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Identity Revealed Through Style: A Conversation on AU’s Campus

While walking across American University’s campus, you’re able to view a multitude of styles. Each style has various different colors and accessories that catch your eye. Your style, whether conventional, eccentric, utilitarian, or any of the other hundreds of descriptions you may have for it, says a lot about you as an individual. Even those who say they don’t have a style and dress only for function make a statement about themselves in their outfits. 

This all begs the question: How do we, as college students, express ourselves through style on AU’s campus?

I asked a few AU students how they felt about style on campus and how they contributed to it personally. They had some insightful things to say on the topic.

Ishani (19) 

Ishani is a freshman who is majoring in data sciences for political science. She describes her style as “silhouette focused,” meaning she loves to take the basics and elevate them with her own unique eye. Ishani’s style is a reflection of herself and holds weight in how she considers her own identity. 

When asked how much of herself can be seen in her style she replied “I think my style represents me a lot. Style is a huge part of my identity. I wear my heart on my sleeve in regards to the way I dress.”

Ishani dresses as who she is now but also who she wants to be. This is a part of personal style that many people frequently overlook. You can, and most likely do, use style as a way to set an intentionality. It could be simply for your day, similar to how you may find yourself putting on an outfit you know you feel yourself in when you are having a particularly difficult day, but it may be for something bigger. One could dress to try and be a bit more serious or maybe to loosen up in life. There’s also the possibility that you could be dressing with absolutely zero intention for the future because you haven’t thought about it much and that in itself is a reflection of you and who you are right now. 

Ishani explained that in high school she felt as if everyone had a monotonous style, but at AU she sees much more diversity. There isn’t a coherent pressure to fit in and dress a certain way because everyone has their own path that they follow. 

Tim (19)

Tim is a junior majoring in CLEG and minoring in history who describes his style as a “bookstore vibe.” His style is comfortability oriented, particularly, with lots of sweaters. 

A lot of people use college to reinvent themselves, and Tim pointed out this goes in regards to style as well. Tim views college as a clean slate. When asked about how important functionality is to Tim’s style decisions, he said that they were factored in but never the number one priority. They set guidelines for the day’s outfit. For example, if it was snowing one day, he would have to accommodate for that. 

In regards to AU, Tim feels like students at AU use style to signal something about themselves to those around them. He also feels that AU is very supportive of taking risks in regards to style. They like new things and encourage each other to push, as Tim calls it, the “fashion envelope.” 

He also feels that being in DC as a whole has impacted his style. He has access to a plethora of flea markets or other similar events that allow for a unique shopping experience. It also more easily allows for you to be environmentally responsible by purchasing used and upcycled clothing. 

Molly (20)

Molly is a sophomore majoring in film. When asked to describe her style the first thing she said was “My style is finding things that have been used and loved by someone else,” so that she can continue the story of the clothing itself. In highschool, Molly felt a bit nervous to wear statement pieces, but at AU she feels more comfortable because everyone is always wearing something different on campus. 

Molly expresses herself not only through the way she arranges her clothing, but also through her purchasing selection. She is passionate about environmental issues, so she feels wearing second hand clothing is a way to express her support and passion for these issues. Molly is a huge lover of art and creativity, and she feels she can show this through colors and patterns that she wears. She uses her daily outfits to share a part of herself and her passions with those around her. 

Each of these individuals have very different and unique styles from each other, but their use of style is similar. They use it as an expression of themselves and to forward that communication to others. It’s a way to connect to the campus while staying true to themselves. They each have an individual contribution to AU’s fashion scene based on their own identity. So I challenge you to think of the ways you use personal style to express yourself or ideas that are important to you. How do you contribute to the larger conversation expressed through style on AU’s campus?

Lindsey is a sophomore at American University majoring in political science. She is passionate about women's rights, criminal justice reform, and education reform! Lindsey is currently a feature writer for HCAU and is living in DC.
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