These days, style seems to be subsequent to comfort. Many claim to not care. Personality does not have to be expressed through clothing. Or does it? Everyday I ask myself, “Is this outfit too much for class? Will other people chew me out with their gazes around campus?” Yes, many times people have glared at my floor length lace skirt and my band tee matched with tuxedo pants. Many times, I have altered my style to please the public—everyone has.
I wanted to experience what others go through when facing the public to see if clothes really matter in regards to expressing yourself. I decided to take to the streets each day inspired by goth, sporty, preppy, rockabilly and party-esque styles to experience if clothes changed people’s reactions to my personality.
For day one, I slipped on my black turtleneck tank top, maxi black velvet skirt, vintage black Kenneth Cole boots and a black leather jacket. I also packed on red and black eye shadow and extreme black cat eyes that I last recreated when dressing up as Harley Quinn this past Halloween. I also lightened my skin (more than it already is) with concealer. Of course, I busted out my black lipstick that I save for rainy days.
As expected, I received many stares. Other goths around campus were sizing me up. In class, I felt as if I was isolated. I would try and discuss with others and make jokes, yet it felt as if I was being avoided. As I was sitting on a bench around campus reading, many would come and ask if I was alright.
My friends also asked if I was sad or if “some one had died.” My boyfriend said I looked nice, but also very dark and said black lipstick wasn’t really his thing.
As the day went on, I noticed more people would stare as I walked down the sidewalks of Fry. Only one girl had complimented my outfit, stating that my skirt was “awesome.”
I embraced the fashion most prevalent around campus on day two with fleece-lined leggings (to keep my legs warm in the winter cold), a baggy T-shirt, a knock-off North Face jacket and converse. I also wore little-to-no makeup. The only thing missing from this outfit were Nike tennis shoes and long hair.
On my way to my classes, I noticed that the vast majority of students overlooked me. No one blinked twice at me while we passed each other on the sidewalk. I received no compliments or statements regarding my ensemble, although I fit in with the majority of girls around campus. Strangers in my classes and around campus were more willing to talk with me and joke with me. Girls dressed like me in my first class laughed along with me when I commented about waking up early to learn that our class was canceled.
My boyfriend once again stated that I looked nice and he liked my face without makeup. My acquaintances were more willing to talk to me without my black lipstick on. Yet, my friends who were used to me dressing for an occasion, questioned if I was ready to go when going out for the night.
For this look I sported my only pink item, a collared polka-dot undershirt, an A-line black skirt, black tights, black booties and everything pearls. For my makeup, I wore a nude pink lipstick, a thin understated cat-eye and blush. This look seemed to make everyone around me happier. Even though strangers were less reluctant to strike up a conversation with me than the day before, they still smiled at me and were polite.
Many of my friends said I looked “sophisticated” and “nice.” My boyfriend again said I looked nice. Whether it was my “sophistication” or sweet look, people were hesitant with how to react to me. Some would smile and chat while others would avoid me, as if my peppiness inferred that I was also haughty.
Inspired by the 1940s and 50s rocker girl style, I wore high-rise skinny jeans, a tucked and tight fitting tuxedo shirt, polka-dot suspenders, a black leather jacket and oxford heels. I again wore pearls and my hair up (as much as I could with my short hair). For makeup, I wore cool-toned eyeshadow, an extreme cat-eye and, of course, red lipstick. The only thing that was missing from this ensemble were Traditional American tattoos.
While going to class and work, I received strange looks because I was wearing heels. Many people were nice and disregarded my look. Many people also complimented my suspenders. My co-workers and my friends claimed that I looked “classic” and “cute.” Once again, my boyfriend said I looked nice. (Are we noticing a pattern here?)
For the last look, I wore a skintight pencil skirt, a low cut black tank top, a bleached bomber jacket, a blingy statement necklace and heels. I put on as much makeup as I could. I packed on warm-toned eyeshadow and exaggerated eyeliner and eyebrows. I wore liquid foundation and contoured heavily. I also mixed a dark purple lipstick with a brown-toned shade.
I immediately felt uncomfortable wearing this tight of clothing. Many strangers gave me a once over and moved on with their lives. In public areas like restaurants, people stared at me the most—perhaps wondering why I was so dressed up to go to Chipotle. The people I knew responded with a resounding, “Where are you going?” Which ,of course, I was not going where they automatically assumed.
Starting this experiment, I believed, as progressive as Denton is, that it would be hard to get different reactions. Surprisingly, many people stared at my black lipstick, heels and suspenders. People were less reluctant to talk to me and acknowledge me when I dressed “goth” more than any other style. Interestingly, I fit in more with the majority of people when I dressed casually.
Clothes should be considered an outlet of expression without judgment from others. Although many people, as well as myself, are victimized by the stare. Even though it’s sad to say, in regards to this experiment I found that people are still judge others by the way that they dress. And that’s unfortunate.
Photo by: Adriana Huff