Lizzie Conklin

On her most study-heavy days, Aimee Catherine ’25 likes to dress semi-formal and put on a little makeup even if she has nowhere to go. At first glance, this is just further evidence of her put-togetherness. 

Balancing a rigorous schedule for maintaining her YouTube channel of over 20,000 subscribers with running daily, writing political science papers and juggling a vibrant social life, Catherine leaves others wondering how to be “self-disciplined and organized” and how to find the motivation to be “a certified menace to society again,” as some of the comments underneath her videos put it. 

However, for Catherine, authenticity reigns above all in her day-to-day as a college student who is giving the world a glimpse into her private life, especially in  the way she presents herself through fashion. It is an unapologetic rulebreaking that she values in herself and hopes to communicate — the feeling that while fashion and makeup are important, they are accessories on an overarching personality trait of being honest with oneself. 

“People think that us vloggers and YouTubers are always so put together … but my philosophy [is] … that less is more,” she said, revealing that many of her favorite outfits are thrifted, sewn or pieces from her grandmother’s vintage collections. “I usually don’t spend more than five or ten minutes doing my makeup in the mornings … [and] my go-to makeup style would be more of a simple, natural … subtle look, little things that accentuate my features.” 

Authenticity and minimalism are not synonymous with a lack of effort or sacrifice of organization, however. Catherine enjoys preparing and choosing her outfits the night before, with the exception of last-minute changes on a “few chaotic days.” It puts her in the mindset that she has already accomplished a task when she wakes up in the morning. Likewise, the reason she chooses to wear more uncomfortable clothes while studying, a habit that she picked up back in high school during pandemic remote learning, also goes back to self-productivity and finding a way to jumpstart the day. 

Her fashion journey throughout freshman and sophomore years has been about developing her own unique style and cultivating confidence instead of succumbing to any fashion pressures in the social media or real world, she said. She expressed pride in the fact that at Yale, student makeup culture doesn’t seem to lie at the extremes of uniformity or total individualism to the point of making it a competition, but rather a happy place in between. Walking to and from classes or coming home from parties, she notices all styles from casual street wear and classic crop tops to more preppy expressions and professional-looking makeup designs. While she admitted that going full blown with makeup is not her thing, for her, seeing other people putting in the effort to do so is a reminder of just how talented and diverse the campus is. 

Prior to starting college, Judy Nguyen ’26 thought most of her fellow classmates would be dressed in collegiate or New England prep with the occasional lazy groutfit for exam season. While her assumptions have mostly proven to be true, she said, the fashion scene here is more empowering than intimidating for her — she is grateful that students mostly “wear whatever pleases the heart.” If she had to capture the Yale makeup and fashion identity, it would be somewhere along the lines of “elevated” comfort. 

Even Brock ‘25 agreed that makeup is less about being able to “defeat other people in a style war” than it is about breaking stereotypes, except when it is about “doing masculine things better than the men do it,” they wrote to the News. As a queer student, they said that it almost feels as though other people have elevated conceptions  of “fashionableness” for them.” On a “normal day,” however, they have fewer reservations about wearing their prettiest outfits and putting on the best makeup designs, which are skills that they called among their proudest talents. 

“I also feel like I’m carving my own path in terms of my specific gender expression, which makes me feel like an utter badass,” they said, noting that they have made it a habit to remind themself to not feel affected by outside pressure to use makeup and to define their choices by boldness rather than expectation. “I love wearing clothes that typically fit into a gender binary but wearing them in a non-binary way.” 

The relationship between makeup and identity hits close to home for Zara Belo ’25 as well, whose commitment to fashion is rooted in its being among the most “outermost ways” that she can portray her Blackness and personality to others. Unlike the more spontaneous methodologies that Catherine and Brock have adopted, the excitement of her makeup routine lies in its organization, consistency, military schedule and product names themselves. 

Here’s a first-hand look into her routine:

Belo’s mornings usually start with priming her face with the NYX Bare With Me jelly. Then, she color corrects with Neutrogena orange in hyperpigmented spots and sets them with brown powder, going over them with her Elf and LA Girl concealers. After this, Belo blushes the apples of her cheeks to the top of her brow bones, adding freckles or beauty spots around her face. HerBlend Bunny cosmetics eyeshadow palette and About-Gace liquid eyeshadows are frequent favorites; she dabs them as she likes with maximum pigment, using trusty black or dark brown NYX eyeliner pencil as a lip liner and swiping her Fenty gloss bomb in the shade “Hot Chocolit” on her lips. Finally, she ends with an inner and outer eyeliner wing and a dewy setting spray on her face. 

At times, Belo’s desire of sticking to habit and routine is challenging, or even chaotic, but in a fun way. Her CV of notable makeup moments includes attempting a full face beat while encountering turbulence on a plane, an experience that she “was indeed holding [her] breath” throughout. 

Nonetheless, despite the impressive range of products , Belo makes it “her thought process to never buy something more than 25 dollars … when it comes to makeup.” If certain brands are expensive, she resorts to makeup dupes, which she said are the best way for her to get the look and feel she wants while protecting her wallet. Aside from concealers and setting sprays, which fall on the cheaper end, her makeup purchases are otherwise few and far between. 

For first-generation college student Kayla Wong ‘25, true makeup is safe, affordable and a “total game changer.” It’s possible to  be the main character and “it” person without worrying about fitting into costly makeup trends or products, she said. 

“There are a lot of products out there that are affordable and create the same look — I would recommend finding a product that you like and sticking with it,” she said. “As for budget, I get my products at Target or a drugstore, and makeup usually lasts a long time, because you don’t need a lot of it each time you use it. I’ll occasionally replace my mascara or eyeliner, but I don’t find myself worrying about buying expensive makeup too much because drugstore products get the job done.” 

In Wong’s beauty routine, health and comfort take center-stage. She remembers her SPF “ every single day of the year” and she has never missed the tightlining step in her routine, ever since an unfortunate incident when a lady in Bloomingdale’s had asked to try makeup on her stabbed her eye. .

Protective steps  are oftentimes forgotten amid the relentless pressure to keep up with the fast-paced fashion world beyond Yale, a feeling that Wong sympathizes with but rejects. Even at a college with heightened hookup, party and formal culture, she, Catherine and Belo are remembering to have fun in the small moments while letting go of the larger environment that can leave students feeling lost or overwhelmed. 

As a high schooler, Parade model and body activist Betty Kubovy-Weiss ’25 used to wear makeup every day, feeling “bad about [herself]”  whenever she didn’t. Now as a college student, she mostly goes outside “bare-faced so that she can feel extra special when [she does] choose to wear it,” urging other young women to find comfort in seeing their own bodies and faces as they are and resist the pressure of having to present a different version of themselves publicly. Looking back on some of her earlier memories, like when her father made her take off a super intense makeup look before going to a Yom Kippur event, she was glad that makeup had its revolutionary and funny breaks despite being a largely gendered practice.

For Catherine, the best part of going out is the GRWM — get ready with me — stage, where friends who are nowhere near makeup and fashion experts chaotically borrow each other’s tops and help one another in hopes of finishing half-done faces in time for frat openings. Meanwhile, Brock discusses only “offering” to others what they are most comfortable with, especially during events where a certain type of look might be the standard. Sometimes, dysphoric lipsticks and floral prints are the answer to feeling the “most epic, confident, beautiful, and spectacular,” they wrote. 

“What I wear and look like every day is a part of who I am. It’s how I express myself,” Wong said, though she did mention that one of her biggest cautions for anyone is to never overdo a smokey eye. “My favorite thing that people say about my makeup or clothing I wear is when they’re like ‘That’s so you…’ Fashion, in that sense, is art — it’s a token of individuality and I love that we can each own a piece of the fashion realm.”

Brian Zhang is Arts editor of the Yale Daily News and the third-year class president at Yale. Previously, he covered student life for the University desk. His writing can also be found in Insider Magazine, The Sacramento Bee, BrainPOP, New York Family and uInterview. Follow @briansnotebook on Instagram for more!