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Growing up: how does fashion grow up too?

in Campus Journal/Columns/Hi! Fashion by
Photo by Ian Holloway
Photo by Ian Holloway

I am about to turn 20. I’ve heard a lot of people announce big changes on the advent of their 20th birthdays: no more weed, no more reckless spending, regular visits to the gym. Whether or not these resolutions last, they indicate the way a 20th birthday can act as a grown-up themed New Year. My resolution, of course, will be sartorial.

I have always loved flippy little dresses, colorful chokers, and pink florals. And that’s all I really know for spring-wear: through all the iterations of my wardrobe, from its clashing patterns in lower school to Victorian ruffles in middle school and little skirts and jackets in high school, spring has been colorful and silly. What in the world does a grown-up spring look like?

While home over break, I tried wearing an oversized tweed blazer as my jacket. I was convinced enough by its grown-up results that I brought it back to school. But I tried it on again, and just felt like a mediocre imitation of “Clueless” — or, ’80s high school. So tweed is not the solution.

I have a pink linen suit skirt that falls just above my knees. It’s not Memorial Day yet, but I considered hedging my bets on the skirt anyway — it’s conservatively lengthed and a plain, straight cut — adult.

Another way to be adult might be jeans and plain shirts — T-shirts or button-downs. Of course, I don’t have too many plain T-shirts. Somehow most of mine are labeled with the bizarre names of towns my family or Goodwill donors vacationed in, or school sports team names. But a visit to Target or another to Goodwill could change that. And, as my column revealed a few months ago, my winter resolution was to look plain, simple, normal. Jeans and T-shirts can be both old and plain: they keep up the old resolution and add another one.

But isn’t the fun of making resolutions breaking them? And the fun of deciding on wardrobe consistency that there is no reason to maintain it, really? Deciding on wardrobe consistency, like deciding to go to the gym every day, is an exciting decision to make, but often ends up feeling unnecessary.

My personality isn’t consistent. My actions aren’t consistent. Even my thoughts aren’t consistent. So why would my clothes be? I’m a mess, word is out. A consistent wardrobe can be a fun way of avoiding the real mess, or of holding it at bay, but in the end, who am I to deny chaos? Who am I to claim a 20th birthday suddenly makes me an adult? The tweed jacket’s here at this point, so maybe I’ll throw it on and give it a try. But maybe my spring look will be primavera goth-lite instead. Who knows? I hear there’s snow coming this weekend, so looks like I’ll have a few more weeks to putz around in the mud before snowdrops pass on to daffodils and it’s time to decide.

The fun is in the putzing as much as the choosing. The fun is in interpolating chaos with clarity and wondering which is more real. Every day gives a different answer. Usually, as the weather settles into a single pattern and my homework seems to flow in the kinds of streams that flow into the dams I’ve built for them, I do decide I want some kind of clarity and consistency in my wardrobe.

But we all have moments where the chaos takes over and it is futile to attempt denying it with a pressed blouse. Think: 60 degrees meets 35 and you’re caught in the middle. Think: you have four papers due in the next week. Think: now. In those moments, especially when they arrive at the grown-up New Year of a 20th birthday, it is sometimes best to blow around like a lost little leaf alternatingly spotted brown and brilliant green. Tomorrow, I’ll grow up. And, to quote Garbage, “When I grow up I’ll be stable.”

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