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Fashion isn’t important at Notre Dame

Letter to the Editor | Friday, November 14, 2003

As a senior who can’t help but read the train wrecks in the Viewpoint section, I’ve looked at the same four or five arguments repeated each year. The charming debate between students and religious Nazis over whether or not homosexuality is okay is my personal favorite for an I-can’t-believe-this-person-exists smirk, but the rants on student body unity are always a great source of unintentional humor as well. Emily Howald did little more than state the obvious in her Nov. 10 column about our homogenous fashion sense. Anne Morrison, in her letter to the editor, apparently thinks that following the “fashion trends” of the majority is prerequisite for being a part of the community.

In her Nov. 12 reply, Morrison was “appalled” by the column, believing that Howald’s article could “further detach” students with less economic privilege who can’t afford such all-important brands as Abercrombie. Howald’s article was a declaration of war, apparently, as Morrison states it “is actually a united front with which you pit the people that can afford to dress that way against those that cannot.”

Morrison cares a bit too much about fashion. She also overestimates the fashion authority and overall coolness of the student body. The Notre Dame girls I see around campus do dress similarly, but I wouldn’t necessarily call an oversized sweatshirt, sweatpants, sneakers, reading glasses and a ponytail a big chunk of anyone’s paycheck. Nor would I say that it hinges on being part of the community, unless you’re the type who needs to blend in with your surroundings. Maybe one of the aforementioned girls is buying $50 sweatpants at the bookstore and the other found her pair at Salvation Army for $2, but I can’t tell the difference as I pass them on the quad.

Why be threatened by the fact that a large percentage of students have bland, unoriginal and interchangeable wardrobes? You probably know exactly who I’m talking about when I say “that one girl with short black spiky hair who always wears funky pants,” but have no idea who “that girl with the black pointy shoes and wool sweater” is. To this I give a resounding “so what,” and you should, too. As someone who can barely afford utilities or replacement tires (my car is, a week later, still sitting on a street near Roseland with a flat), I am quite happy to dress in old T-shirts and the same three pairs of pants for no other reason than I like them. The same goes for many of those who are swimming in a sea of Old Navy sweaters. Does Dave Matthews make you feel threatened, too? He’s also bland and all over campus.

I would argue that Notre Dame students are defined by their lack of effort to keep up with fashion trends. It doesn’t take nearly as much time to pick something out of one of your roommate’s catalogs as it does to read fashion magazines, haunt consignment shops, and find that “perfect” Strokes T-shirt. Homogeneity in fashion is certainly not an act of exclusion by the Notre Dame community, unless one thinks that clothes define the person, in which case most of us could be defined by the word “blah.” We actually promote blending in with everyone else here, if you haven’t noticed, and all 10 of the underprivileged here can easily choose to do so by finding something boring to wear.

Apparently, being part of Morrison’s community requires wearing “vintage clothing, band T-shirts or even homemade clothes.” She was even so kind as to point out where we should look for her in the dining hall. In short, Morrison’s article read more like a plea for recognition than a plea for unity. Your friends “don’t wear Notre Dame apparel on any given day” – good for them. I’ll be sure to wave as I pass the “first table on the left” in North Dining Hall. Maybe I’ll even throw you a copy of “The Hipster Handbook.”

Dan Maguiresenioroff-campusNov. 13