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Thrift Shopping & Class Appropriation: Lillian Kim

The Rise of Thrifting as a Trend

In recent years, we’ve noticed a trend away from fast fashion, toward sustainability. One alternative to the often-pricey sustainable brands that have cropped up all over the Internet is thrift shopping. A cursory search of “Thrift Shopping” and related terms on YouTube yields thousands of results, ranging from hauls to how-to videos on “upcycling,” a.k.a. “creative reuse.” Thrift shopping has been a great way for eco-conscious and fashionable people — and everyone in between — to acquire quality clothing for cheaper prices. Thrift shopping content is trending not only on YouTube, but also on other platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, Tumblr, and Pinterest. This has led to an increased social interest in thrift shopping as a hobby, not just as a financial necessity. Just as eco-consciousness and sustainability have become trends, thrift shopping has become a trend.

Although there are many positives that have come with this trend — from a greater social awareness of sustainability and environmental issues to an increase in sustainable markets — it’s also given rise to a few issues. One of the biggest problems with this trend, and the one I’ll elaborate on a bit more in this article, is gentrification and everything it entails.

The Increasing Inaccessibility of Thrifted and Secondhand Clothing

What is gentrification? The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition explains both what it is and how it occurs:

“The process whereby the character of a poor urban area is changed by wealthier people moving in, improving housing, and attracting new businesses, typically displacing current inhabitants in the process.”

While gentrification typically occurs in relation to neighborhoods and physical locations, it can certainly happen with cultural phenomena, which is what’s happened with thrift shopping. But how did this happen? And what does that mean for those of us who want to be ethical and sustainable?

Thrift shopping has, for the most part, followed the basic path of most trends. Public sees, public likes, public consumes. The increased demand leads to an increase in prices. It’s how the market works.

Because it is now more conventional and convenient to thrift shop, the demand for thrift shops has increased. And because of the increased demand, prices continue to rise, while only the “trendy” or higher quality items sell. Reddit users on the “r/Do you guys feel that thrift stores are being gentrified” chain share their experiences of the gradual mark-up of items at thrift stores. One user, MaterialLimit, laments “when Goodwill’s prices were a couple bucks for some jeans and a dollar or two for a shirt,” because “Now it’s closer to $6-$8 for jeans and $3-$5 for shirts.” While this price increase may not seem like much when we consider the cost of the individual item, the difference can quickly add up. Before, five pairs of jeans would have cost about ten dollars; now, with the price increase, five pairs of jeans can add up to thirty dollars or more. The Berkeley Economic Review elaborates on this dilemma:

“The rising popularity of thrifting among more wealthy consumers as an alternative to buying from sustainable and ethical fashion brands reduces the already limited options available to low-income communities when it comes to clothing…This means there are fewer quality items left on the thrift store shelves for those who truly have no other affordable options, say, for buying professional attire that could mean the difference between impressing or crashing at a job interview.”

Another issue that emerges with the rise in thrift shopping is related to reselling. I’m not talking about ThredUp or other online secondhand clothing retailers. Because of the increasing popularity of online shopping, it makes sense that thrift shopping would find a market online. But this is a completely different issue from the type of reselling we see on online platforms such as Depop and other curated shops, or “vintage shops.” On these platforms, curators buy clothing at secondhand stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army and resell them for a higher price. While there’s nothing bad with taking advantage of this new market, this can further contribute to the increasing inaccessibility of thrifted clothing. The result is that populations which rely heavily on the cheaper prices of secondhand clothing find it more and more difficult to afford them.

A Changing Social Perception of Poverty

Okay, so we understand the economic effects of gentrification. So what? We can just stop buying from resellers, or we can donate to impoverished populations, can’t we? Did I really need to write another article about this issue?

The answer is YES!

I’m sure you’ve heard about gentrification and all its negative financial impacts. But have you stopped to consider the social implications of gentrification? Especially as it relates to thrifting?

About ten years back, before thrift shopping was a trend, it was associated with poverty and uncleanliness. It was all the rage to try and look like all your clothes were brand new. Obviously, with the rising social awareness of environmental issues and the popularity of sustainable fashion options, thrift shopping has become a trend. And, as a result, how we as a society view thrift shopping has changed drastically. It’s no longer a taboo associated with poverty and uncleanliness.

Of course, it’s a good thing that we’ve stopped shaming people for wearing secondhand clothes. However, this is not because we as a society are becoming nicer. It’s because we’re participating in class appropriation. That is, we are adopting elements of lower-class culture into our middle- and upper-class culture, while ignoring the social and political implications of that appropriation.

Whether or not we want to acknowledge it, our actions have direct social implications. Rika from Couturesque discusses the class appropriation associated with fashion in general:

“In other words, elitism, with a few drops of creativity, and the right kind of popularity, means that a wealthy and successful person wearing a DHL t-shirt is considered more fashionable than the DHL employee wearing his or her regular work attire. In many cases, the only thing creative about pieces like this is the price tag and the high-fashion apparatus that supports it; if it weren’t for these two things, the trend would still belong to those who had it first. Instead, those who can afford these ‘new’ pieces don their badge of “authenticity,” which ironically is anything but authentic, considering that those who wear the same t-shirt for a living probably couldn’t afford to buy the trendy version.”

This, along with the “deconstruct and reconstruct” concepts of haute couture, relates to the rise of thrift shopping as a trend.

What happens when the DHL t-shirt worn by the wealthy person is considered more fashionable than the DHL t-shirt worn by an employee? In this act of class appropriation, we see the beginnings of the erasure of poverty. Of course, I’m not saying that we want to be able to easily identify someone’s socio-economic standing, but this trend almost implicitly makes poverty fashionable. While we might think that thrift shopping signals a shift away from poverty shaming, what actually happens is that poverty shaming still exists, just in a less overt — and, as a result, more difficult to identify — sense.

What We Can Do

So what does this mean for us as middle-class consumers? Does this mean we should stop thrift shopping altogether? Is there a way to be ethical and eco-conscious and sustainable and shop secondhand? In my search for the right answer, I looked high and low, digging through online articles the way most of us dig through clearance bins at our local thrift store. Unfortunately, most articles don’t offer a practical solution, or, if they do, the conversation is always focused on the individual practices we can adopt.

What these articles often forget is that we are operating within a broken system. Sure, we can effect minor change by showing companies that we prefer sustainable and ethically-produced products, but that’s kind of about it. It’s capitalism we’re talking about.

So, is there anything we can do? Yes! While classism is interconnected with the contemporary discourse surrounding sustainability and ethics — and while this web of issues can seem monolithic and impossible to tackle — there are things we can do.

What we can do is be conscious of our classist privilege when it comes to sustainability and secondhand clothing. Most of us can afford to buy from more expensive brands, and we need to recognize that our behavior as consumers directly influences vulnerable populations.

What we can do is remember that this is not just an individual issue. What I mean is that solving our personal consumer habits will not effect change on a large enough scale. The oil industry has been telling us to pay attention to our carbon footprints, as if it hasn’t been up to them to push for change on a greater scale.

What we can do is take political action. Aside from taking responsibility for the things that are up to us — supporting local businesses, repurposing our old clothes, not buying from unsustainable brands, etc. — we can also vote for environmentally-friendly policies and for politicians who will put our planet first. Hopefully, one day, we won’t even have to question the impact of buying a single t-shirt, because the system will be one that is inevitably ethical and sustainable, one that has sustainability woven into its very fabric.

Sources

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/an-american-tradition-shaming-the-poor/2020/03/13/6ca1c226-42da-11ea-b503-2b077c436617_story.html

https://www.couturesquemag.com/single-post/thrift-culture-classism

https://sartorialmagazine.com/fashion-1/2020/6/28/thrifting-isnt-guilt-free

Quarantine Creations: Liana Savarirayan

2020 has been a whirlwind; along with Covid-19 came a general wave of uncertainty and unrest. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves, especially in quarantine. All of a sudden our busy lives had to be put on pause even if we didn’t want them to be. While quarantine was an intense and difficult time for most of us, it also provided us with the opportunity to do things we never thought we would have time for. Our search histories were overtaken with intricate DIY projects and the newest twists on basic recipes. We had time to spend on activities that we previously would have felt were not important enough or unnecessary. Most of us especially spent our time in one place: a place where we found solidarity in having the most niche characteristics –TikTok. 

TikTok has gained immense popularity over the past few months, specifically because of quarantine. It provides a platform where people can post short videos ranging from 15 seconds to 1 minute to showcase anything they want: food videos, fashion videos, dances, singing, etc. In addition, anyone who has the app has a personalized “for you page” that compiles videos that the algorithm thinks the user would enjoy. TikTok currently has 500 million users, with a huge spike in this total users starting from March.

Trends are constantly changing, and TikTok has consistently presented  its users with updated trends throughout quarantine. One of the most popular trends that flooded TikTok and other social media apps was tie dyeing and bleaching sweatsuits. This was especially popular because people were spending so much time at home in more comfortable outfits. By adding character to basic sweatsuits, it allowed people to feel less mundane about staying at home all day everyday. I even decided to bleach tie dye and crop one of my sweatshirts because I saw an easy tutorial on TikTok and I loved the result! It was great to spice  up a basic black hoodie and now I wear it all the time, not to mention that the process itself was fun and gave me something to do on one of the more boring days of quarantine.

 Bleaching and tie-dying is just one example of the recent upcycling trend. These hacks took over a lot of people’s “for you page” because it showed people how simple it is to recreate old clothes. One such technique was embroidering jeans. This became a way to add more personality to jeans with an easy and versatile technique. Many embroidered fun designs on the back pocket of their jeans or even wrote a personally important message. This is just one other example of how people can use clothing in order to express themselves, especially when most of us have the time to personalize our clothing to be meaningful to us. 

Making reusable masks has been another Tik Tok trend that has allowed people to personalize what otherwise would be simply a common necessity. This was especially relevant in the beginning of quarantine at the time of the disposable mask shortage. People took this opportunity to make masks to represent their beliefs, whether that was a “Black Lives Matter” mask or a mask requesting people to vote. Reusable masks are also good for the environment, so the trend of making your own mask is a great way to demonstrate and put into practice your beliefs, while still looking cute and being safe!

Being stuck at home is one of the hardest things for most people. The lack of a familiar routine is scary and uncertain. It may sound silly or superficial to say that an app like TikTok helped form communities and gave people a creative outlet, but this holds true for my own life as well as for the lives of people I’ve witnessed. Tiktok has given so many people the opportunity to grow their creative talents or even find a new one; Tiktok has a place for everyone.  In these uncertain times, it’s important to have a respite from all the craziness, regardless of if it is just an app on your phone. So, even if you might feel like you’re too old or cool to join this “Gen-Z” app, I would encourage you to get it — I guarantee that you will learn something.  

The Way Fashion Has Always Been a “Good” Selfish: Before, After, and During a Pandemic World: Katalina de Leon

2020. The Roaring Twenties. Turn of the decade. 

Right from New Year’s Eve into the New Year, everyone was filled with excitement and anticipation of what was to come. It was a new beginning, a time where people could start over, filled with endless possibilities. Little could anyone predict what was to come. 

When COVID-19 rocked the world, everyone was shocked into quarantine. Life was stopped for a short moment. People had a lot more time to reflect on things they wouldn’t normally think about. People used the extra time at home to maybe pick up a new hobby or catch up with family and friends. Basically, everyone was given a chance to do things that they wouldn’t normally have had time to do or said that they were too busy for, and in some ways that was comforting. Not only that, but also helped in making people more appreciative of the world and things that may have been taken for granted at a certain point, but that by itself is a whole other story.

Talking now with people about their days in quarantine, I find that sometimes they find themselves reminiscing back to that time or even “missing their quarantine selves.” Some even say that they came out more grounded in their individuality more than they were before.  Now what does that really mean and how could that possibly tie into fashion?

Even before quarantine, fashion was a way that people connected. It was a way that people were able to show a part of them that was inside and communicate it with others in ways beyond words. And although how hard we try at the end of the day we are only human. How we appear to others is often the first thing that registers in a person’s mind, a powerful impression of unspoken words. Our bodies are blank canvases with endless possibilities. From the clothes we choose to wear in the morning, to the tattoos and piercings that cover our bodies, to the makeup or lack of makeup thereof, to the way we paint and treat our bodies, the color or way we choose to style are hair, all play into telling an even larger story to who we are, as a person and as an individual. Sometimes, that might not even be as clear to us and as we grow our look changes with us as we discover the person we want to be. 

Before quarantine, it was easy. Getting ready was just part of our routine and was instinct to many. For example, some didn’t even think twice about setting up an appointment at the nail salon to change their acrylics into another new funky style they saw online. Or even, all of the hair and eyelash extension appointments, what happens when everything is closed and you no longer have access to these things?

But in quarantine, especially in the beginning, some people lost inspiration to do all of this. What was the point in getting up and putting on a whole face of makeup and changing through countless garments of wardrobe just to sit at a desk in your room? Especially accompanied with all of the other eye-opening events that rippled across the globe, it was hard to find true meaning behind anything. Out were the ties, dresses, and suits, and in were the sweatpants, sweatshirts, and pajama pants. After all, if your workday started at 9 AM, who would really want to wake up before dawn just to make yourself as presentable as possible when the only physical companion you’ll be talking to is your computer. 

But as time went on, people got out of the slump and began to dress up for the day, even if they had no plans to go anywhere. According to an article written by Kalhan Rosenblatt on NBC News, Amanda Brennan said, “I felt like… I was losing this piece of myself and it was really hard to look in the mirror. I do my makeup to express my identity. If I could open up my soul to you, it would be hot pink glitter… it’s been a struggle.” People began to realize that fashion was more than just the clothes you chose to wear, but an example of how you see yourself and want others to see you. It is hard to even comprehend how individualistic fashion really is, and in some ways, it can be selfish, but not necessarily in a bad way. Especially during quarantine, through endless days with only their minds to give them comfort, some people had a lot more time to focus on themselves. Some who didn’t necessarily have time to put on a full face of makeup when trying to get a decent amount of sleep before a long day at work began to experiment. Others learned of the dangers of fast fashion and looked into new ways of upcycling or thrifting, which was even more intimate in terms of self-expression. Fashion is selfish in the way that we are who we are, and at the end of the day, nobody can tell you what to like or what to wear or how to present yourself. Ultimately that is up to you. The uniqueness in the art is a beauty in itself and is often one that goes unnoticed or unappreciated. 

Furthermore, fashion helped to ground some others during these uncertain times. Many still woke up and did their morning routines, even if they had nowhere to go, for the sake of normalcy. Moods and productivity tend to rise when you feel prepared for the day and sometimes this just starts with putting on an outfit that you love. So, in a way, even though much of what we would consider “normal” was taken, getting dressed in the morning was not one of those things. The endless possibilities of the art in ourselves was not one of those things.

The only question left is what is going to happen post-quarantine? Personally, I think people are going to just have a deeper appreciation for themselves than they had before. And that will naturally come out in how they choose to present themselves as it has always been beautiful in that way. But even pre-quarantine, many were already rocking their looks in every possible way, so I think that after all of this it can only be even more so from here. Like how we grow as people and as a society, fashion will grow with us. While some may think that fashion should be the last thing on your mind in this new world, it has always been one of the most defining and integral ways that people connect with each other, in centuries of past lifetimes and the years to come. 

Anti-Vietnam Protests and Fashion: Adam Kim

The 1960s was a period of massive cultural upheaval, social progress, and artistic growth.

Increased resentment towards the entrenched systems of segregation and patriarchy contributed to a growing anti-establishment counterculture amongst the American youth. With the Second Wave of Feminism and the Civil Rights Movement well underway, cultural protest emerged as a main outlet of self-expression. Icons like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and even Cheech & Chong ushered in a new era of art, music, and style that defined the new ideals of Free Love and Rock & Roll.

Despite this seemingly progressive wave of cultural and social advancement, the ‘60s were marked by significant turmoil and unrest. The Cuban Missile Crisis nearly escalated to full-scale nuclear war. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. stunned an American public that was still recovering from the violent public shooting of John F. Kennedy. Amidst protests against systemic racism and rampant gender discrimination, one issue seemed to unite the American public – the anti-Vietnam War movement.

At the time, the Vietnam War was the most unpopular conflict that the United States had ever engaged in. Support for the war was undermined by national TV coverage of its violent realities — millions of Americans tuned in every night to see thousands of young men engaged in cruel, unnerving jungle warfare. 

Without a well-communicated purpose by the state for its relentless slaughter of Vietnamese and rising numbers of casualties, the American public questioned the motivation behind the conflict. The “random” draft through the Selective Service System was viewed as discriminatory towards low-income, low-education youths who could not pay their way out of the draft. The brutal reality of the conflict, in addition to its direct impact on the younger generation, resulted in heavy resistance from the counterculture movement.

Anti-war protests broke out across the nation, particularly in the stereotypically “hippie” areas of San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. The coy “Make Love, Not War” slogan quickly became the motto of the movement, and the Peace symbol became its logo. Brandishing signs and clothes adorned with both, thousands flocked to major cities to express their disgust with the conflict. Since many of the protestors were part of the hippie culture, their style and anti-mainstream fashion quickly became associated with the anti-war movement.

Centered around the rejection of contemporary social norms, the hippies were characterized by their Western adaptations of East Asian spiritual concepts, sexual freedom, and recreational drug use. The suits and skirts of the ‘50s were abandoned in favor of an unspoken dress code — bright, psychedelic colors and a loose, Bohemian style. Natural fabrics like batik were combined with paisley patterns and flowers. Bell-bottom jeans and tie-dye emerged, alongside medallion necklaces and other bold accessories. 

The tighter, shorter female silhouette of the ‘60s, defined by the new trend of the miniskirt, was rejected in favor of maxi dresses, A-line skirts, wide-leg beach pants, and thrifted modest, 20th-century dresses. Natural faces were preferred in favor of makeup, and long, unstyled hair became the norm. Men’s clothing tended towards patterned pants and vibrant colors, frequently paired with t-shirts and turtlenecks. The influence of Eastern fashion was also apparent, as evidenced by  tunic shirts, vests, sandals, and slippers. Beaded necklaces, headbands, and bracelets were popular accessories as well. More than anything else, both men and women’s fashion was predicated on the idea of “anything goes”, as long as it wasn’t the societal norm. For some, this even meant no clothes at all. As protests continued, this free, loose style of the counterculture hippies became deeply intertwined with the anti-war movement.

Another one of the many universal clothing symbols that became closely associated with the anti-war movement was the black armband, which became a national icon during the Supreme Court Tinker vs. Des Moines case. In 1965, five students decided to wear black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War – they were ordered to remove them, which they refused, resulting in suspension. The Supreme Court ruled this to be a violation of the children’s’ First Amendment Rights, setting a permanent precedent for the freedom to express political views through clothing. 

The association of clothing with political movements is particularly applicable today, as the rise of modern print has allowed for clearer expression — Black Lives Matter clothing, MAGA hats, and the Proud Boys polo shirts stand out as contemporary examples. This modern method of expression is certainly much more direct than the associative outcome of hippie fashion becoming synonymous with the anti-war movement, but the Vietnam protests still serve as an interesting, comparable precedent. The Tinker vs. Des Moines case and the rejection of social norms by hippies set the foundation for modern political expression through clothing, which has become a pervasive enabler of individuality and free speech.

I am Not a Gemini… : Mahalia

But I am a twin. My other half’s name is Tristan, he is 40 minutes older than me, and we are NOT identical (you would be surprised to know how often we get asked that though). I will never forget his birthday, given that it’s the same day as mine, and growing up we shared almost everything, from sharing a room to sharing the same interests. We were bestfriends. We were inseparable. However, as we got older things started to change. As angsty teens, we needed our own space so we no longer shared a room. As our social spheres diverged and our personalities contrasted, we no longer shared the same interests. Even with that being said, I like to think he is still my best friend, as the bond between family, especially literal “wombmates” is pretty strong, but there is a lot of distance between us nowadays, both physically and mentally. No longer in the same school, let alone the same state, I am confronted with a question I had never been faced with before: Who am I when I am not a twin? 

This question may be misleading because I’m not not a twin anymore, but it’s definitely one I find myself confronted with in my brother’s absence. We both completely uprooted our lives for college. Leaving our small town called Surprise, Arizona where we went to highschool with kids we had known since kindergarten in favor of universities across the country, it’s almost as though we were granted an identity reset button. And with that reset came the fact that being “the twins” was no longer a crucial part of my identity. No one at Johns Hopkins knew my brother or ever saw him so it was no longer important for my first-day-of-class fun fact to be that I have a twin brother down the hall. For the first time in my life, I was alone. I could be recognized as an individual, not ½ of a set or “Tristan’s twin sister”. This label of “twin” was no longer a bright red flag above my head. It no longer felt like one of the key features to define me, so I was sort of terrified, being by myself for once. Luckily, it turns out, I wasn’t entirely in solitude with that experience. 

Miles away from me, my brother was experiencing the same exciting but frighteningly new reality. I’m also sure every college student or recent highschool graduate experiences this feeling when they are away from home for the first time. The best way to describe such a sensation would be empowerment. Having to take care of yourself, be in charge of your own schedule, and developing self-reliance are all big steps towards independence. And as someone who never truly felt independent because of my identity as a twin, I felt so empowered knowing I was doing all these things on my own and for my own sake. Nothing felt better than to be my own person, but at the same time, it does feel a little lonely being apart from someone I spent so much time with in my youth and for the entirety of my life up until now. Every young adult feels a little homesick from time to time, but not only did I feel homesick, I also felt like a glass half-full, like half of me was missing. 

That missing half, was my twin brother. Yes, it’s great to build my own identity separate from him (and to not awkwardly see him in between classes or at a party), but at the end of the day, being a twin is not something I can remove myself from, even if we are hundreds of miles apart. Because not only am I still a twin, even in his absence, but I still grew up as a twin and that is what truly shaped me into the person I am today. My constant desire for competition and comparing myself to others? It’s because I am a twin and my brother and I always tried to be better than each other. The need to treat people equally and try to include everyone? It’s because I am a twin and my mother tried to give us equal amounts of attention and love so neither of us felt left out. It would be absurd of me to attribute my whole personality to my upbringing as a twin, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit it played a huge part.

Look into your own family dynamics and you will see that they also shaped you into the person you are today. Even in psychology we notice that the youngest, middle, and oldest children often develop specific characteristics that fit into an archetype in some way or another. My archetype just so happens to be a little unique, as not everyone has the privilege of being a twin, but siblings will be siblings no matter the age. I will say it is quite the adventure, but it is an adventure I wouldn’t trade for the world. I love my twin and I love what being a twin has made my life out to be. Both my best friend and my mortal enemy, he truly is my other half, my family, and just so happens to be my fraternal twin brother. So I dedicate this blog post to Tristan: the brother whom I miss as I type this from our childhood home over 2,000 miles away from his school, missing him and all his mischief.

My Fashion “Two-sense”: Mahalia

Fashion forward: We say that for a reason right? But, I’m not really interested in whatever origin story that phrase has because this is my origin story — the origin story of my sense of fashion. While curled up on the couch in my pajamas, snuggled in a blanket with my laptop precariously placed in my lap, I thought about what it meant to be “fashion forward” and if I was even qualified to make any sort of determinative deduction in this manner. This spiral of thoughts led me deep down the rabbit hole of my past. I pulled out my phone and began a pictorial traversal of the dark depths of my childhood. It was this moment that made me decide on a definition for what “fashion forward” meant to me, but before I reveal my revelation, let’s look at fashion in reverse. 

Flashback to over a decade ago before Marque Magazine, before I started college, before Instagram, even before Obama’s presidency. I was as much a child as children come at the ripe old age of 4, and with that childishness came stubbornness. My mother couldn’t get me in a dress for the life of her and anytime she did it was straight to frown town for me. As if her expectations as a young mother with her only daughter couldn’t be crushed anymore, I also hated -no despised- the color pink. And worst of all my room had been painted that “hideous” hue. I refused to wear dresses, I refused to like pink, it’s a miracle that little ole me liked anything at that age. Because of that, my toddler experiences with fashion and self-expression accumulated to be a mess of tears, tantrums, trauma and drama. To this day I am terrified of letting other people brush my hair because it reminds me of the rough-tearing sound of my hair back when my mom used to brush it for me. 

Following the trend of not following the “traditional girl” model, I was totally a tomboy in my pre-teens. Partially because I had a twin brother and partially because my parents didn’t subscribe to the idea of gender roles and stereotypes, my interests until puberty consisted of video games, art, karate, more video games, trying sports (and failing), and of course academics (we do go to Johns Hopkins afterall). I like to call this my “ugly duckling” phase. Hitting puberty extra early, I soon began to tower over my peers to the point that my art teacher called me out for being a “hunch back” as I tried to hide my height. The only shirts that fit my long torso were Aeropostale V-necks or graphic tees from generic department retailers. Those, paired with men’s basketball shorts which were the only acceptable length shorts I could find that fit our ridiculous dress code, became my usual attire. At this point, fashion was fiction; all that I required of my clothes was that they fit the criteria for comfort and were within code. 

For Middle school the “emo” phase followed. Band t-shirts and skinny jeans galore, I looked like a standard-issued wannabe scene kid. But what “scene” did I belong to? Middle school felt more like a mid-life crisis as I was caught in the middle of several social spheres and didn’t know which clique I would click with. 

Finally fashion had found me by high school, though it was fleeting and faint. I had some sense of who I wanted to be, how I wanted to dress, but no means of obtaining these goals. Social pressure, body insecurity, and simple things like just not having my own money to spend held me back. Sure, I would buy the occasional token piece and wear it until it was completely worn out, but no style or cohesive theme stuck with me and my wardrobe.  It wasn’t until my Senior year, when the false sense of hierarchical high school social standing began to dissolve, that I grasped a firmer understanding of self and in turn, a firmer understanding of self-expression. 
Self expression. To me that is what fashion is. As an extension of our souls, our appearance is one of our only means of articulating our interior individuality. Materials help us materialize our personality or personas. Regardless of if someone thinks what you wear or want to wear is over the top, “not you”, too experimental, or inauthentic, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, what we like to wear is for our own sake, not theirs. That being said, if you ask me what fashion forward is, and expect an answer pertinent to a particular style or trend, I am sorry to disappoint. To me, fashion forward is literally as the name suggests. Moving fashion forward. Whether it be your personal sense of fashion, like my personal journey, or the global growth of garments and glamour, fashion is always moving forward because it is an ever-changing entity. Fashion is enigmatic.

Blog #2: Marissa McDonald

“Ringarde!” The word is a slap in the face, and one that I felt even while watching from a third person point of view. Yes, I am one of millions who devoured the Netflix Original Emily in Paris, and despite what the other half of the world may think, I, along with thousands of other fans–including my mother–, simply cannot get enough of the lust and lustre the show portrays. But one conflict that particularly held weight for me is the ever-present clashing of the old guard with the new guard, haute couture with everyday style, extravagance with practicality. 

On one hand, I can’t imagine being so haute that I’m disgusted by the mere presence of someone wearing anything but designer, like my morality is directly measured by my ability to name drop every time someone compliments my style. Sure, it’s been a dream of mine since I was a little girl to buy myself a pair of Louboutins, but I never failed to notice the irony of girls in my high school pairing their glistening Gucci belt with an American Eagle t-shirt and jeans. Does fashion really come down to a (sometimes very large) number on a piece of paper? I hope not, or else I am truly failing as the Director of Style for Marque Magazine where we source all of our clothes from our own closets, our models’ closets, and yes, Goodwill. 

On the other hand, I can’t imagine being so hungry for a following that I’d intentionally purchase a work of art, for a painful price I might add, only to defame it in order to make a statement in support of the working class. Of course, I know the phrase “No pain, no gain,” but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t include pain inflicted on someone other than yourself. Last time I checked, the haughty are still human, and their work means just as much to them as our work means to us. Why is it our natural instinct to see something beautiful and destroy it, like two mutually beautiful things can’t live in this world simultaneously? Why do we feel like personal success is only possible at someone else’s expense?

I don’t know the answers to these metaphysical questions, but what I do know is, while I may never be able to afford or feel comfortable purchasing garments in the realm of haute couture, my style is anything but basic. In fact, when asked to describe my style, I can’t do it in any one way, because my style is ever changing, bending to my every, multi-dimensional whim. I won’t apologize for checking Pinterest every morning in search of radical new ideas to fuel my fashion. I won’t apologize for walking into a store and heading straight for the clearance section. And I won’t apologize for crafting both of my prom dresses from pieces I found at Goodwill and feeling the most expensive I’ve ever felt in my life. But I also refuse to reject the woman inside me who longs to attend Paris Fashion Week in favor of frugality. I champion having things out of my reach because it pushes me to expand my creativity and ask myself how I can achieve the same with less. So can we all just let our guards–old and new–down? Because the only thing truly ringarde about this is making someone feel lesser than in something they would otherwise feel confident wearing. 

Blog #1: Marissa McDonald

I don’t know what to write this blog about. I’ve been saying these things alot lately, phrases upon phrases that start with those three little words: I don’t know. I don’t know what I want to eat. I don’t know why my wifi still won’t allow me to watch one Zoom lecture without kicking me out. I don’t know what to wear. I don’t know how to dress for a busy day within the confines of my row home in Baltimore, Maryland. That last one really hits hard, because, as someone who always used to base her outfits around a carefully selected pair of shoes, I’ve been a little uninspired to dress myself for an event that is shoes optional, and in my house, shoes prohibited. And with my foothold for my personal fashion no longer available, I, the Director of Style for Marque Magazine, am questioning why fashion ever appealed to me at all. I mean, did I only ever like fashion because of the compliments I received from my peers as I was walking through the halls? And now that I can’t receive that attention, is my passion for style stripped away like dirty laundry at the end of the day? Such questions really make you question what matters to you and the basis by which you make decisions each and every morning, and in truth, I can’t remember the first time I fell in love with fashion. 

Maybe it was the rush of excitement I got after returning from the mall for back to school shopping, eager to show the rest of my family what I picked out and deciding for myself what new pieces would go with those which I already had. Maybe it was the first time my sister exposed me to thrift shopping and the realization I made soon after that every article had a story, a previous owner with memories attached to the very piece of fabric I had stumbled upon in the treasure hunt whose only clues were the smell of a hundred different detergents mingling together and a wheel at the front of the store telling you the color of the week. Maybe it was the feeling I got after losing something that seemed so important to me at the time in highschool that the only remaining power I had to prove to the rest of the world I was still standing was a bold lip and a stunning pair of heels. Considering this idea that the only true strength I may have had left relied on my appearance makes me seem so surface level, but I know I’m not the only one. 

I see myself in the blue felt belt on display in the Holocaust museum, a belt that was found and secretly worn by a German Jewish teenage inmate at Auschwitz who described it as her ‘pathetic act of defiance’, yet something she is still proud of. I see myself in the signature, fiery red lipstick of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who feels it not only boosts her confidence in politics, but also connects her to her Latina heritage. I see myself in my beloved Grandmother who was never allowed to wear pants growing up, yet of whom I don’t have a single memory of dressed in anything but the most striking pantsuit and blazer combo, paired, of course, with a matching earring and necklace set. 

Something about fashion seems to give each of us a small and subtle opportunity to tell the world it can’t control us. Somehow woven threads of cotton, silk, and polyester give us the power to speak in opposition of the threads of time that fate has woven for us. So why then, at a time when things are most uncertain and undeniably at their worst, does the feeling to fight back with fashion not call me? Why then, despite encouraging other people to dress for Zoom, can I only drive myself to do so at a maximum of 3 days a week? Again, I don’t know. But what I do know is that the passion that I’ve had for as long as I can remember will call again, and when it does, I’ll be ready.

Perfect Polish: Mary Shepard

When I was younger I would beg my sister to paint my nails for me. After enough pestering she would oblige, and I would watch as she made cautious, precise swipes across my nails. She never needed nail polish remover for her careful strokes; her manicures were a manicure from her was perfect every time. I would practice and practice, trying to get my strokes as neat as hers, though they never were. I was obsessed with having a perfect manicure, but it would never be perfect unless it came from her. As I got older and my hands got steadier she taught me how to make the same careful strokes, no acetone needed. 

I am still a perfectionist, although less so as a college student. As can be said for most Hopkins students, I have had to get comfortable letting things slide and settling for completion instead of perfection as classes, clubs, and friends battled for attention. This is an important lesson to learn, and I think the sooner you do the happier you will be. For me, accepting this in my academic life meant aiming my perfectionist tendencies at something else. Painting my nails soon became a weekly ritual — a time to zone out and think about something frivolous and fun. This semester I find that my attention is more divided than ever; hearing my laundry signal it’s dry as I sit down to go to class, or the Friends theme song echoing down the hall into my room as I study for an exam. Having this time when I can sit down and focus my complete attention on a task that is now so simple for me is a respite from everything constantly pulling my focus.

I look forward to painting my nails each week, budgeting time to paint as well as the time needed for them to dry, daydreaming about what color I will pick next, so that when I finally sit down I can soak in each minute of calm. I start each week with the same base coat. I pick out the polish I have been thinking about since my last one started chipping and make those same careful strokes my sister taught me, sealing it with a shiny top coat. I can’t do work (for fear I may mess up my new polish), I can’t think about my classes or clubs, instead I just sit and watch TV with my nails cautiously laid out on a pillow in front of me. After an hour I test to see if they are dry, then go on with my day.

Nothing is as exciting to me as watching bright, newly painted nails glide across my keyboard. All week I stare down and see something I can control and manage (a rare quality these days), I see perfection. 

A Return To Form: Ryan Aghamohammadi

The other night, while I was walking my dogs down the concrete streets of my neighborhood, I remember hearing the insistent hoot of an owl. It was inescapable, echoing through the dark over and over again, breaking through the dense hum of insects. Even after returning to my house, shutting the door, and sitting on my bed, the soft glow of a salt lamp at my window, the call came. “Who? Who?” When I woke the next morning, the shout reverberated through my head. “Who? Who?” 

I’ve been in the woods for so long that I think some part of me has forgotten that there is more outside than just this. More than the red kissed maples. More than the same stories I’ve read and reread. More than the one tiny grocery store in town. More than the antique store lined streets.  More than the heady question of the owl. I’m not ungrateful, in fact, I think I revere this place so much sometimes that I have no room for anything else. 

Let me say that I’ve been considering the art science of metamorphosis. Not just visual change, but spiritual and artistic change. How can I not only change how I look, but also I connect and create? I’ve rifled through the classics: Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Iris Van Herpen, Rei Kawakubo, etc etc etc. The designers in which I always see more than just mere clothing and instead, whispers of transcendence and becoming, sacred geometry and demolition. I’m not really sure what I’m looking for, maybe it’s just a banal past-time, but it feels important. Who? Who am I looking for? 

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I’ve been working to uncover a new relationality between my and the clothing I wear. I think I’ve hit a little bit of a deadend. I don’t think the problem is what I’m wearing per se, but part of me wonders if it’s time to evolve. With all this thinking and preoccupation with self growth, there’s a spiritual disconnect with who I am and how I am presenting myself. The change wouldn’t be radical, it would just be distinct. Perhaps moving away from my signature blazers? Incorporating brighter colors into my wardrobe? Wearing more black… is that even possible? 

Westwood’s imperative, “Buy less, choose well & do it yourself!” seems resonant. Part of this disconnect, I know, is coming from the fact that there’s a fundamental paradigm shift occurring within me. I really truly have no desire to buy things anymore. I want to make them. And, if not make them, then at least alter, or more carefully choose. Given that I don’t have any experience with sewing, stitching, etc, this is a source of frustration. Developing these skills, of course, is on the forefront of my mind, but they, like all things, will come in time. There is no overnight solution to this issue, nor is there an easy fix. That, I think, is both a complication and the resolution. 

It’s strange to say, but I don’t think what I want to wear yet exists. The Punk movement, which emerged as responsive and declarative fashion out of a particular socioeconomic context, created their own clothing to shape the world as they saw it. Iris Van Herpen’s gowns look otherworldly and alien. Rei Kawakubo’s work simply looks impossible. I’m looking to wear and create something that is generative of my invisible self. The only way I can find what I want to wear is if I do it myself. 

Where to start, then? Where to start? I can pick up sewing, of course. I can start dabbling with alteration on my older clothes. I can radically replace everything in my closet over time, donating that which no longer serves me. Or, I can do none of these things. I can choose to do nothing. There’s an aesthetic shift, a reconceptualization happening in me now. I can’t decide if I want to coax it out or let it happen on its own time.

While I’m writing this, I’m staring out my window to the treeline. The branches spread out in such a way that when the wind rushes through, the leaves look like a glittering red sea. The sun has just come up against the hedges, and casts everything in a rich auburn light. Everything is red and green and blue. I think what I’m looking for is starkness. Clarity. A fashion that says what it needs to, and nothing more. Not a return to the basics, but a return to a sort of primal reaction, a flash of lightning. A natural fashion, in all of its organic symmetry and chaos. Something new. Something impossible. Something I do myself.