Does image matter that much?

By: Kristine Pascual, Feb. 20, 2024

A big part of the projected identity stems from the psychology of fashion, and as college students, self-expression can play a pivotal role in the outward personality and self-discovery. Whether there is a need to subconsciously “fit in,” express the world within or display minimal effort, a relationship with psyche and fashion is ever present.

Each person has the potential to form a relationship with fashion. Oftentimes, individuals may form a connection to each piece they wear whether the piece is a vintage leather jacket, or hand me down heels from mom.

According to a scholarly article published by Georgia Maxey at Regis University, what someone chooses to wear can speak volumes. Many people put little to no effort into what they wear, believing they have a strong sense of their identity. But Maxey argues that “clothing as utility or necessity is a strong indicator about the person’s inner world and disconnection from Self.”

Apparel merchandising and management assistant professor Claire Whang minored in psychology in college. Whang teaches retail classes in the department, teaching students about fashion and consumer behavior. She explained that people often follow trends and wear certain clothes looking for a sense of community and belonging. However, wearing the exact same outfit as a friend is crossing the line.

“There is this theory called optimal distinctiveness theory where the idea behind this is people want to be similar to other people,” Whang said. “They want to belong, but at the same time there is a limit in how much (people) can be similar.”

People will follow clothing trends to keep up socially. Right now, the coquette trend is booming with girls searching for hair bows and feminine, dainty clothing items. At CPP, students can often be seen wearing Doc Martens or Uggs. Baggy jeans have also circled back into trend from the ‘90s.

AMM lecturer Nancy Hahn expressed the importance of establishing self-identity. Growing up in an Asian immigrant household, Hahn felt cornered into being the serious, smarter sister. Now with a family of her own, Hahn allows her children to dress as freely as they’d like.

“By the time you are in your 20s, you are trying to figure out who you are as a person and how you dress is a huge part of that,” Hahn said. “I think for young people especially it is very much part of their self-confidence to establish who they are as a person — the shirt they wear, the shoes they pick out, their hair, the color of their hair, all plays into a very big part in announcing to the world who they are as a person.”

AMM student and stylist Alyssa Barajas found love for fashion growing up through her mom. For Barajas, fashion is not just a hobby, but it’s her career.

“(Image) matters more from a personal perspective rather than how people perceive me because I’ve gotten to a point where I know people are going to perceive you however they want, but as long as I feel good then that will depict the way I carry myself,” Barajas said.

Mechanical engineering student Esia Medrano stands out in the engineering department by breaking stereotypes that engineers have no sense of style. Medrano incorporates jewelry into his outfits, describing his style as “punk,” wearing darker colors like black, gray and green.

“I like dressing the way I dress because it gives me a sense of personality that I feel a lot of engineering majors don’t really have,” Medrano said.

For some, college is a time to experiment not just socially, but internally. It is a time for personal growth and discovering who one is or what one can be. Having the opportunity to illustrate how someone feels on the inside is valuable – college is the time for students to step out of their comfort zone.

“Who you are at 16 is not the same as who you are at 18 and 24, 30, etc.,” Hahn said. “You should always be allowed to have the freedom to make your outside conform to how you feel on the inside and only then can you have a healthy mindset.”

Feature image courtesy of Nicole Miyoshi

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