Adrienne Grunwald/The New York Times

Courtney King (left) and Mónica de Pinto Ribeiro Hancke (right) at a garage sale in Brooklyn, on April 2, 2023. King and Hancke shopped with Truly, a miniature poodle.

November 8, 2023

Fashion at Cornell: The Student Outfit Blueprint

Print More

College campuses are presented with a unique situation when it comes to fashion. With such a large collective of students with similar social influences (at least in terms of interacting on campus) and similar clothing stores in close proximity, there is, despite a still widely varied sense of style, a sort of hive mind when it comes to how to dress. Students noticeably follow the same fashion trends, oftentimes down to the same pieces of clothing. This can be viewed at a generational level as well, but on college campuses especially, emerging trends wash over the student body quickly and intensely, often fading in just the same way to yield to the next craze. 

At Cornell specifically, while the transition from summer to fall wardrobes has begun, there are certainly silhouettes and styles that have prevailed as the first semester fashion template. Staples of the “Cornell look” include flowy maxi skirts, especially white linen ones, as well as open back tops. With Urban Outfitters being the closest clothing store to campus (as well as the only thing to do in Ithaca and retail therapy for stressed college students), one particular open back top has gained traction. The pairing of long skirts and tighter tops create a silhouette that is also mimicked by loose low-rise pants and cropped shirts. As the weather cools down, tops with an asymmetrical hem have also cemented a place in the trend cycle. On both short sleeve tops and sweaters, tops that have a hem that cuts from high to low across the waist have become a familiar sight. As open back shirts drop out of rotation due to dropping temperatures, these tops will continue to grow in popularity. 

In addition to clothes, certain accessories have also become an expected addition to a typical Cornell student outfit. Over the ear headphones are commonplace, serving as both a useful and stylish accessory. Quickly overtaking wired and bluetooth headphones as the dominant form of music-listening, these headphones will become even more essential as they also protect students’ ears in cold weather, although in the face of snow many students may be forced to revert to classic earmuffs in place of their cuter alternatives.

In terms of footwear, vintage style shoes with a pop of color seem to be the go-to, especially when paired with the aforementioned pieces. A revisitation of the classic black and white Adidas trend from the late 2010’s has gained popularity, but in a chicher, more interesting way, with the paradigm example being the Adidas Sambas. If there’s one thing that defines Gen Z fashion, it’s the layering of statement pieces. While many of the trends I’ve described are staple pieces, and therefore relatively basic, there are plenty of bold variations of these same general ideas. 

So what comes next? I’ve already talked about several possible adaptations of current trends for the winter, but as temperatures in Ithaca drop, there will also be new emergent styles of hats, boots, gloves, etc. While the question of hats and gloves is up in the air, I predict that campus will see an upshoot in oversized leather jackets, especially furlined ones, and boots consisting largely of typical black combat/snow boots and more comfortable, slipper-like ones. In future weeks, keep an eye out for the already established trends and arising ones — you might be surprised by just how much uniformity you find on such a large campus.

Sarah Gimbel is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. They can be reached at [email protected]