This morning I emerged from the shower, fully prepared to dress myself in the clothes I had picked out last night, and paused. “What am I getting dressed up for?” I flashed back to 16-year-old me picking out high-waisted black pants from my uniform and remembered hearing, “You’re going to school, it’s not a fashion show.” Slightly reluctantly, I zipped up my red knee-high boots, wrapped my sparkly black, white and red coat around me, and tossed my tote bag on my arm.
Walking out and on to N. Charles Street, I was nervous to catch glances from passers-by, knowing all too well they would be thinking, “Who the hell does she think she is?” I was relieved when I sat down in my first class, took off my coat and took a deep breath as I assured myself that all anyone could see then was my sweater and jeans. But if that’s what I wanted, then why on Earth hadn’t I just worn that?
I could have easily put on a grey sweatshirt and jeans, fought my instinct to pair grey booties with that ensemble, and laced up Keds instead, so why didn’t I? Why did I bother agonizing over whether those shades of maroon clashed or not and spend hours rummaging through those thrift stores, trying to find the perfect padded-shoulder coat?
I’m realizing that it's because I hear it all the time: “Don’t draw attention to yourself”; “People think you’re preppy and unapproachable”; “Why do you want to look like you’re trying so hard?”; and “Who wears lipstick at 9 a.m.?” My favorite statement that I’ve ever heard along these lines is, “If only you put as much time into studying as you do in to your clothes and makeup.” Honey, it takes me five minutes to pick an outfit and two minutes to dab concealer and lip balm on. If I spent a total of seven minutes a day studying, I’d have dropped out a long time ago.
They’re muffled, but those voices play on repeat in my ear, and without even realizing it I’d let irrelevant opinions affect the decisions I was making. Almost as if on cue, I just received a notification that the next number on our launch party countdown has been posted (to clarify I’m referring to the launch of Marque Magazine), and it’s as if all the tension in my body releases at once.
Here’s the thing: Dressing better makes you feel better. You feel confident and empowered to show the world the many facets of your wonderful person. And I think the people of Hopkins know that (some of the outfits I see around campus, that really belong on runways, are a testament to this), but they just might need a reminder. I know I need the validation, which is why Layla (the fearless, marvelous editor-in-chief of Marque), myself and a large group of people have been working tirelessly to bring it to life.
Don’t get me wrong, I care immensely about my classes. Yet while a part of me would love to devote all my time to figuring out how and why dark energy causes the universe to expand, I care just as much about what I do outside the classroom. I want to devote my life to creativity, and a large part of that is my love for culture, art, history and expression; all of which come together in fashion.
Now, on this campus, that is anything but typical, and honestly I didn’t even consider it a realistic option until the conception of Marque. But now that I have, I know what I want (right now anyway, I’m only 20), and I’m going to start doing what I love as soon as I can because life is just too short not to. That’s not to say I won’t exhaust myself studying for Mechanics midterms, or that I won’t memorize every ancient Greek word in half a textbook because I will, it just means that I’m not going to sacrifice my happiness to do so. Balance is key.
As I catch a glimpse of the familiar red sole of a Louboutin shoe and look straight ahead at the bright mustard jacket two rows in front of me, I’m so grateful for the self expression all around me. Fashion is art that we put on our bodies; it’s important and exquisite, and we’re all a part of it whether we like and acknowledge it or not.