During her first month in the wooded idyll of Wesleyan University, then-freshman Nefatari Cooper found herself fielding an annoying question from fellow students again and again: "Why are you so dressed up?"

Cooper, a New York fashion girl who favored tight jeans and stiletto heels,didn’t fit neatly into the Wesleyan scenery, where a dedication to activism often takes on an anti-fashion aura."I didn’t realize the stigma that came along with wearing name-brand clothes at this school," she says. "God forbid you’re marching for workers’ rights and you’re wearing, like, Donna Karan or something."

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