Despite overcast skies and an overcast mood during final exam week at Cornell, this Fashionista brought the sunshine all by herself. Her outfit was pretty simple: maxi dress, tote, sandals. But it is the colors and textures that make it so arresting… the rich texture of green alligator skin against the burnt-orange backdrop of her dress, the neon paracord bracelets, acrylic necklace, and peek of shiny patent slippers.
In the past few posts I have commented on bucking summer style staples – namely, florals and overly feminine looks. This is yet another example of a summer ensemble that keeps an edge to it, while staying simple.
As this is my last post for trend reports for this school year, I would like to note what I've found over the course of photographing Cornellians with style these past months. The most enjoyable part about photographing street style is engaging with the story of the person in the photos. Garments — wristwatches, scarves, boots — they are just stuff. But stuff is never just stuff. It is always imbued with a backstory and a future. The bracelet is from studying abroad in Ghana, the shoes were custom-made, this whole outfit is from my roommate's closet! As legendary street style photographer Bill Cunningham notes in the recent documentary about his life, "Beauty is for those who seek it." Only through this opportunity to roam around looking for unique styles on campus do I get to notice an art professor's innovative jeans, the way a boy paints his tae kwon do shoes, or a girl's surprising turban spotted across the computer lab. I get to seek beauty, make it my own, and share it. What a pleasure.
In an earlier post, I applauded another Cornell Fashionista for her sleek, clean summer style. This Senior fashionista is similarly unfussy in her crisp black and white tube dress. But there is an appealing earthy-ness to her rich caramel leather jacket and the watercolor stripes on her dress. The dress is a cotton sundress from DKNY, while the gladiator sandals are from Reaction by Kenneth Cole. These are standard summer pieces that are easily buyable at various price points. But the real personality comes from her worn-in, well-loved leather jacket that she has had for ten years.
Recently I have been noticing the way that small touches can contribute to a cohesive look (frequently by accident!). In this case, the materials of her leather pouch from Coach and her glossy Blackberry set each other off perfectly, while her black nail polish with a shiny stripe down the middle recapitulates the stripes of her dress. Often these are unintentional touches, but an individual will always gravitate towards certain colors or textures that can end up complementing each other. For this fashionista, she keeps everything sleek and calm, with a kick of natural personality.
There is fashion — the whirlwind of media, models, and marketing that spins endlessly — and there is style. Fashion is a huge machine that is largely fueled by the mass production of uninspired garments. Fashion is an industry, a culture, a monster of its own continual reinvention. Somewhere within that world is a tiny spark that makes this all worthwhile. That little glimmer is style.
But style itself mocks the whole game. Because style, unlike fashion, is simple and enduring. It is about inspiration, panache, and poise. It is the intersection of humor and self-respect.
This young man sums it all up better than I can. He is a sophomore from New York City studying chemistry here at Cornell. His outfit is unremarkable to someone looking for fashion: cargo shorts, bright red polo shirt, slip-on sneakers, backpack. But if it’s style you are looking for, this is it.
Style is about successfully communicating personal thoughts into public sartorial displays. These shoes are a good example. These were his own Tae-Kwon-Do competition sneakers that he hand-painted with Asian motifs when he retired from the sport a few years back because of injury. He was hoping to commemorate his time learning martial arts by bringing his utilitarian footwear into everyday dressing. The silhouette could pass for Puma or similar track shoes, but the coloration is surprisingly bold and graphic, with a different color block from every angle.
His normal black backpack also reflects his quietly bold personal style, with a big white plush shark tucked in next to his leather Bible, both for good luck and wisdom. What I so appreciated about this Fashionisto was his unassuming, low-key approach to making strong little statements with his clothing. Again, he hits that point between self-respect and humor, bringing in playful touches here and there, but keeping everything appropriate for his body and lifestyle. This is not college fashion, this is college style.
Among many funny lines in the surprisingly accurate film based on Vogue magazine, “The Devil Wears Prada”, there is a typical Miranda Priestly editrix moment over spring dressing. In a board meeting for the April issue one editor suggests shooting floral dresses to which Miranda responds, deadpan, “Florals? For spring? Ground breaking.”
Although Miranda is the merciless devil herself, she does have a point. It can be very refreshing to see a spring outfit that is clean and unfussy. So I was happy to spot this Fashionista in front of the performing arts center at Cornell, on her way to class in a crisp ensemble. This lithe junior was wearing high-waisted cotton shorts she picked up in London over spring break with a sheer black kimono knit from Forever 21. The outfit was accented by a neutral cinched belt by Tommy Hilfiger, caramel wooden wedges, sassy neon nails by China Glaze, and her matching black and white iPhone.
This look is a good example of dressing up shorts for a summer job or a Sunday brunch: keep the palette classic and the accessories formal for a non-beachy look. Add a long black cardigan or blazer for when the air-conditioning kicks in.
And as for Miranda Preistly’s derisive edicts, she would probably give at least a slight smile to this chic, fresh Fashionista.