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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The “look better than you feel” hypothesis

<st students on campus would take pride in saying that clothing isn’t all that important to them. Carls care a whole lot about academics, but not so much about their appearance. Most people are completely fine showing up to class in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, completed only by a pair of $100 Birkenstocks. So here is where my question comes into play; even though Carls don’t care about looks, do we have a “look” that most people subscribe to? Absolutely. If I were to describe the most common campus look, it would have to include a flannel, expensive but practical and comfortable shoes, and leggings or blue jeans. Fitting into this superficial mold seems to be an expectation. I have to wonder, then, if people are really dressing for themselves, or dressing to fit a certain “Carleton aesthetic.”

I didn’t own a flannel coming into campus freshman year. I come from San Diego where it’s a constant, lovely 70-75 degrees and any form of outerwear isn’t really necessary. About a month into school, however, I had a sudden realization that I needed a flannel. It seemed like that was the school uniform. So at my next trip to the Mall of America, I decided to pop into a few stores to price-compare the perfect flannel for fall at Carleton. The first few stores I went into boasted “on sale” flannels for roughly $40. Excuse me? My great uncle has flannels that he’d pay me to take off his hands. Finally I found a $5 green and blue flannel at Ragstock in Northfield and called it quits. The truth is I never really wear that flannel. It hangs out in the back of my closet, only to emerge when I go out and am not afraid about accidentally losing a sweater. Plus, nobody at any party would want to steal that ugly thing anyhow.

I’ve been tempted by other scams like the ill-fated flannel throughout my time at Carleton. I’ve checked Birkenstock prices at the Rare Pair before slinking off, not able to justify my work wages for a pair of flip flops in a climate with winters that last six months. I’ve looked into replacing some of my jeans with slouchy, ripped boyfriend jeans before deciding that those weren’t very “me” and that wearing a belt with my pants wasn’t too appealing. I even bought a puffy vest before realizing it made me look like a puffin from Club Penguin. A lot of these items have hefty price tags, price tags that hypothetically college students would struggle to afford. But yet these items are still a staple of fashion at Carleton. For people who claim that we don’t care about fashion, we do seem to have some trends and lofty price tags to the clothes that we wear.

My grandmother always told me to “look better than you feel.” I earnestly try to do that every day. I cannot, and have never been able to, show up to class in sweats. I cannot take a final unless I feel put together. I can’t even write a paper alone in the library without enjoying what I’m wearing. It’s a superficial mind game, but one I like to play. Because of this, I think I dress relatively “fancier” than most of my friends on campus. I like to wear heels (or at least block heels, I still have no idea how people wear stilettos) to class and fun, colorful earrings. I insist on painting my nails because if I don’t, I’ll pick at them when I’m bored in class. I prefer skirts and dresses to pants simply because I find the structure much more freeing. That’s why boys wear boxers in the first place, right?

Anyhow, sometimes I’ll get a few wayward glances at an outfit or a “you look nice! Any plans tonight?” I automatically feel the urge to have to explain myself and the way that I dress. Usually I’ll just nod along and say thanks and continue about my day. What I hate most is when people assume I dress the way I do for someone else, presuming I’m trying to impress a crush. I wear what I want for myself, and only myself. It’s not a crime to think you look attractive, even though we often make it out to be.

Sometimes I’ll be walking across 4th libe, my heels clicking on the tiles and I feel very self-conscious. The way most students dress doesn’t totally align with the way I do. And that’s completely okay. If dress is just another form of self-expression, I think it should be celebrated. So whether you love your puffin vest or arch-supporting sandals, we should all wear what we want, even if that doesn’t necessarily prescribe to the “Carleton aesthetic.”

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