I spent my entire all-girls high school career in heavy, grey pleated skirts, polo shirts and quarter zips. My hair was either in a french braid or a barely brushed ponytail and pink Crocs covered my toes (yes, I said Crocs). When I was feeling fancy, I would maybe put on a pair of Sperry’s.
Sometime during the summer going into my first year at Miami University, I decided I needed to part ways with my high school wardrobe. I am 99.9 percent sure I even wrote a journal entry about how college was going to make me a new woman.
My entire knowledge base on college fashion came solely from YouTube videos, my friend, Rheanne, who sometimes hung out with college boys and my cousin, Alex, a boy who had nothing to offer me in terms of the categories, “going-out clothes” and “cute clothes for class.”
So, it was no wonder that I showed up to Miami’s orientation looking like I just stepped off the ferry in Nantucket. I took the J. Crew U slang very seriously — J.Crew shorts, Ralph Lauren tee, monogrammed necklace and Sperry’s.
I liked preppy clothes. In fact, my friends made fun of me in high school for wearing preppy clothes, but something about this outfit was stuffy. I wasn’t trying to be myself; I was trying to fit a nonexistent stereotype. It was like I let all the brand names in my closet throw up on me and instead of wiping it off, I just went with it. Everyone else at orientation seemed to be wearing something that reflected their personality, even the girls that just smelled cool.
So, after orientation, I began my shopping search that summer by taking things in a new direction. I looked for outfits I never got to wear in high school: crop tops my dad told me not to walk out of the house in.
I was going into college hot.
The New Bar dance floor circa 2016 was filled with Urban Outfitters criss-cross tops, 90s style chokers and dripping with sweat.
When “Closer” by the Chainsmokers hit the speakers, you could best believe I was wearing exactly that while reapplying my matte TwoFaced lip tint for the 10th time in a row.
When “Bodak Yellow” replaced “Broccoli” and New Bar just wasn’t cool anymore, the deep V-necks and chokers disappeared.
I was now wearing Comfort Colors sorority tees by day and embroidered jeans at night.
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Then a semester-away in Washington, D.C. changed things. I was working a 9 to 5 on the Hill, rocking Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic, and I loved it. My business suits and work-wear made me feel powerful and in-charge, while also expressing my personal style.
I started caring less about fitting in and more about standing out.
By the time junior year rolled around, I established my friend groups and was no longer wearing what everyone in my dorm was.
My on-campus outfits became more laid back, I was wearing athleisure 90 percent of the time in Harrison Hall, and my going-out outfits became more toned down.
And, if I wanted to get the attention of boys, loud outfits weren’t the only way to do it. Chances are, ladies, they hardly remember what you wore when you came up and said hi.
As I became more comfortable being weird in front of friends and singing loud songs in the shower for my housemates to hear, my fashion choices started to reflect that.
The overly intoxicated boys at CJ’s and Brick Street were no longer my audience. I was the lone wolf in the crowd, and it felt good dressing for myself.
It sounds cheesy, but the more I fell in love with Miami, the more I fell in love with myself.
And, even though my internal anxiety (and ever-present Scorpio within me) forced me to change my outfit 20 times before stepping out the door, I know that whatever I am wearing when I walk out is still me.
Now, as seniors, when my friends and I hit Corner or CJ’s on a Tuesday and they’d poke fun at me for wearing jeans, while they donned sweatshirts and leggings, I secretly liked it. I knew they weren’t really making fun of me. They just knew me well enough to know I like to dress up when I hit uptown.
I lost the chokers and weird booby tops for what my friends would define as my staple pieces — my Madewell Star Sweatshirt, high-waisted heart print jeans and a pink frill bodysuit.
And, trust me, I am not looking back.
High Street has seen me in a lot of different looks — go-go boots for a disco party, a piñata costume for Halloween and many a crop top, but those won’t be my legacy.
Instead, it will be the people standing next to me in those outfits, laughing as we try to cut the line at CJ’s, and the memories I made with them, who defined my Miami experience.