The magnolia trees and daffodils are blooming, beginning to transform campus into a magical place of spring beauty. I’m absolutely serious, in springtime Tappan Square is one of my favorite places on earth. Especially around Finney Chapel, the blossoms are gorgeous. We’re currently having a rainy spell, but when we first began to feel warm spring breezes, everyone started bringing out their spring outfits, and I realized this would be a great opportunity to write a blog about Oberlin fashion.
Disclaimer: I’m not a fashion expert by any stretch of the imagination, but Oberlin is a very different world from high school. I can imagine how daunting it must be standing in front of your closet in August, wondering what to bring to your first year of college, especially to an eclectic place like Oberlin that’s known for its funky creativity. Two items of wisdom: a warm winter coat and rain boots.
In my memory, high school was all about fitting in. Finding the right thing to wear, so you were cool, etc. Throw all of that out of the window. Oberlin is about belonging. Belonging is the opposite of fitting in. Fitting in is about changing yourself to fit the crowd, belonging is about being yourself and finding your sense of self-expression that is accepted and appreciated by those around you.
Well, what if you haven’t found your sense of self-expression yet? Welcome to the experimental haven that is Oberlin. Try alligator green lipstick and orange eyeshadow if you feel so inclined. It might not be a look you’ll sport in your 40s, but what’s stopping you from trying it now?
Have I ever done that? No, although I did get very into purple lip colors. If anyone is desperately looking for a specific shade of purple, I probably have it. If you see me walking around, I don’t dress very exotically. I love black pants, especially comfy ones. They can look classy during the day, and you can throw on a black top and be ready for a concert or recording session. Black is actually increasingly becoming one of my favorite dress colors.
The other day a friend in my quartet said she loves a black and white dress code because she’ll wear white pants and a black top. Now that’s classy, and gutsy. White pants are on my birthday-wishlist now. Next to my black pants, I have a variety of earth tones and ankle boots, and striped clothes. However, I would argue that I’m totally dressing in an Oberlin style, because I’m wearing exactly what I want to be wearing. Have you had a hankering for suits? Or long black wool coats, or ‘80s bomber jackets? Go for it, try it out.
Last summer I went to Round Top Music Festival in Texas, and I remember a friend telling me I had a classy mom vibe. I looked down at myself, and still remember wearing a dark blue maxi dress with a wrinkled button up and my purple lipstick (plum to be exact), looking very confused. “Why?’’ I asked her. Is it because I always have band-aids, nail clippers, and cough drops with me, drink lots of tea, and have lots of health advice on the go for whatever ailment someone has?
Moms are absolutely amazing, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about a mom vibe at this stage of my life already. She said it was because I have a strong sense of style that was unique to me, and that it can take a long time to find that personal style—hence classy mom. In my head I dedicated a little thought of gratitude toward Oberlin for giving me the freedom to wear exactly what I want. I’ve never been an edgy dresser, but I would probably have been much more cautious if I had decided on a different undergraduate environment.
I can see that same sense of freedom in my friends too. One of my favorite articles of clothing I see sometimes is my friend’s pencil skirt. Not the kind you're probably thinking of. It’s a flared skirt, with printed colored pencils that emerge in all the colors of the rainbow. It’s stunningly beautiful.
So, when you’re standing in front of your closet in August wondering what to pack, remember three things: Warm winter jacket, rain boots, and whatever makes you feel the most like you.
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