Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


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Are You More than What You’re Wearing?

Graphic made by Keaton Riebel
This is a modern paper doll. You can you assume a lot about someone based on their outfit, but how much of that assumption is true?

Everyone does it every day. Whether it is planning it out the night before or grabbing the first things you see, everyone has a method of getting dressed in the morning. Each one of us has a unique and individual method due to our curated style… or do we? Individuality is a word meant to describe characteristics that make something stand out and special. Although the current culture of fashion praises this idea of individuality and uniqueness, people often hide themselves behind norms and trends of what to wear because of the fear of being perceived incorrectly or in a way that is harmful to one’s identity.

Starting off with some personal experience, I went to a private school in elementary. Getting dressed in the morning is easy when wearing the same thing every day, some days reusing the skirt from the last because who would know? It looked the same as the backup skirt. The only worry to have was if it was cold enough to wear tights or, if I was feeling fancy, it was tough choice of what headband to choose from – navy or matching plaid. Nonetheless, it was easy to do. I am not going to preach that private school is better–I have had my share of trauma–but what was difficult was standing out in a crowd, having a sense of identity, because everyone wore the same thing and was quite boring.

Uniforms create minimal worry about what to wear; however, moving to a public middle school, I was thrown into an unfamiliar place. Everyone had known each other for years; I knew no one. Everyone was wearing different clothes, and I was unsure of this method. I wore the same jeans, sweatshirt, and sneakers every day. Although, I noticed something. All the girls were wearing leggings, sweatshirts, Uggs, Nike, Lulu Lemon; boys were wearing joggers, sweatshirts, basketball shorts, Under Amour, Nike; in what can be categorized now as “athleisure.” So, I started dressing the same fashion of others. After that, I became more aware of what people were wearing and judgmental if they did not wear it too. They just did not “fit in,” which is a toxic perspective because some people do not/cannot conform for various reasons, and they should not have to.

Now, I am not going to leave the title of athleisure style in the hands of 11-year-olds, but I do not see much of a difference since then. Athleisure is still the common base for most fashion you will see on the street or on campus. The basic formula being leggings or sport shorts, sweatshirts, tees, and tanks, with sometimes questionable shoe trends. It is not much different outfit formula from middle school. Uggs, Crocs, Nike and similar bands, styles and trends are still in fashion for our generation. Which, I think is funny because we cringe at our middle school selves when we
are wearing what other people are wearing. It is simply a strong trend.

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This idea of dressing like other people or following trends to fit in connects to recognition theory – brought up by an anonymous WSU student. It is hard to say individuality is in fashion because of the reproduction of trend and clothing. We did not make the clothing we wear. But clothing is a way for us to express ourselves and build a brand for ourselves so people perceive us the way we want. This does not always work, though. If you ask anyone on the street, the most common answer to what they are wearing is comfortable or that they just threw it on before class, but is that true? When buying a piece of clothing, why do you buy it? A lot of things come into play with affordability (fast fashion), how it looks (body image), is it trendy, and how will it be perceived, but this article will not be long enough to delve into them as much as I wish I could.

If you are anything like me, it can be a trial to get dressed in the morning. What goes with this? Does it clash? Who am I giving? Do I look gay? Ever since late high school, I have been called gay, lesbian, and more because of what I have worn. I have heard this issue among a lot of people I know. Most of the time, we do not take offense to be seen as part of the queer community, though it is hard when you are constantly told you are part of a community you do not identify with. I do not think it is wrong to think someone might be queer, but I do think it is inappropriate bring it up to them constantly you thought they were gay and carry on that they are.

These assumptions about someone’s sexuality limits those who may be queer as well because they do not want to be outed. The same anonymous student said “I wore what I thought was safe,” reflecting on the struggles to balance identity and how it can be dangerous to be perceived as queer because people still have not gotten over themselves. Everyone needs to accept that sometimes people do not fit into the norm and each person is unique, we just cannot shut them down.

In this day in age, it is critical to have awareness. It is exhausting to try to fit in, trying to predict how you are perceived, and thinking about how you are being judged. Part of this is why I think so many people struggle to wear a cute little outfit they are proud of because they will be judged by someone. I do not judge the people who fall into
the common fashion trends, but I do judge those who judge others. Naturally, we judge everyone, but it is based on our actions made on those judgements that make a difference.

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About the Contributor
Keaton Riebel
Keaton Riebel, Photo Editor

Keaton Riebel (she/her/hers) is the photo editor and a photographer for the Winonan and started in the spring of 2023. Riebel is currently a third year at Winona State University, graduating spring of 2024 with a major in Creative Digital Media, and minoring in Photography.

In addition to working for The Winonan, Riebel is also a Resident Assistant for the Sheehan Hall but is also involved in other little clubs on campus.

Outside of school, Riebel loves spending time with friends, exploring, going to live music shows, and taking pictures all the while. She enjoys learning new things and trying new activities, especially outdoors. She also appreciates getting into the local communities and finding out how to be a part of the treasures Winona holds.

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