Fashion Corner: Searching for your own sense of style

Maria Bobila

Private schooled since kindergarten, I was forced to wear a uniform even before I was physically able to dress myself. Throughout high school, I was used to the standard kilt skirt, sweater vest, button-down shirt and knee-high socks. Since my outfits were pretty much set every fall, winter and spring, summer clothes were all I really owned and shopped for. Once college started, I panicked over how I was going to afford to buy clothes year round and for every season. I know some of you lucky public school students are thinking, “How could it be such a big deal?” But trust me, every day during my freshman year, I wished to go back to my dependable uniform and so did my fellow former private school-goers. It was a grueling process to think of outfits every day, well, at least for me. But it was also a process to discover my own sense of style.

College not only allows one to grow emotionally, academically and spiritually, but stylistically, too. You’re growing up and probably growing out of those teenybopper threads. However, finding what you can wear best is not just going on a few shopping trips and picking out some tops and bottoms that you like. Here are some ways to find out which style works best for you from Orientation to graduation.

Grab a few fashion magazines, even those trashy gossip tabloids, and look through them. Pick out which outfits catch your eye or what celebrities look best to you. Soon, you’ll find similarities in your choices. Are you more casual, grungy, preppy or a bunch of different things? Pursue them! Without replicating an entire outfit, consider a few accents here and there such as a certain accessory, the silhouette of that top or dress or that shade of denim. You’ll end up taking note of what goes well with what because you’ve already seen it happen. Also, taking a look at a few fashion editorial spreads will also inspire you to think of putting clothes together in new and different ways.

But we shouldn’t just look to the media and Hollywood for inspiration. The highly anticipated Fashion Week initiates trends in a variety of interpretations and creations twice a year. Since designers are sometimes inspired by the style of fashion-forward individuals on the streets, we shouldn’t be so absorbed and convinced that what is seen on a runway is what we must wear. It’s best to consider these fashion shows as references and resources. What did you see that describes your personality the most? Just because something is designed by Gucci doesn’t mean that you have to like it.

Since we obviously can’t afford that wanted Luella-tiered floral skirt this spring thanks to our college budget, we rely on low-fashion brands like H&M, Forever 21 and Topshop (N.Y., October 10!) to come up with their own take on runway looks. While this seems like the most convenient way to feel somewhat in the mix, be careful of cheap makes and bad quality. Don’t get me wrong, these stores are my second home, but try to not be so hasty with purchases that you don’t really look at how certain clothes are constructed. This should be applied to almost every shopping experience. You start to figure out if what you want is worth your spending.

I’m sure you all know the secret to the Olsen twins’ style success: vintage. The two are known for mixing and matching high fashion trends with vintage pieces. This type of practice is popular among many style icons and the ultimate source for originality. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about someone else wearing the same thing as you.

There are plenty of vintage shops near Villanova, like Retrospect on South Street in Philadelphia, as well as the Salvation Army on Market Street and even the thrift stores and consignment shops along Lancaster Avenue. A few insider tips: that “old granny smell” will go away after a simple wash, shoe sizes usually run smaller and you will always find the most unique accessories and jewelry.

EBay is also a great for really rare vintage pieces. Just be sure to go by the clothing’s exact measurements rather than the usual “small, medium and large.”

Now that you know what you type of style you’re drawn towards and how to find original and well-made pieces for yourself, experiment and have fun with it. There are definitely going to be some hits and misses but it’s all a creative process, right?

Style is often mistaken for fashion and this should not be the case. While fashion and style are both synonymous with clothes, style is an expression through clothes and something personal to your unique self. I know that I’ll never be wearing the same things I did as a freshman, and when I’m a wife with kids (ah!), I probably won’t be wearing what I have on today. But that’s because your style is going to evolve, just like your character, and that’s what makes it fun and exciting.

Starting college, I often fell victim to following what everyone else was wearing. If I felt like dressing like a bum, I’d wear a baseball cap and sweats despite the fact that I hate baseball caps. Figuring out your style is figuring out your own originality and how you want to be remembered. Once you’ve discovered your own sense of style, dressing in the morning won’t be such a grueling process but rather perhaps your favorite part of the day. And instead of people wondering, “What’s the big deal?” you’ll be looking good and making people think, “She’s kind of a big deal.”