You Know More About Fashion Than You Think You Do
By Allison Miller
As a college student currently studying fashion merchandising, the most common reaction upon telling someone what I study is: “Oh, I do not know anything about fashion.” (Sometimes accompanied by a gesture to their outfit.) The response I have started using is “You put clothes on every day, do you not?” I say this because each person who chooses to put clothes on their body makes fashion choices, whether it is intentionally or not. Time and time again, when interacting with people outside my field of study, I encounter individuals who still believe the long-held misconceptions about what fashion is and who it belongs to.
When choosing clothes, there are individuals who spend a considerable amount of time each day selecting the perfect pieces to wear. However, style decisions are an unconscious choice for others. They select their clothing at random and pay little attention to what their outfit will be. Yet, both types of people are still making fashion-related decisions every single day. The human mind is equipped to naturally have preferences for their appearance when looking in the mirror. Whether conscious or not, each person has style dispositions regarding color, silhouette, fit and pattern. Even if they claim to care little about fashion, their brain is still considering many aspects when getting dressed each day.
In my college education so far, I have watched numerous fashion shows in relation to the curriculum. High fashion designers are known for having incredible ideas and the ways they choose to show their designs are phenomenal. Therefore, many people hold the belief that fashion is reserved for elite creatives to produce and enjoy. Yet, some of the most impressive and wonderful designs I have seen were found within the walls of Central Michigan University. If you know anything about the CMU fashion program, you have heard of Threads Fashion Show. The creativity and innovation found in the collections designed by college students is inspiring— to those with an extensive knowledge of the fashion industry and those with little experience. For this reason, I do not envision a boundary between high fashion and lesser-known designers, but rather, a continuum. Fashion is attainable to all people, and no individual or designer is excluded.
While each person has a preferred style that they adhere to, at the end of the day clothes are just fabric with little to no inherent meaning. Yet, they represent so much more when stitched together. This is why I am a firm believer that clothing and style have no boundaries. Swatches of fabric do not have a gender, or a social class: so why do we assign that to clothing items once assembled? These pieces are usually sorted in stores by price, fabrication, or intended use, but these classifications are not law. The most innovative outfit combinations I have ever seen involve clothing items being used in ways other than their intended purpose. Styling clothes knows no boundaries, and how a person chooses to put them together is limited by only their imagination.
There are a lot of people on social media and in real life who will guess what someone studies in college or what their job may be based on what they wear. There are some occupations that have a distinct uniform, yet the person who chose that career does not typically wear that outfit when they are not working. It is a bold assumption that every person in a certain career or college major will dress the same way. While I do study fashion, this does not always define my daily clothing choices—as proven by my vast collection of overworn loungewear. Outside of being a fashion student, I am an individual who enjoys creative clothing choices. Each person who wears bold or stylish outfits is not automatically a fashion student, and fashion students are not automatically flashy dressers. It is a common mistake to assume an individual’s personality characteristics based on the way they dress. However, while fashion is a way to express oneself, it does not define a person.
Each person who claims they do not know anything about fashion has neglected to acknowledge their natural disposition to prefer certain items. Fashion and style belong to everyone, whether they know it or not. Clothing is not limited to the boundaries that many people choose to adhere to. Those who choose to draw a line in the sand between “those who they believe fashion belongs to” and “those who they believe it does not,” only limit their own creativity. The possibilities that come with exploring your own style limits are endless. I encourage you to try new things and remember you know more about fashion than you think.