Paris: Renee

Classique, féminin, simple, et élégant. Est-ce le style parisien chic un mythe? 

Fortunately for me, I have had many chances to see the truth. 

The first time I studied abroad, I went to a political science school in Paris, France for about six months. Other than a few French history and politics class, I did not know much about Paris. I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know how to use the metro. I didn’t even know French fries were not even French. There was one thing, though, that I was certain of: the elegance of Parisian style. It is true that the baggy Nike shorts, oversized T-shirt and Birkenstocks that run rampant on college campuses do not exist in Paris. In fact, French women actually make the effort to put on pants every day. But this is not the only thing that draws me back to the elusive appeal of parisian chic

In the summer of 2018, I spent a few weeks at ESMOD, the oldest and a renowned fashion institution in Paris, France. I was studying fashion design and business alongside people like an Egyptian architect, a Central Saint Martins student, a Miss Filipino pageant star, a New York-based fashion designer and so many more. I was taught by the creators of the Parisian brand, Token, and for a few weeks, I was completely immersed in fashion design and the je ne sais quoi of French style. From walking out of the république metro station, to eating at Merci café in le Marais, to roaming the levels of Centre Pompidou, to lying on the grass in the jardins du Luxembourg, I was constantly looking at and appreciating how French people dressed. There were no flashy designer names; it was more about the care and thought that went into how people decided to present themselves. Boutique and vintage stores are common throughout the city, so that also adds the element of timelessness that was visible in their outfits. There were  three fashion takeaways that I got from my experience living in Paris: Parisian chic does not always mean an ultra feminine size 0, red lips, and ballet flats; style is an expression and a complement to who you are; fashion law is a growing and important field.

La Parisienne might conjure up images of a thin, blond woman probably smoking a cigarette, but the appeal of French fashion that I found was the independence and freedom that they exhibit in their clothes. It is to be at once completely fixated with your appearance while also being removed from the frivolity of material things. Due to its nature as a metropolitan city, Paris is filled with diverse people from different ethnic backgrounds who all have different tastes in fashion. This leads me to the second takeaway about style. Parisian chic is famous not because of the profundity of wearing a white button down, a trench coat, and white sneakers. Rather, parisian chic is in the attitude and confidence that they possess. An outfit can be an expression of your personality, but it can also be an expression of your mood. There does not always have to be one tonal look that defines your appearance. The lack of rigidity in French style is what makes it so fashion-forward. Finally, small French boutiques are often a remarkable source for getting fashion-forward but also sustainable pieces. Without fashion protection laws, these owners would be under constant intellectual property threat. Luckily, France is a forerunner for extensive fashion protection laws (something that is greatly lacking in the U.S). The presence of these protective laws shows how integral fashion is to society, and it also allows room for creative designers to fully express themselves.  

I now carry this idea of parisian chic everywhere, not as a fixed style but as a concept of individuality and creative expression. Studying abroad in Paris for political science and fashion allowed me to see the city in a different light. The experience has definitely left its mark on me by influencing my personal style and future career. The effortlessness of French style may be overstated, but no one can deny its enduring appeal. This longevity is what gives it its power.  

P.S. A characteristic that I noticed about French style is the effort to show sustainability, or the attempt to be sustainably conscious. Here are a few of my online and in-store favorite parisian chic, sustainably conscious brands: 

·     Rouje Paris (go here for the sweaters and dresses)

·     Veja sneakers (go here for the white sneakers)

·     Sézane (go here for the blazers)

Bologna: Megan

I’ll start with this: I’m not the kind of girl to write for a fashion magazine.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fashion and creativity. I so admire my friends who can make anything look good or pull off really bold looks. I just never thought that would be me – and I was fine with it!

I wasn’t used to thinking creatively about the clothes I wear every day. My elementary and middle school made everyone wear uniforms, so I almost never thought about fashion when I was younger. At school you had to fit in – and if you didn’t, you might be sent home. In high school, girls were wearing a new kind of uniform – leggings and Uggs – and breaking that new uniform came with its own kinds of consequences. At Hopkins, I have my one easy-to-put-together-before-9am look: sweater and leggings with the same pair of black boots that I wear everywhere. Sometimes a scarf.

That said, fashion was still really important in my life – I just never wanted to think about it. As much as I wanted to dress well, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by being bold or creative or trying anything different. I was afraid to make a mistake or break some unspoken fashion rule I wasn’t even aware of. “Fashion just isn’t a huge deal for me,” I would think until I was 30 minutes late to a friend’s party because I couldn’t decide what to wear and was afraid that I’d look out of place no matter what I wore. To me, fashion was just trying not to embarrass myself.

This article is supposed to be about how my semester in Italy changed my perspective on fashion and self-expression, and this would be a much shorter article if I boarded the airplane and discovered fine Italian leather and became enlightened to all the style rules I didn’t know about before. Instead, my first few weeks of study abroad were isolating compared to my life at Hopkins – and fashion was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t know anyone, it was hard to make friends, and I felt judged by a lot of the people I first met. I felt anxious rather than adventurous, and I felt terrible because this was not how I planned for my semester abroad to go.

But even if it wasn’t what I expected, being on my own was what I needed to grow. Without my best friends and family to rely on, I had to choose: was I going to try to fit in with everyone else, or was I going to be unapologetically myself? There’s something about being in a new place that invites you to break your old habits, and what seemed like the worst part of being abroad – being alone – turned into the best part of being abroad – learning my independence.

And contrary to what people often say, independence doesn’t just mean doing your laundry, waking up on time, and studying before exams. Independence for me became knowing who I am without needing validation from strangers – or even from friends. I couldn’t stop myself from considering what people might think of me, but I decided that the only opinion that mattered was my own. To be independent meant to practice knowing myself and trusting myself every day.

Fashion became my daily practice in self-acceptance. One day I ducked inside a cramped little thrift shop and found racks and racks of what I would describe as “grandma clothes.” The clothes there were well-worn but with character, eccentric but interesting. And most importantly, almost everything was under 5 euros. I hit the racks.

None of the clothes there fit into my usual comfort zone, so I started trying on anything I thought was funky or unique. And then I found it – the grandma skirt. The grandma skirt is made of brown corduroy with a waistline that buttons above my hips and a hem that stretches down below my knees. I call it the grandma skirt because it reminds me of some bygone era before I was born, since these days nobody wears skirts quite like this one. I tried it on over my jeans and twirled around in the middle of the store – inexplicably, I loved this skirt, but would I be too embarrassed to actually wear it? I took pictures in the mirror and sent them to my usual list of fashionable friends for a second opinion. But then the little shop revealed its next surprise: absolutely no cellphone service. Like so much of my time abroad, I was on my own, only this time, I had the grandma skirt. And I realized that if I knew I loved something, I didn’t need outside approval – now or ever.

By wearing my clothes rather than hiding behind them, I practiced self-acceptance that extended to other parts of my life. It’s almost a paradox to say that fashion is what helped me be true to myself. From the outside looking in, one person’s fashion seems like a show put on for other people. But done right, fashion isn’t about other people – choosing the styles you love is a practice in self-expression and knowing who you are no matter what anyone else thinks. Being on my own for my semester abroad, I used fearless fashion choices and my favorite grandma skirt to build my independence – one outfit at a time.

Home Away from Home

It has been a while since I last reflected on my time abroad: during my junior fall semester, I studied Psychology and Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. A year later, I think about how it has impacted my overall Hopkins experience. Only recently, I spoke to a new staff member at the Counseling Center about how Hopkins students get sucked into the culture here on campus, which can become rather toxic if you let it consume you. Taking a break, trying out a new system; being a student somewhere else can be so refreshing. It definitely gave me the opportunity to reset, and reconsider what sort of student I wanted to be. You are away from all the co-curricular activities you labor over for hours each week, you are away from your colleagues who you developed either good or bad relationships with, and you are away from the classes that shaped your academic experience. I knew that going to Amsterdam meant I could find all these things again in a different setting, and I found them embedded in a new culture that would teach me more than I could have hoped for.

When you start a study abroad program, it can kind of feel like freshman year again. You have to sit through an orientation and learn how grades work, where your classes are, and what to do when things go wrong. All of a sudden, you have to make new friends again with people who are different from you but still linked by this shared commitment to study abroad in the Las Vegas of Europe. 

I must say I was rather taken aback by the people I met, and I am glad. A personal reason to study abroad was to shake things up a little; the same reason I left my boarding school in the UK to study at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. I like having that culture shock, as long as there is a support system to catch me when I inevitably stumble and fall. My program had no one from Hopkins, so it was a community of all new people from across the US, and then all the Dutch and international students I would meet in my classes. 

This might be rather naive of me, but I was not expecting my peers to be so eager to get high. I was there for the culture, the language, the university, the program, the city, etc. Getting high is not really my thing, and no judgment if it’s yours. But that’s something Amsterdam can offer. However, I would say that the experience of getting to do that was not what stayed with students when they left. Some life long friendships were made on that program. People got the opportunity to explore and become familiar with Amsterdam and Europe, something they never had done before. Personally, my father is from the Netherlands and it was a unique experience for me to immerse myself in a culture I had never lived in before but had always been associated with. I have a Dutch passport, and speak the language pretty well — enough to get me into a rowing club when I first arrived. You must understand that I just barely got in as this was not something open to foreigners unless your Dutch is pretty strong. And I had the most amazing time. I made great friends in my boat, all down-to-earth strong Dutch women studying at different universities in Amsterdam. They helped me as I muddled through my Dutch to try and tell a joke or a funny story, which is almost impossible in a language you don’t know well. They took me out and showed me what it was like to be a local in a place where I just wanted to belong. I was very privileged to live this double life. I had my Dutch friends, Dutch family, authentic Dutch experiences, and then my American and international friends who I got to live with. 

As a student in a new country, being away from Hopkins really helped me appreciate all the things I love about it so much. And yes, I do love Hopkins. I really like it here! I don’t think I could be happier anywhere else, and studying abroad proved that. First of all, the amount of attention we get from our professors here is incredible. My professors in Amsterdam would teach their class and then leave. Good luck getting a response from them via email or talking to them in person; they are there to teach and that is all. When I came back in the spring, I went to every professor’s office hours. The fact that our professors just sit there every week waiting for students to come and chat is something I had taken for granted as a freshman and sophomore. Most of the time I end up talking to them about myself and life, not as much about the questions I first came in with; I would highly recommend it.

Another thing that I love about Hopkins is the number of different ways we can contribute to our final grade. In Amsterdam, my entire grade was based on one exam at the end of the course. Participation counted for nothing, the homework was never graded, and there were no midterms, only finals. The fact that I get to contribute to my final grade each week here at Hopkins — every class I go to, each homework I submit — keeps me on track and helps me to do well in the class. One girl in a class of mine was unwell on the day of our final and had to miss it, and she was going to have to retake the entire class. If you have a bad day that day, that’s your entire grade gone. When I was very ill my freshman fall semester and had to take my Brain, Behavior and Cognition midterm the day after a 24-hour sci-fi movie marathon, I wasn’t going to leave the class with a 0. I could drop that midterm and make up for it by working hard for the rest of the semester. 

I could go on and on about all the amazing things that Hopkins has to offer to its students but I think what I am really trying to say is that there are endless opportunities to succeed here at Hopkins and many resources to support you to do so. These opportunities might come up in or outside of the classroom and your support system might be in the form of a professor or someone else, but I think that it’s important to be grateful for the things we have on this campus and value what a unique and marvelous place it is.

– Cecilia Vorfeld

Shanghai: Strauss

This past summer I studied abroad in Shanghai, China through the CET program. It’s hard to do my summer justice in a short article, but I’ll try and summarize it in three main components: language development, cultural exploration, and career experience. My time abroad was particularly impactful because it allowed me to do all of these simultaneously; that’s what made my summer so great. 

First, language development. It’s pretty clear how living in a country where they speak a foreign language you’ve been learning will help improve your ability, but taking classes in that environment further enhances this process. The program I participated in included a rather intensive language class which met five days per week, for one hour per day. I was placed in the middle level which I felt was ideal for studying abroad, as while I was not fluent in Chinese yet, I knew enough to not make it too troublesome for locals to understand me. Further, CET had a few notable things they did that made their classes and language learning particularly beneficial. The daily vocabulary quizzes repeated the most important words and skipped the less useful ones, so it was very clear where to focus when studying. Each week I also had a one-on-one class with my teacher. This was particularly beneficial to ask questions about language either from the textbook or, more importantly, from daily life in China. The program also arranged for us to have Chinese roommates. Time has never flown by so fast than when having a conversation with someone from across the world. There’s just so much to talk about: culture, habits, family, and friends. Clearly, language development was a large part of my summer, but there was more to it than just learning new vocabulary.

In particular, the “more to it” was the cultural experiences I had. Living in China gave me the opportunity to explore and talk with local people everywhere I went. One amazing memory is of the guide I befriended on a bike tour I took. After the tour, she invited me home so her mom could teach me how to wrap wontons! This was truly a unique experience as I got to see a family home, learn how to make wontons and other dishes, and talk with the guide and her parents about their life. Not to mention the great language practice as 90% of the conversation was in Chinese!  Beyond the bike tour/wonton encounter, I went to many museums, learned about Chinese history, and visited parts of the city that were soon to be demolished. What struck me the most was the Jewish history in Shanghai. I’m Jewish and love learning about my ancestry, but had no idea that over 22,000 Jewish people moved to Shanghai during WWII because it was one of the few safe places for Jews at the time. In fact, there’s even a Jewish Refugee Museum in Shanghai at the site of a former temple. It was very moving to see connections between the Chinese and Jewish cultures because I wouldn’t have imagined them crossing paths. In addition to this unexpected history, I also learned about China’s history through my exploration of Laoximen. The program I participated in helped in finding these unique cultural experiences in addition to holding its own activities such as movie nights and weekend excursions. Laoximen is an area of the old Shanghai city that is largely going to be demolished in the next year. Being able to stand in those old courtyards and streets and visualis history is something you just cannot experience in a classroom. 

Lastly, my internship. I interned at a direct-to-consumer teeth straightening startup. The company was half foreign and half Chinese. When I first started, I wondered if the company culture would be similar to that of the company I had interned with in the US previously, or different because it was in China. As I talked with my coworkers, I learned that there are differences in the way people talk, act, and work in the office. Slowly but surely, I felt more comfortable in this new environment. Getting international work experience helps you learn to greatly appreciate and navigate cultural differences. Further, CET had an internship check-in where we were able to learn quintessential cultural trends and news that was useful for just that— sensing an environment. For example, we learned about the hot-topic of the summer in Shanghai: the new trash sorting policy. Knowing this helped me to start conversations with my coworkers as it was an ongoing topic in the workplace. This internship experience definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and provided me more learning than I could have expected if I had just interned in the US.

These three aspects of my summer— language, culture, and work experience— are things that I’d advise anyone to pursue, but exploring these simultaneously while studying abroad provides an especially valuable experience.

Madrid: Emily

Every year around mid-August, right when people start going abroad, memes and videos arise to make fun of the “basic study abroad girls.” I have a hard time talking about my study abroad experience for fear of sounding exactly like one of those girls. But instead of trying to avoid the clichés, I have simply decided to embrace them. Yes, I am a girl who studied in Spain, traveled around Europe, made new friends, tried new foods, and posted too many Instagram photos. Here are a few of my favorite things from the semester that changed my life:

The Group Project 

I took all of my classes in Spanish, almost all with other American students studying abroad. However, one of my classes was filled with students who attended the university full-time and who had actually grown up in Spain; I was the only American in the entire class. At the end of the semester, we were assigned a group project where I had to work on a team with three other girls. None of them spoke English, so we had to communicate, as well as present the project, in Spanish. I was so nervous to speak in front of a whole room of native speakers for an extended period of time, but I did it! Everyone in the class was so supportive, and it was an especially proud moment for me. I gained so much confidence in my Spanish-speaking abilities as well as my public speaking skills. 

The Bookstore and Café 

Less than a block from my host family’s house was a little local bookstore and café called La Lumbra. It was one of my favorite places to do work after school or on the weekends- they also had the BEST chocolate chip cookies. I would sit down with a cafe con leche and a cookie and settle in to study Cervantes and Spanish art history for hours. It was a little haven close to home that I grew to know and love very much—so much so that they even knew my coffee order! 

The Trip to Ireland 

A long-awaited reunion with my cousin included highlights such as stumbling upon a free walking tour of Dublin, visiting a centuries’ old castle, and getting stuck at the Cliffs of Moher, terribly unprepared for the biting cold that comes to the coast in November. We stayed in a hostel in a single room with twenty other people, and I met some of the friendliest and funniest people I have ever come across. The sights of Ireland were some of my favorite, and it was even more special to be able to do it with my cousin; someone so dear to me. 

The Wild Night 

With no classes on Fridays, Thursday nights were the ones for end-of-week celebrations. We started with a pitcher of sangria and a Spanish classic before heading to the Maluma concert. Going to any big concert is exciting, but a wildly popular reggaetón artist in a huge stadium was unbelievable. We were way up in the nosebleeds, yet there is little that rivals the experience of that concert. Afterwards, we danced the night away in the famous seven story nightclub, Kapital. My first authentic Spanish experience of staying out until four in the morning ended with a romantic walk home and several street corner kisses under the city lights.

The Mishap in Paris 

We learned the hard way that just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s the best option when we rented an Airbnb for one night in Paris. The trip was already a bit of a disaster because the city was in the midst of large-scale protests. It was in a sketchy area, and it was a mess! So we mapped ourselves to the nearest hostel where they happened to have one open room, feeling lucky that someone else had canceled last minute. We spent the rest of the afternoon going around town to different markets, buying fresh cheese, bread, grapes, macarons, and, of course, a bottle of French wine. Back at the hostel we enjoyed our feast in our tiny room, exhausted and purely happy we made it through the crazy day; it is still one of my favorite meals of all time! 

The Tiny Town 

While visiting Geneva, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit a tiny French town a couple of hours away. We struggled with the public transportation and made it to the bus with one minute to spare. It was the most beautiful, quaint town I have ever visited. It was such a memorable experience — and it almost didn’t happen! 

The Strangers on the Bus 

As a tall, blonde American, I don’t exactly scream, “I speak Spanish!” So I had many experiences in which people tried to speak to me in English, assuming I couldn’t understand them otherwise. One particularly funny occasion was on a bus in Barcelona with my mom. Two men were commenting on our blue eyes and non-local appearances, simultaneously trying to figure out our relationship—friends, cousins? As they conversed, I was giggling to myself because I knew everything they were saying. My parents and I had a good laugh at the afterwards, and my mom loved that they didn’t think she looked old enough to be my mom! 

The Crazy Coincidences 

The world is so much smaller than you think it is. While studying abroad, I ran into a friend from seventh grade; he was visiting his college roommate in Madrid, who happened to be going to the same university as us. I also met and befriended someone who lives less than an hour away from me in Maryland, and we still keep in touch—he’s even come up to visit Hopkins since!

I look back on my time in Spain through rose-colored glasses, because it was such a wonderful experience and it changed me so much as a person. However, going abroad was also one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was hard to live with a family that didn’t speak any English, it was hard to take 18 credits all in Spanish, and it was hard navigating a new city. But through all of this, I learned that it is okay to try new things, to let loose and make snap decisions, and to form new friendships. And as #basic as the experience was, I honestly would not be who I am today without the experiences and friends that I gained through study abroad. So tag me in the memes and say what you want, but I am forever grateful for my time being a “study abroad” girl.

The Future is in the Freedom

It’s 7.30 in the morning, and the sunlight is blazing in through the window. Outside, the wind chill lowers the temperature to just above freezing, while freshly steamed strapless jumpsuits and minidresses hang in a storage closet indoors. There is fresh coffee in the pot and makeup is strewn everywhere; it is the epitome of creative chaos as sluggish models and dreary stylists trickle in to prepare for the day’s 11 hour shoot schedule. The first model in the hair and makeup chair is Jakob Pollack, a junior Film Studies and Physics double major with cheekbones so sharp they could cut glass. I’ve known Jakob for a little while now, and I think it’s fair to say that he is inexplicably fearless, simultaneously curating his image flawlessly. What you see with him is deliberate; it is what he wants you to see. As he very bluntly puts it, “fashion is less a representation of my identity than a construction of a fake identity I want to portray.” 

The next recipient of our makeup team’s magic touch is Julia Aurelia Glass, a senior double majoring in Engineering Mechanics and Economics, a trans woman, and unfortunately, the soon-to-be victim of the summer dress. At 6’ 2” she towers over me, radiating confidence in her effortless demeanor. Not one for beating around the bush, Aurelia tells it like it is. She states, “my style is totally honest. Whatever I’m wearing, whether it’s a turtleneck and leather jacket, or a sorority tank and leggings, it’s never a costume, it’s always a reflection of how I feel about myself.” 

An hour of eyeshadow blending, six scrambled eggs, and a stack of pancakes later, we begin styling the first outfits of the day. Though we went through a fitting as usual, and so have a set of clothes ready to put on, we know that this is likely to end up on the cover of our inaugural issue (as it turns out, we are right!), and the pressure to achieve some semblance of perfection is definitely on. Just as Aurelia finishes getting the blue and red striped silk dress on, our final model for the morning, a nineteen year old Africana Studies and Sociology double major from Auburn, Georgia by the name of Adelle Thompson, comes in. Our second makeup artist of the morning, Monika, immediately gets started on what is to be an intense blue lid and lip combination. Adelle holds her style slightly closer to her heart than the others, sharing, “every stylistic choice that I make is showing the world a little more of my truth.” 

What differentiates the models of our cover shoot from the others cast in the magazine, is that they were chosen not solely based on the look of the shoot, or an image that we were trying to portray, but because of who they are and what communities they belonged to. The shoot is built around them; their personalities, attitudes and personal style. I knew very early on that I wanted the culmination of our reflection on the last century to be a genderfluid cover shoot, showcasing the positive direction that the fashion industry is (hopefully) moving in. I learnt a lot through the research process- I learnt that normalizing genderfluidity in fashion does not mean putting women in tuxedos and men in ball gowns; it means giving people of every gender the freedom and opportunity to wear ball gowns, tuxedos, basketball shorts, hoop skirts, stockings, and anything else they might want to, without the fear of retaliation or judgement. In essence, it is the complete removal of gender from style, and the redefinition of menswear and womenswear to just ‘clothes’.

Perhaps Adelle puts into words most elegantly, “we, as a community, can do more to normalize the abnormal. We need to show everyone that there is no one way to be gay, there is no one way to be beautiful, and that there is no one way to be a human being.” As the clock strikes nine, and we’re all piling into cars on our way to the American Visionary Art Museum, this is the exact thought rumbling around in my head. There’s a lot that needs to be done to make real strides in the field, and one group that is absolutely pivotal in this conversation, is the transgender community. “I’m very fond of reinterpreting masculine visual cues in a feminine way. I think it reflects an important part of my transition, learning how to reconcile my masculine history with my feminine self,” says Aurelia, and it’s this exact personal reasoning that needs to be both heard and respected. 

The minutes trickle on, and as we move from a tree of mirrors to a reflective, collaged egg, the magical direction of our photographers for the morning, Mary and Joanna, is truly coming to life. We move from Adelle and Jakob manspreading back to back on the concrete steps, to Aurelia striking a power pose with both hands on her hips in a silk gown with thigh high slits, staring straight into the camera; all three of them poised, elegant and defiant in the thirty-two degree weather. As our stylists Phoebe, William and Mia adjust lapels and re-tuck shirts, I’m reminded that change, just like everything worthwhile, is a team effort. It’s going to take millions of individuals making tiny adjustments, just like the two-millimeter-to-the-left shift of a scarf that William is so intricately performing, to achieve the real change in mindset that is required. 

The bottom line is that, as a society, it’s time to reassess what we value. There has to come a point where we accept that the past is unchangeable, but the future very much is. As a generation our legacy can be to rectify these injustices. The first step is really as simple as not judging someone for being exactly who they are.

– Saniya Ramchandani

Where does technology fit in the world of fashion?

Where does technology lie within fashion? Can it even have a place among what is essentially just fabric? ashion has created a crazy community. The people within it obsess over the new and the old, whilst idolising its moments; take for example the Met Gala, the Super Bowl of Fashion.

In 2016, the Met’s theme was “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”, but what does this really mean? Designers were geared to focus on the dichotomy between handmade and machine-made fashion, but surely technology could mean something else entirely. Designer, Zac Posen, designed an incredible Cinderella-inspired dress that literally lit up the red carpet. Fibre optics were used to achieve this effect, but could this be used off the red carpet?  Water-activated lights are already used for life-vests, but what else? Fashion technology companies are leading with these exact questions. In an article for Forbes magazine, Hadari Oshri, CEO of Xehar Technologies claims, “roots of what will be the future of fashion are already growing with artificial intelligence”. She states that the market right now has been split into a dumbbell; high-end fashion on one side and fast fashion on the other, with very little in between. Even Zac Posen’s revered fashion brand is being shut down due to poor financial outcome; it seems technology is now vital for sustaining fashion. 

            We can see technology beginning to support companies on the marketing and branding side, but there’s also a rise in it being used for the composition of our clothing. Textile engineers are creating new fibers for sporting performances, automotive industries and even nano-composite materials for deep-space exploration. Engineers are looking at remaking and improving materials, and this is bleeding into the fashion industry. Sportswear is changing, our clothing is becoming more protective to things we can’t see, and although not as apparent as the sci-fi outfits seen on the Met Gala red carpet, technology is changing every aspect of clothing. Tommy Hilfiger released Tommy Adaptive, an adaptive designer clothing brand for people with disabilities. With innovative design, they managed to incorporate new technology to facilitate putting on clothes and allowing more independence for the disabled. This is a very real example of how technology is improving the fashion industry, and making it more inclusive.

2015 marked the start of a new method of producing clothes; 3D printing. Designer Danit Peleg introduced her project that allowed fashionistas to design and print their clothing in the comfort of their homes. With this technology, she showcased her modern new look. Featuring geometric shapes and frequent cutouts, her style rings in a fresh look for the future. Her goal is to take 3D printed fashion off the runway and into people’s lives. She has succeeded in doing this by introducing the first such garment available for purchase. It’s $1500, but it’s still a step in the right direction, since 3D printing is also an advocate for more eco-friendly fashion as it bypasses the negative impact of the manufacturing industry on the environment.

            In 2019, Zendaya definitely embraced technology’s position within fashion. Her dress glowed and moved, creating a piece of walking art. Is this perhaps the future of haute couture? Will we move towards an era where celebrities flaunt independently moving clothes? And would this then spread into the fast fashion industry that is so inspired by these wonderful works of art? The future of technology in fashion is only just starting to blossom. It has a foot in design, in composition, and in the business that backs it up. Our world is becoming increasingly more technologically capable and dependent, why shouldn’t fashion follow suit? 

The Dumb, Sexist, and Oppressive History of Women’s Pockets

My phone is the embarrassing kind of iPhone with cracks which annoyingly embroider the whole screen and tiny missing chips of glass on the edges. But I am not a reckless 13-year-old who treats their phone like a piece of brick, nor am I the careless free-spirit who goes through life raw and devoid of a phone case: I am a girl in lack of adequate pockets, or sometimes any pockets at all. The day I cracked my phone was like any other day in which I had to carry my phone in my hand because my pockets weren’t big enough to hold it. It has been passively accepted that women have smaller pockets than men, a neglection that women just deal with when they willingly buy a pair of pants that nonsensically pretends to have pockets through its fake-out seams. While I do not (solely) blame the patriarchy for my cracked phone screen, it is important to acknowledge the oppressive nature of the difference in pocket size and access to pocket-included clothing between men and women. 

The origin of pockets is believed to be in the 17th century, according to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Since the beginning, the design of women’s pockets has always been confining, especially in comparison to men’s. Women’s pockets were a separate piece of fabric that was tied around the waist and worn underneath their petticoats. As a result, the pockets were not visible nor convenient, as the only way to access them was through multiple slits of clothing. In addition, these expensive pockets were a sign of wealth, further indicating an extended disparity in the access to carry one’s personal belongings. In comparison, men’s pockets were sewn into jackets, waistcoasts, and breeches, and have essentially been unchanged in concept ever since. 

By the 1790s, pockets fell out of trend, and the handbag was introduced. The classic Victorian hoop skirt was replaced with a high-waisted draping dress that was greek-inspired, and trying to add pockets on the outside of the dress would ruin the shape of the hips and overall silhouette. Therefore, pockets were swapped for the handbag-like “reticule,” a tiny pouch that could barely hold money or jewelry. 

Beginning in the 19th century, a sense of rebellion and revolution was in the air. Women took matters into their own hands as instruction manuals on how to sew pockets into their own skirts grew increasingly popular. In 1851, Elizabeth Smith Miller became the first woman to wear trousers. The Rational Dress Society was founded in 1881 that campaigned for more practical and functional clothes while protesting unreasonable dress structures which hindered free movement or deformed women’s figures. 

In the 20th century, the World Wars launched women into the workforce, and utilitarian clothing became in vogue. With the “We Can Do It!” attitude, reform for functional clothing and pockets were put in place, finally giving women a taste of a man’s mobility. Eventually, fashion hit a point of confusion: how do women exhibit their supposed-to-be slim figures if they wear boxy clothes that were originally made for men? The 70s and the early 90s were brief periods when the practice of women wearing men’s clothing or men-inspired pieces was in style. However, with the introduction of the luxury handbag as well as Paris Hilton’s low-rise tight pants, fashion regressed in the area of functionality.

With the 21st century, and modern fashion, comes the joke of pockets that are only for show but not for any practical use. Although women have called attention to the absurdity behind women’s pockets, our pockets remain small. Even with increasing progressive acceptance of gender fluidity and androgynous fashion, pockets continue to be a decoration rather than a functional component. Additionally, purses and handbags, signs of sophistication and class, are more in style than ever. These women’s-pocket-counterparts, which sometimes can’t even be carried on one’s shoulders, don’t do much for women in terms of practicality either. 

Pockets are important because they characterize an individual’s mobility and lifestyle. If women have smaller pockets, they cannot carry as many things as a man: they carry less necessities, less money, less opportunities to live freely. But the problem extends far beyond this. Footbinding is similar to pockets in terms of confinement but also as another example of how society prioritizes the image of a woman over the ability of a woman. A preference for small feet hindered mobility, while a preference for women to be thin and feminine takes precedence over convenience and freedom. It doesn’t matter if the pockets aren’t really there if they look like pockets; it doesn’t matter if a purse is too small if it’s a cute accessory. Women have to choose between appearance and practicality when men aren’t subjected to think twice about either. It’s time for women to be able to choose both. 

I propose a world where a woman can be slim, can be curvy, can be bold, can be weird, can be trendy, all while being a working woman who carries her keys, her wallet, and her phone in one pocket: a world of unrelated-to-pockets phone screen cracks and comfort.

-Van To

Gender-fluid fashion: more than just a trend

Fashion’s so-called “gender-fluid movement” seems to dominate our popular culture: Harry Styles rocks colorful, patterned Gucci suits on stage; Jaden Smith models bold Louis Vuitton skirts in high fashion campaigns; and Billie Eilish sports bright, baggy clothing all over her Instagram feed. These examples are noteworthy because they challenge what we consider to be gendered fashion rules. However, these rules aren’t nearly as deep-rooted as we may think.

Today, baby girls are dressed in pink and boys in blue in order to display their gender, making clear how they should be treated. But as recently as the early 20th century, it was the norm to dress all babies in white dresses until at least the age of six. This was a matter of practicality, as white cotton could be easily bleached. The idea that “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” did not manifest until the 1940s, as a result of popular retailers which pushed these expectations. Evidently, the more you can demarcate clothing, the more of it you can sell. More notably, the association of a sex to pink or blue was arbritrary and could just as easily have gone the other way.

We also need to remember that high heeled shoes were originally made for men, and suiting as menswear is a relatively modern phenomenon. The origin of high heels dates back to 15th century Persian soldiers and soon became fashionable among male European aristocrats, who wore heels to appear taller and more powerful. At the same time, these male aristocrats wore gauzy, colorful ensembles and accessorized with wigs that gave the appearance of long hair. Wealthy men only began wearing dark colored suits in the early 1800s, after the industrial revolution.

As for women, it wasn’t until the 1960s that it became appropriate to wear pants to school and work. WWII meant women were taking men’s places in the workforce and consequently wearing men’s jumpsuits and uniforms. After the war ended, this trend persisted and became a part of women’s everyday dress.

In essence, we’ve landed at modern gendered fashion rules largely by chance, and so gender-specific dressing is entirely illogical. 

Before moving forward, it’s important to note the distinction between sex and gender, as well as to clarify what is meant by “gender-fluid”. Whereas “sex” is a biological differential, “gender” is a cultural construct created in the 1950s to acknowledge that one’s sex and gender does not always align. I say differential because it is a misconception that even biological sex is limited to either male or female. An estimated 1 in 100 people are born intersex, which broadly means their reproductive or sexual anatomy does not fit into strict interpretations of male and female. This can be due to any number of genetic, hormonal, or physiological discrepancies in the strikingly elaborate process of sex determination. And because sexually “deviant” people are commonly stigmatized, doctors and parents feel pressured to peremptorily name a baby as female or male, even if it requires surgery at the time of birth.

Gender-specific clothing can be used as a form of role-play — if you “dress the part” and follow the rules, you are more likely to be accepted into the community you wish to join. In this way, dressing a baby in either pink or blue affects how we are treated and, in turn, how we learn to behave. Thus, rules governing gender-appropriate attire can be extremely powerful.

To further complicate matters, gender ideals vary dramatically among cultures. For instance, though sarongs and kilts are considered traditionally masculine in Indonesia and Scotland, there is no comparable equivalent in American culture; the average American man would be ostracized for wearing a similar skirt in public. 

Both gender-neutral and gender-fluid clothing rose in order to disrupt such unforgiving gendered fashion rules. But while gender-neutral, androgynous, and unisex clothing are often characterized by loose garments in neutral tones meant to transcend suits and skirts, gender-fluid clothing aims to disassociate the belief that suits are for men and skirts are for women.

As the self-defined, gender-fluid actor Ezra Miller puts it, “Gender itself is not our enemy and it will never really be over because it’s a vital aspect of existence… but if you want it, we can see a world in which we are liberated from the bonds of it and nourished by the joys and beauty of it.”

Another celebrity fashion icon, Pharrell Williams explains his own gender-fluid philosophy: “I can’t wear no skirt. Nor am I interested in wearing a blouse. That’s not my deal. But things that are made for women that I feel will look good on me — that I like — I will wear.”

Though public awareness and approval of trans and gender-nonconforming people has increased in recent years, gender-bending fashion is by no means just a trend, or even a contemporary one at that. In the 1400s, Joan of Arc’s male attire factored in her conviction for heresy and execution. And before that, in 1500 BCE, the Egyptian Queen Hatsheput served as pharaoh wearing male regalia and a false beard. 

And it’s not the first time in recent history that gender-nonconforming fashion has risen in popularity. In the late 1960s, unisex clothing emerged as a baby-boomer corrective to the strict gender stereotyping of the 1950s, itself a reaction to women’s induction in roles traditionally held by men until WWII. Though the unisex movement of the 60s may have made women’s fashion more masculine, it never made them unfeminine. In other words, it was generally women buying unisex garments, not men. Instead, men at the time who wore unisex styles were often assumed to be homosexual. Paradoxically, men who were actually homosexual often dressed intentionally to fit in for fear of being ridiculed or even arrested. Thus, unisex styles of the late 60s raised many questions about gender but failed to resolve disparities.

Nonetheless, prominent brands like Zara and H&M have recently tried to take part in the purportedly new “gender-fluid movement” by launching their own unisex or nongendered clothing lines, though they’ve been largely unsucessful. These brands tried to commercialize gender rather than make the effort to understand what it means to the wearer. They tried to benefit from feigned progressive politics without more seriously supporting the communities which inspired such fashion.

For trans and gender-nonconforming people, gender is not merely a style, but an identity. As a result of their standing in society, these individuals face very real body insecurities and intense judgement based on what they wear. Though unfortunate, the reality is that it can be unsafe for them to make themselves known in public. Yet, opportunistic fashion companies often encourage pushing gender boundaries without recognizing the danger in doing so. By conflating expression and identity, the fashion industry diminishes individuals who choose not to express their gender through fashion and erases them from their own communities.

Despite issues in the fashion industry’s gender-fluid movement, it is still crucial that we continue to give a platform to trans and gender-nonconforming individuals because representation matters. As explained by model and trans activist, Ava Grey, “When queer-identifying youth see queer representation on the runway and in media, we become symbols of hope for them. We show them lives that have been able to move past the constant bullying and negative statistics.”

Though gender-fluid fashion may seem like the newest fad endorsed by celebrities and big brands alike, it has existed for thousands of years and varies through time and among cultures.

Trends may come and go, but there are real consequences for individuals who will continue to identify as trans and gender-nonconforming long after gender-fluid fashion is in vogue. Even as acceptance of some marginalized communities seems to advance, we are in dire need of greater diversification and representation in the fashion industry. The bottom line: clothing should be made for humans, not genders. 

-Tiffany Wong

Let us define our sexiness

Rihanna’s lingerie show marked a new age for women’s sexiness. What once was a market dominated by the male gaze is now a place of self-expression and female empowerment. The famous lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret was actually designed to make men feel comfortable buying lingerie for their female counterparts – even their stores were decorated as boudoirs. In recent years, however, women are reclaiming their sexiness. Sex appeal used to be a way of controlling us: a woman’s worth was dependent on her looks, as evidenced by advertising, yet could be negatively manipulated — being too sexy caused women to be labelled as whores, sluts or bimbos. Now, we equate sexiness to power. Movements such as #freetheenipple have aimed to take back women’s control of their bodies. And I am here for it. Rihanna bombarded the fashion industry with her diverse and empowering showcase of what it means to be sexy. It’s every body type. It’s power. It isn’t a form of belittling and controlling women.         

Females in the music industry are also taking back control of the image they wish to portray. The difference between male and female performers is very stark: one can wear oversized t-shirts, have their hair scruffy, and even give off a look of “I-don’t-even-care,” while the other is expected to appear polished, with multiple wardrobe changes and intense hair and makeup. It seems as if to be successful, women need to fit a specific and unforgiving image. But the game is changing. Female artists are now choosing their own image. Ariana Grande is a huge advocate for females to define their sexiness. She has a trademark look, which she chose to uphold at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. However, Grande was harshly criticized by the public for the length of her skirt. The internet was quick to scorn, believing that she was disrespectful. But I argue she wasn’t at fault. She gave an incredible tribute to Franklin and her skirt shouldn’t cause offense because, frankly, it doesn’t affect anyone else — this is just an example of unconsented imposed sexuality. On the other hand, Billie Eilish chooses to hide her body and favors oversized fashion akin to many male rappers. How women choose to portray themselves should be solely based on their opinions, whether it be short skirts or oversized t-shirts. It shouldn’t matter if a personal choice is viewed negatively by others if it affects no one but the chooser. 

Though I’ve focused on people who identify as female, these ideas do not only apply to a small group of individuals. The movement is universal. For example,Victoria’s Secret recently cast their first trans-woman model, Valentina Sampaio. Their fantasy is no longer as limited, but it still has a lot of potential for even greater strides.

This isn’t a war cry to suddenly don a full latex catsuit or attend lectures in heels and lingerie (however, if you so wish to, go right ahead). The message I’m trying to share is: what women wear shouldn’t be twisted to demean them. Women being sexy isn’t a sin or a threat. It is only defined by what YOU think is sexy – and that can be anything. Whether you feel most sexy fully clothed or in all your naked glory, that is a personal choice which should be accepted, not assailed. 

-Jimena Garcia-Santos