There’s fashion, and then there’s fashion at Yale.
Yeah — you know what I mean. And for those of you who don’t, let me paint you a lovely picture. Pretend you haven’t the remotest idea of what fashion is (and for some, that is not so far from the truth), and you find yourself in the heart of Yale’s campus. Let’s say — Cross Campus. You soak in the scenery around you, concentrating on the hordes of students as they swish past you, ear glued to cell phone. Suppose this goes on for half an hour. Now, my question is: From your observations, what can you surmise about fashion?
It sucks? C’mon, you can say it. The ladies and gents at Yale may have a royal flush when it comes to brains, but in the fashion department there are some highly deficient people who are playing to lose. Some are just plain ignorant and a little dose of education would do them, and their wardrobe, wonders. Some are indifferent — they could care less if they walked out in clothes or a garbage bag. Some — and these are the most incurable ones — think they’ve got it going on when, in fact, they are a walking fashion faux pas. This is not to imply that you, the reader, belongs to any of these groups. You, of course, have taste and discretion, but take a quick look around you and I’m sure you will find disgrace after disgrace.
I’ve found plenty simply from walking to and from my classes on any given day. How else do you think I preoccupy myself on the daily walk from Starbucks to Koffee Too (I’m a self-professed caffeine junkie)? I devote those precious minutes to the conscious watching of humanity in all its glorious array. So, call me a scopophiliac, call me bored, even call me creepy, but these long sessions of careful observation have yielded very interesting results (though much to the detriment of my eyes, which have beheld various fashion phenomena that they wish to never encounter again).
Take, for example, what happened just this past week as I was walking to LC on my way to English 125. My reminiscences on Wordsworth were rudely interrupted by a sudden vision of a guy in bright yellow pants and a black sweatshirt. It was so bad that, at first, I thought a giant bumblebee was attacking me. Trust me, almost any fashion-savvy person will wag their fingers at the yellow-and-black motif. So, go the safe way and never wear them together, unless you want to go pollinate a flower.
That leads to another one of my complaints: the lack of color (like banana yellow) on campus, especially on guys. I’m bored of the DKNY look — the constant uninspired reliance on basic black, white and beige. The way some of my friends dress, you’d think they were going to a funeral all the time! Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the aesthetic value of black, and I often indulge in the dramatic effects of the stark white and jet black juxtaposition, but there is also so much untapped power in color and bright, bold patterns. You have no idea how happy I get when I spot a guy wearing a light pink or blue button-down shirt. My first impulse is to go up to them and say, “thank you for being secure enough to wear pink.” My second impulse is to shut up and admire at a distance.
Need I say that well-coordinated color is an extremely effective tool? Use it to accentuate eye color and flaunt what you have while downplaying what you don’t. Think of yourself as the master magician who uses color and pattern to create the illusion of a taller frame, longer leg, or slimmer waist. How? That’s easy — any fashion magazine can teach you the fine art of disguise and illusion, but very few can impart to you that commendable courage that is a prerequisite to any experimentation with color. This is something that one must take with a leap of faith, but, over time, acknowledgment of appreciation from family, friends and sketchy strangers will certainly help to reinforce confidence and spur new, limit-defying attempts. And appreciation you will get, especially in a place like New Haven, where the winters can be unbearably long and dreary. Color here is like a second sun — particularly since the first is never around.
My last pet peeve is one that I have to be wary of as well: wearing pointy shoes. There’s nothing wrong with pointy shoes; in fact, I think they are very stylish and sexy. But there’s something disturbing about wearing those radically pointy shoes that hurt your feet as much as they hurt my eyes. And not just mine. I showed page after page of shoes from an old copy of Lucky magazine to some male friends of mine, and they unanimously agreed that pointy shoes did not float their boat. They frowned and said, “way too painful-looking.” (This is proof that men can be just as concerned with our comfort level as with cleavage.)
And on that lovely note, I’ll wrap up my lament of how Yale is a barren wasteland of fashion. But even the bleakest of deserts has its rose. Once in a while, a well-dressed person with remarkable taste and creativity catches my eye. And who knows — today it just may be you.
Ting Ting Yan’s column is better dressed than you are.