November 8, 2021

MEIDENBAUER | Cornell Chic

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Cornell does a lot to provide students with the skills needed to succeed in the real world.  Hard work, perseverance and passion are traits attributed to nearly every student on campus.  However, there are a variety of subtle ways that students learn to find themselves. Clothing is one of them. 

One of our first decisions before leaving our house is how we are going to present ourselves to the world.  In a way, clothing both  shields  our persona, and  projects our personality.  Each day, the decisions we make on how we dress varies depending on our tasks for the day, the weather and our moods among other factors.  Yet, there are trends within the Cornell student body that portray the aesthetics of campus. 

Walk across Ho Plaza on any given day and you’ll see a diverse array of fashion choices, from the business attire donned by students in the Hotel School every Friday, to the just-got-out-of-bed pajama chic, to the bright red athleisure worn by student athletes, particularly on game day.  Most of us fall somewhere in between, falling into a rhythm of comfort, day after day and week after week.  

People express themselves through their clothing.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, how we dress changes how other people view us.  Perhaps this is why, as with any group of people, similarities occur as trends rise and fall.  As the times evolve, so does fashion.  But what does this say about the student body? It’s like Cornell has an unspoken dress code that a significant chunk of students subscribe to.  

 This is evidenced by the fact that as the cold weather returns to our beloved campus, so does the annual resurgence of Canada Goose jackets.  For the most part I forget that  Cornell’s  student body is full of many well-off students.  However, the winter season makes that wealth  particularly apparent, as brand labels on the side of jackets serve as  visible status markers. 

This extends into other commodities as well, which are very prevalent within the student body.  Take AirPods for example.  You can’t walk down East Ave. midday without seeing at least a dozen people using them.  Within the past several years, motorized skateboards, scooters and bikes have become widely used on campus, a way to avoid  the Itha-calves most of us develop simply by walking up and down the hills to get to class. 

With that being said, our relationship to ourselves is clear through clothing, and is something that virtually all college students can relate to in some capacity. Personally, I’ve been doing an experiment with myself, where I’ve been digging to the back of my closet, picking an item of clothing I haven’t worn yet this semester, and challenging myself to wear it the following day.  Now, this is definitely not extreme at all, but in a society that wants us to be similar to peers and not stick out, this is my own conscious version of breaking out of my comfort zone.  By intentionally challenging myself at the beginning of the day, I’ve found that this is a small but effective way to be more confident in my day-to-day life.  

I’ve found that by starting my day with pushing myself my productivity boosts dramatically.   I’m forcing my brain to focus, and  I’ve learned that whenever I have a particularly taxing assignment, presentation or an exam that I’m nervous about, I like to dress more formally than I otherwise would.  By utilizing the Placebo effect, I like to give myself the additional advantage of extra confidence, utilizing the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ mentality to ward off imposter syndrome.  We all know the sinking, anxious feeling of walking into a big lecture hall to take an exam; strategically giving yourself a mental edge to latch on to can make a huge difference. 

So, Cornell, as the cold weather and finals season are quickly approaching, take a second to think about your relationship to yourself and clothing, and if you’re willing, challenge yourself. It’s that point in the semester when we all are desperate for any and every bit of help to get to the end, why not make the most of it? 

Lorelei Meidenbauer ’22 is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Hot-takes and Handshakes runs every other Tuesday this semester.