian Dior