“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life” – Bill Cunningham
The world has seen many fashion trends come and go, from the iconic Coco Chanel era to the early 2000s’ low-rise jeans and neon colors. These trends inevitably go out of fashion as new ones storm in through celebrity wardrobes, viral TikToks or other forms of media.
Wheaton, once an all women’s college, was a place of fascinating fashion research. Since fashion is so heavily influenced by current trends today, I looked for patterns around campus that could indicate some contemporary movement. Athleisure was the most common style I saw. One person I spoke with about this trend was with Avi, class of 2023. She wore “preppy athleisure,” and paired black Adidas track pants with a dark green cropped sweater. She wore black boots to finish the look.
When asked what her go-to styling choices were, she said, “I like to go with one pair of something comfortable that doesn’t look so [obviously look like] sportswear that you can get it under Athleisure and pair it with something else. I like to pair it with something more casual and preppy so that I can get away with wearing something comfy while still looking half-decent most of the time.”
I interviewed students from all years and styles, some that I already knew, and others whom I had to chase after, startling them into an interview with me! One such unsuspecting Wheaton student was Olivia, a freshman. She was wearing a white-collared sweater with a sweater vest over it that she paired with a patterned midi-skirt and platform sneakers. Her look was finished with a graphic tote bag of a bicycle. This outfit is seen around Wheaton quite often, especially on lower campus. I saw numerous people wearing multiple layers of clothing, combining them together to make an outfit that has a lot going on.
Fishnet stockings with shorts, layered shirts and cardigans are quite often showstoppers during Chase lunches… but can also indicate a simple lack of time. One such student I spoke with paired a long, knitted sweater with a full-length patterned skirt, drop earrings, and flip flops. When I asked about her outfit, she remarked she slept in the sweater and earrings she was wearing, and picked the skirt as a last-minute choice since she was running late. She described her style as “unpredictable.”
Another student eating lunch in Balfour was my next subject for fashion inspiration. This student rocked a mid-blue thrifted dress along with a leather jacket and a pair of Doc Martens, a style I had seen often work in the transition to the Fall season. This was similar to most fashion choices I had seen at Wheaton: mostly thrifted outfits paired with a definitely-worth-it splurge like the aforementioned Doc Martens, LuluLemon Jackets or even Air Jordans.
As I listened to Olivia talk about her outfit, I was reminded of the many other students I spoke with who wore pieces with sentimental value. Some wore statement sweaters or shoes bought by their moms, but most chose to wear jewelry given to them by their loved ones, such as rings, necklaces, or earrings. Contrary to current fashion trends, Wheaton students chose multiple, smaller jewelry pieces to complement their looks, such as small hoop earrings with matching necklaces or multiple rings with a series of small necklaces and stud earrings. However, some forgo jewelry altogether.
Overall, there were plenty of neutral-to-dark tones with very few people choosing to wear colorful shirts and lighter jackets, leaving them behind in the Summer months. There was a general sense of comfort over fashion, but a need to look well-dressed and polished, even if it was with the same basic clothes paired differently over the months-long semester. Skirts of all lengths, fishnet stockings, boots, and cardigans are all the rage on campus, with bandanas and baggy jeans making another comeback. Thrifted or not, rocking jewelry or Athleisure, Wheaton students sure do know how to show some serious personality through their clothing.