New York University

New York, NY

Undergraduate Enrollment: 15,584

Tuition: $25,380

You Are Fashion Forward If: You enroll.

Fashionable alumni: Christy Turlington; Denise Seegal, of JLo.

Only in New York, kids. Only in New York. Like the city with which it shares an island, New York University is the quintessential melting pot. Tempest-tossed teens of everystripe are drawn here by NYU’s reputation for academic excellence and social diversity —not to mention the bright lights, the glamour and the promise that “if you canmake it here....” There’s a place for everyone at NYU—chics, greeks, freaks and geeks.

It’s no surprise, then, that fashion thrives here in its many forms. As one student puts it, a country-bred Missouri native in head-to-toe Wrangler lives and studiesalongside a girl whose mother throws parties for Versace and yet another who just packed away her debutante whites before heading up North.

It’s even been possible to swap lecture notes with a bona-fide supermodel. Christy Turlington graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in2000 with a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy. “I think by virtue of being in Manhattan—especially downtown Manhattan—there is tremendous freedom ofexpression of every kind for students,” Turlington says.

This adventurous spirit—combined with unlimited access to the city’s shopping,museums, internships and job resources—places NYU students at the head of the national fashion pack. For them, knowing who designs for which house or getting to the Manolo sample sale first seems to be less important than identifying one’s personal style and (as after-school-special as it sounds) running with it no matter what anyone else says or thinks.“The fashion here seems to be a reflection of peoples’ cultural background,” says Brandt Gassman, editor of NYU’s Washington Square News. “I don’t mean a national culture, but more your group of friends, and especially your interests.” Indeed, for every type of interest at NYU, there is a fashion camp: artists, business types, skaters, punks, hippies and, yes, even those who appreciate the aesthetic lure (ironic or otherwise) of pocket protectors and thick-rimmed glasses.

“Style is important for personal expression, and how you choose to dress differentiates you from the next person,” says finance junior Stefanie Duda, echoing theconsensus of students surveyed. Freshman Auri Rodriguez sums up the NYU attitude even more succinctly: “The sidewalks are like catwalks.”

NYU has particular appeal for students hoping to break into the fashion industry, whether on the creative or business side, without having to give up a liberal arts education in order to get industry experience. “I had applied to FIT and Parsons,” says Kristy Stankus, a Gallatin senior who concentrates on fashion and sociology. “But fashion was not the only thing I wanted to do. I wanted to incorporate other academic things.”

Actually, NYU offers little in the way of a traditional fashion curriculum. Students seeking technical garment construction know-how go for the costume courses,especially the popular Cutting and Draping, while those looking for business experience take the one or two retail classes offered once a year. But what the universitydoes offer is a free rein to self-starters willing to go beyond the school’s boundaries in search of experience. Thus, it’s not unusual to meet an art history major whotakes classes at FIT, an econ student who moonlights at Federated or an undergrad journalist who organizes clothing racks in Jane’s sample closet.

Freewheeling Gallatin and the Tisch School of the Arts have the highest concentration of fashion career-minded people. Tisch, with its mind-boggling list of entertainment and industry alumni and lengthy catalog of design-related courses, has a reputation for matriculating avant-garde artists across the board, especially in film.Meanwhile, Gallatin is a veritable hothouse for budding fashion stylists, designers, writers and boutique owners.

“We’re lucky to be able to accommodate students who have interests in fashion and design,” says Gallatin dean E. Frances White. “We feel comfortable taking thingsthat we know are sometimes seen as not intellectual and demonstrating how they are in fact intellectual—including fashion.”Gallatin’s approximately 1,100 students—a small enrollment in comparison with those of NYU’s other schools—can tailor their curriculum across several disciplines. What’s more, they can take classes anywhere in the university—something students in the other schools aren’t able to do easily. One of Gallatin’s more popular classes—open only to freshman—is The Lure of Beauty, where professor Chris Trogan urges students toexamine and debunk notions of beauty. Reading assignments cover Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Nancy Etcoff’s controversial Survival of the Prettiest.

Many also opt for internships, which, while not mandatory, earn course credit.Whether it’s a semester sewing for a downtown designer or crunching numbers for L’Oréal, any internship is permissible as long as the student “isn’t just folding paper,” White says. (Since coming here five years ago from Hampshire College, she notes that “certainly my wardrobe has improved.”)

That’s not to say that Gallatin has cornered the market on work-study programs. In fact, NYU’s internship program excels university-wide. “It isn’t that structured,”says junior Derek Blasberg, a journalism major and intern at WWD’s sister publication W who writes a sophisticated style column for the Washington Square News. “They’re like, ‘go do whatever you want,’ even if it’s event planning at Vogue.”

As a result of such opportunities, students here probably have a more realistic view of the fashion business than most—that it’s not necessarily about FedEx-ingluggage or taking two-hour lunches with Carrie and Samantha at Pastis. “Competition working in the fashion world is fierce and very intimidating,” notes senior DarbyCorna. “Only the strong-willed make it.”

Internship and job possibilities aside, just living here provides a fashion education in and of itself. This is the Big Apple, after all, where the streets are paved in logos rather than in gold—a city where three bucks can take a fashion devotee from the hipster boutiques on Orchard Street to Fifth Avenue’s high-gloss stores and back down to Chinatown, where Vuitton-Murakami knockoffs cover Canal Street like wallpaper. And Greenwich Village, where NYU is centered, has some of the best vintage and thriftstores anywhere—always a good option for the budget-minded scholar.Nightlife, especially the thriving indie music scene, feeds directly into NYU’s style. In a less-than-original moment, some undergrads note, many young men and women walked around looking like the sixth member of the Strokes for a while last year. Read: artfully mussed hair, raggedy jeans, battered All-Stars and vintage T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of Eighties hair bands.

Students here concern themselves with every aspect of the fashion biz, both good and bad. They line up with protest signs every time a sweatshop pops up on the media radar. In the past years, the Gap, Disney and Nike have all come under student fire. In 2002, when Abercrombie & Fitch released a series of T-shirts the students believed stereotyped Asians, protesters banded together with other regional universities and boycotted the company,standing below MTV’s Times Square street camera to get their point across nationally. Faced with alienating their target consumer—and nationwide student protests—A&F pulled the line.

But is it really fair to judge the rest of the country’s colleges and universities against a schoolthat uses New York as its classroom?Maybe not. But then again, another Manhattan academic powerhouse didn’t rank nearly so high—and students there know why. “We're nothing like NYU,” concedes a Columbia University student. “I don't think anyone gets as dressed up as they do.”

—Nandini D'Souza

Grey Goods

All an NYU student has to do to get a little bit of culture is step outside. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, theGuggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art are just a subway ride away, and Chelsea’s wealth of art galleries,a 10-minute walk. But even closer, right in Washington Square, is the Grey Art Gallery, the university’s fine arts museum. Since 1975, it has presented important visual arts exhibitions—including the first U.S. retrospectiveof Frida Kahlo’s work, in 1983.

Under the direction of Lynn Gumpert since 1997, the Grey has often worked fashion into its award-winning design exhibitions. “One of the thingsthat we want to do is show visual culture,” Gumpert says, “and fashion is part of visual culture.” In 1999, the Grey ran a retrospective of Krizia, a Shiseido show and later “Inverted Odysseys,” an exhibit that included images and clothes from an earlier Cindy Sherman-Rei Kawakubo collaboration.The current “Not Neutral” installment features the work of contemporary Swiss photographers, including several who address fashion imagery.Ugo Rondinone seamlessly superimposes his face onto the bodies of models against a striking blue background. “You think, ‘Oh, it’s just another fashion glossy,’” notes Gumpert, and then you see there’s something strange—that the model has a five o’clock shadow. He’s looking at the world of glamour and having fun with it.”

While Gumpert steers clear of showing fashion exhibitions for fashion’s sake, “it’s a part of our daily lives,” she notes. “It’s the image we want to project to the world. It’s a statement.”

Taking Care Of Business

Back in 1997, a group of enterprising young womensought to raise the bar of fashion savvy on campus.They formed NYU’s Fashion Business Association, which according to its mission statement, seeks “to educate, enrich and possibly create employment opportunities for the students of NYU who are interested in the business of the fashion industry.”

Now under the presidency of Heather Golphin, a stylish economics major, its 40 members meet regularly to plan the group’s various events. Beyond finding internships, guest speakers, sample sales and the occasional free haircut for its crew, FBA takes on a mentoring role for student designers—and not necessarily just those from NYU. Twice a year, the association hosts fashion shows, which run like real runway presentations, complete with hair and makeup artists, music and student models selected from an open casting call. There are even professional-grade programs and run-of-show notes.

This Saturday at Gould Plaza, FBA will present its annual spring show, called “Urban Lust.” Featured student designers include senior Julia DiNardo, who appreciates Italian fashion’s cuts and fabrics, and Gallatin junior Mariko Iwata, who will send out her artsy Hand Wash Keep From Freezing collection. Also of note is senior Ben Holloway, a born-and-bred New Yorker whose urban streetwear has popped up in a Missy Elliot video, as well as on racks at cool downtown boutiques Prohibit and Union.


Howard University

Washington, D.C.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,328Tuition: $10,320

You Are Fashion Forward If: You mix it up.

Fashionable alumni: Opera singer Jessye Norman, author Toni Morrison, actress/choreographer Debbie Allen.

Around noon at Howard University’s quadrangle—called "the Yard" by faculty and "the Runway" by students—the fashion show begins. There are no klieg lights or amplified music—nothing flashy—but a visitor can quickly see that students on their way to lunch or meeting friends on a dazzling Washington spring day have thought about what to wear.

This year, a key fashion trend is urban and edgy—what fashion merchandising and marketing professor Aba Kwawu calls "neo-soul." It’s a recasting of the 1970s, with women sporting tufted afros and hoop earrings or Kangol brim hats cocked to one side. Students wear crocheted or colorful peasant tops with unstructured flowing cuffs and faded, slightly hip-hugging jeans, sometimes rolled at the ankles, with wide belts.

But just when you think there’s a campus-wide look, a coed marches by wearing all denim and a pair of lace-up, pointy-toed pink suede boots from Up Against the Wall, a boutique near campus. While one professor notes a recent turning away from status labels, "there's still status in carrying Kate Spade or Coach." Another student glides past in a crisp, long-sleeved white shirt with a wide collar turned up and slim gray pants. On the nearby grass, a young woman wears a black top, a black-and-gold print wrap skirt and matching head wrap. And around the flagpole, upperclassmen in impeccable suits gather, greeting each other with boisterous handshakes.

"At Howard, fashion is celebrated," says Rakiyt Zakari, president of the school’s Fashion Council. A fashion design senior, Zakari already has her own line of clothes at a downtown boutique. She swears she can tell where people are from by how they cock their hats. "You have so many styles," she says. "That's what makes it so terrific here."

But there's something else afoot. Students here have an air of confidence, a sense of where they're going. This is not a school where undergraduates run adrift, lazing about in dilettante pursuits." I ultimately want to be an editor at Vogue, but before I get there, I want to be a costume designer," fashion merchandising junior India Jackson says without hesitation. She also plugs her own sportswear line, Scorpio 23, which she sells to friends.With roughly 70 fashion merchandising, design and marketing graduates each year, Howard is a fashion incubator. Sean Jean frontman P. Diddy attended Howard, and at least one alumna, Chelsea Jones, is an assistant designer at his sportswear company. Honey Child women's wear designer Tracey Mourning is a graduate, as is men's wear designer Everett Hall. "It was like a fashion show every day," says Hall, who has three clothing stores in upscale Washington-area fashion districts. Howard, he adds, inspires overachievers; it is where he set his goal "to play a key role in what people wear throughout the world."

Students interested in fashion—many are communications or business majors—are steeped in lessons on consumer behavior, strategies behind retail store designs, traditional textile and dress from China to Romania and why clothes are an indication of who you are. "Students are so aware of and interested in fashion, but it's our job to make them realize that fashion is a business and not just about looking good," says Kwawu, who graduated from the London College of Fashion.

Professor Doreen Vernon, a 1976 Fashion Institute of Technology grad with 23 years of experience as a fashion forecaster, wants her students to realize that fashion can extend to designs and colors found in quotidian products from the likes of Starbucks or Mazda. "We talk about color, symbolism, what red means, what blue means," Vernon says.

Fashion even works its way into the School of Business, which offers a rigorous supply-chain management masters program as well as undergraduate programs. Every Tuesday, freshmen are required to wear suits; anything deemed too extreme or trendy, from stilettos to turned-up collars, is frowned upon. It’s all part of the Howard method. "We make sure our students have a well-rounded foundation and understanding of business, as well as an appreciation of the arts and sciences," says Dean Barron Harvey.

As part of the 21st Century Advantage Program (CAP), companies including J.C. Penney, the Gap and Kohl's have "adopted" 14-person teams of freshmen who spend the year immersing themselves in all aspects of the firm’s business procedures. As a benefit to corporate participants, they get first dibs at recruiting students. Harvey recalls a trip to J.C. Penney in Plano, Tex., during which the team gave a stellar presentation about the retailer. The Penney’s execs were ready to start recruiting then andthere. "They thought the students were seniors," Harvey says. "We had to tell them they were freshmen."—Joanna Ramey



Southern Methodist University

Dallas, Tex.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,210

Tuition: $19,466

You Are Fashion Forward If: You tote a Louis Vuitton candy-colored handbag.

Fashionable alumni: Halston creative director Bradley Bayou, Aaron Spelling, Escada stylist Merideth Fanning.

Designer labels and status consciousness might just as well be on the curriculum at Southern Methodist

University, where it’s as common to spot students toting Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior handbags as it is to see them tooling around campus in a sporty new Mercedes, Lexus or BMW.

"SMU is completely different from any other school," claims Alexandra Dillard, a sophomore and daughter of Dillard Department Stores president Alex Dillard. "It is very, very fashionable. A lot of the kids have a lot of money and are very fashion forward. They don’t always dress up for class, but when they go out at night, they dress up a whole lot."

Dillard’s insider’s view echoes the university’s reputation for attracting the scions of Southern financiers and industrialists. "Everybody thinks we’re Southern millionaires getting our MRS degree," complains junior Amy Birdsong, "but we work really hard."

Given its location in the affluent University Park neighborhood of Dallas, where wealthy women take their appearance as seriously as their investments, it’s not surprising that SMU students are deliriously fashion-happy. "It’s all about designers here," says one. "Everyone has to have an Hervé [Chapelier] bag or Louis Vuitton or Prada. It used to be Kate Spade."

At an informal meeting at the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house (known on campus as Kappa Kappa Gucci), several women offer that they can’t wait to get a new candy-colored Vuitton bag. Last year, one student recalls, five women in one class pulled out leather Kate Spade planners—each in a different color.

The campus itself upholds label consciousness. A list of campus buildings, named after their alumni funders, reads like a Who’s Who of Texas society. The massive $43 million football stadium that opened in 2000, for instance, bears the moniker of Dallas banker Gerald J. Ford.Students estimate that 60 percent of the women here are keen on looking fashionable—and they know their brands. Favorites are Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Jean Paul Gaultier, Marni, Prada, Luca Luca, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Dolce & Gabbana. Hot contemporary labels include Laundry, Nanette Lapore, Trina Turk, Theory, Poleci, ABS and BCBG, while popular dress designers are Diane Von Furstenberg, Nicole Miller, Kay Unger and David Meister.

"It’s like a freaking fashion show when you go out at night," observes Birdsong, who is majoring in public relations.

"It’s insane—it’s like a rat race," adds senior Britni Wood, who makes her own colorful handbags and is headed to work at Bergdorf Goodman this summer. "You have to be into vintage or your own style or you get lost in the heap."

As one sorority girl points out, "At a lot of places, people don’t want to look like they tried. Here, people aren’t afraid to look like they tried really hard."

SMU students can recite the names of the city’s newest boutiques as easily as any local style editor. Even the men have an interest in fashion, with Gucci loafers serving as the most prevalent campus status symbol.

Still, when it comes to the classroom or lecture hall, the scene is fairly casual. Men don cargo shorts or pants, a T-shirt and flip-flops or sneakers. Women are slightly more put together in Juicy Couture sweats or Seven jeans paired with a solid top or camisole and boots, heels or Rainbow flip-flops. There’s a bit of preppy dressing, such as Lacoste tops over Lilly Pulitzer prints. And there are plenty of people in shorts and polo tops or tight camisoles hanging around the dorms and sorority houses.

Students here have plenty of evening opportunities to put on the glitz, though. Thursday night is the school’s unofficial party night, when the most common uniform is tight jeans with stilettos and a cool, girly top, such as a corset. And Greek life provides frequent weekend socials and charity benefits for which the invitation stipulates cocktail or formal attire. "It’s like there’s a prom every week," says Samantha Zipp of Bedford, N.Y.Not surprisingly, these students are tuned into jewelry, from trendy styles by Me & Ro, Chan Luu and Gerard Yosca to diamond chandelier earrings and delicate pieces by Cathy Waterman. "Accessories are huge," says Birdsong. "A lot of people will wear a funky necklace with a tank top and jeans."

Rosanne Byrnes, managing director of SMU’s J.C. Penney Retail Center, opened in 2001, says that students are so fashionable she counsels them to tone it down. The center staged a "dress for success" fashion show April 3 with Penney’s and Harold’s to help would-be job seekers choose proper attire.

"At the fashion show we gave students a handout on buying a suit because they tend to be very fashionable, and we want them to be very conservative for interviews," says Byrnes. "You can see all the latest trends across campus—all the cool bags, newest shoes and jeans—but we don’t want them to wear that to interviews."



University Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pa.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 9,800

Tuition: $27,988

You’re Fashion Forward If: You know your Prada from your Polo.

Fashionable alumni: Leonard Lauder, Estée Lauder chairman, and niece Aerin, Lauder’s global advertising vp and social fixture.

When it comes to the ultimate collegiate look, nobody preps it up better than students at the University of Pennsylvania. The school’s relatively small Philadelphia campus can be measured not by blocks, but by the number of cable-knit Polo sweaters that pass by. Ask the average Penn student to sum up campus style, and the answer is often "preppy," "classic" or "label-conscious."

But don’t expect Madras plaids and tennis sweaters. This is a strictly nouveau crowd, with an emphasis on status brands. If it’s not a navy, black or pastel sweater, it’s a polo or button-down shirt and dark denim jeans—and that goes for both sexes. "Slumming it" means Juicy Couture sweats and flip-flops.

Yet even dressed down in a hoodie and flips, few Penn girls leave the dorm without designer accessories. Status symbols flourish here, with LVs, GGs and polo players topping the list of most-spotted logos. "No one just rolls out of bed and goes to class," says senior Ross Clark, editor of "34th Street," the arts and entertainment section of the school’s paper, Daily Pennsylvanian. "There’s a lot of production involved. The money spent on clothes is kind of daunting.""I thought people went to college to go to class in pajamas," says sophomore Alexis Cuddyre. "Here, it’s your pajamas and a Louis Vuitton purse."

While on the surface that pulled-together chic suggests a particular fashion sensibility, it can also be viewed in the context of Penn’s philosophy. In 1749, founder Benjamin Franklin envisioned an academic institution that would not only educate students in the liberal arts, but would also prepare them for business and public service—a distinct point of departure from the other Ivies. No Penn college embodies this better than the Wharton School, one of the country’s leading business schools. From day one, it grooms students for the post-graduate world, and undergrads in turn often dress as if they’re already yelling "buy" and "sell." While professors only require business attire for presentations or mock interviews, "wearing a suit and tie from Brooks Brothers gets you into the mind-set," says one senior.

With strong ties to Estée Lauder and Federated in particular, Wharton places an average of 40 undergrads in the fashion and retail industries each year, and counts Leonard Lauder, Ralph Lauren’s Roger Farah and Leslie Fay and Co.’s John J. Pomerantz among its alumni. In January, alum Jay Baker, director of Kohl’s, donated $10 million to the school, part of which will fund the new Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative. Headed by Stephen Hoch, the John J. Pomerantz Professor of Marketing who favors Hawaiian shirts, and managing director William Cody, the initiative has business students looking to break into the industry buzzing around campus. But more than one senior grumbled, "Great, they’re starting it just as I’m leaving."

Scratch Penn’s permanent-press facade, though, and one finds that it’s not just a one-trick school. In fact, several pockets of alternative and hipster chic exist by way of DIY looks, ironic T-shirts and peasant skirts—accessorized, of course, with such preppy staples as pearls or deck shoes.

With scores of design-driven classes offered in the competitive fine arts and architecture programs—photographer Mary Ellen Mark is a graduate, and architect Daniel Libeskind, winner of the World Trade Center site design competition, teaches here—it’s natural that fashion comes into play in the classroom, too. For her senior project, ceramics major Monica Salazar created functional tableware based on designer clothes. Among her creations: a vase with a spiky, feathered effect that mirrors a black feathered Alexander McQueen top. "I can look at certain images and think, ‘That could be a vase’ or ‘That could be a cup,’" she says. And for her final photography project, Beth Falkof, who has interned at YM and writes regularly for "34th Street," produced a series of nudes in which, she says, "the images remind me of the old cK One ads with a lineup of models whose body language was more interesting than the product."Beyond knowing and loving Ralph, Miuccia and Giorgio, though, Penn coeds can easily riff on the ubiquity of Seven jeans and how the recent runway season sounded a death knell for low-waisted pants—a serious blow, they note, to curvier girls. Nor is this fashion savvy limited to women, as Penn men hold their own with equally well-informed style observations.

Whether preppy or artsy, Penn students tend to agree that style is important. And given the University’s focus on the professional world, it’s not surprising that so many undergrads stress the necessity of a pulled-together image. "I don’t think it’s so much how you look as how you present yourself," says international relations sophomore Jocelyn Reid, a Kappa Alpha Theta sister. "If you look horrible when you’re not supposed to look horrible, that’s not cool"

—Nandini D’Souza


Wesleyan University

Middletown, Conn.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,700

Tuition: $27,474

You Are Fashion Forward If: Your clothes are at least 20 years old.

Fashionable alumni: Peter Arnold, CFDA executive director, Charles Olton, former dean of Parsons School of Design.

Ask students about the prevailing style at Wesleyan University and you’ll hear the words "eclectic" and "diverse" most often. And then, as if to prove that very point, you’ll hear the polar opposite: that because of its overarching emphasis on counterculture chic, the so-called "Diversity University" isn’t really all that diverse fashion-wise.

Like every issue that Wesleyan’s passionate, contentious student body considers (and there are many), what to wear to class is a subject matter worthy of serious consideration. Yes, an antifashion current runs through the heart of Wes culture, but the school’s particular brand of antifashion is balanced by reason. One’s inner self, the reasoning goes, is reflected via outward appearance, and that, ultimately gives "costume" (to use the academic term) value.

"Here at Wesleyan, many people have traded the cultural currency of name-brand fashion for that of thrift-store chic," says junior Sam Franklin. "Why? I guess because it’s cheaper, and you get something that’s one-of-a-kind."Another junior, Brian McKenna, who describes his style as "Zak Morris meets Versace," chimes in, "There is a lot of creative thought that goes on around here."

Most students agree that many on campus simply carry on in the classic prep school vein, wearing jeans, school sweatshirts and other "normal" gear. However, their numbers are matched by those who see—and wear—things a little differently. A walk around campus reveals numerous style highlights: an early Eighties Iron Maiden T-shirt, the neon pink tips of a punk haircut, pearl-trimmed cat-eyed glasses, a pair of dangling silver African earrings. The effort that went into these looks is apparent—even if the wearer’s intention is to look casually thrown-together.

Besides the cult of individuality, the driving forces behind some student looks are leftist politics and identity issues of every stripe. "There are a lot of women here with shaved heads," says one student. And in response to a "senior cocktail" party with a wedding theme, one self-identified "queer" student printed the words "Marry This. Suck My Senior Cocktails" on a T-shirt.

Identity politics get most heated over student housing, a much-debated topic among undergraduates and administrators alike. The university’s "program houses," as they are known, run the gamut from Malcolm X House (for African-American students) to West College (which, quite infamously, is clothing-optional).

Fashion also exists in more traditional forms. "There is a tremendous interest here in fashion history," says Leslie Weinberg, resident costume designer for the dance and theater departments. Weinberg teaches Costume Design, a class that emphasizes the conceptual over the technical. However, she regularly gets requests from students for instruction in more advanced sewing techniques.

Some students put such knowledge to practical use, designing collections in their free time. Junior Jessie Silbert’s ballet-meets-punk lineup reveals her love of Marc Jacobs and the know-how she gained from summers taking classes at FIT. And Maya Lake’s street-centric pieces, which she calls "an expression for people of color," have already sold at Patricia Field in New York (see Campus Capitalists, page 47). Her reworked T-shirts marry the functional and ideological. She and Silbert hope to make fashion a career.Another student designer, Nicole Piechowski, would appear to embody the "anti" contingent with her DIY top and white-girl dreads, but her view is not so clear-cut. "I like fashion," she says. "You don’t have to hate beauty to be a feminist." Her senior thesis, a gallery installation that explored ideas of sexuality and pleasure, featured, among other things, a ballskirt cleverly crafted from boys’ cotton briefs.

Upon hearing about the original student designs in the recent fashion show, CFDA executive director and alumnus Peter Arnold expresses surprise. "At Wesleyan? In Middletown? In Connecticut?" he jokes. Still, Arnold, whose own style morphed during his undergrad years from "Bean boots and cords" to the New Wave look of baggy suits and two-tone shoes, concedes that even in his day, "People were very creative in terms of how they dressed. There was a real sense that you could do whatever you wanted."

That thoughtful freedom—born of Wesleyan’s combination of rigorous academics and flexible curriculum—empowers students to define their own identity. While inscribing her name in chalk on the stairs of the campus center (violating the ban that the university placed last year on "chalking"), freshman Christina Marenson says,

"This is the coolest school. Everyone contributes intellectually and artistically. Everyone is different."

—Meenal Mistry



University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, Ark.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 10,854

Tuition: $1,667 resident; $4,641 non-resident.

You are fashion forward if: You’re in a sorority.

Fashionable alumnus: S. Robson Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart Stores.

Tucked into the Ozark Mountains, the University of Arkansas is as unlikely a center of fashion as one is apt to find. "When kids are coming to classes, it’s, ‘What can I put on to not be naked?’" admits Denise Malan, editor of the Arkansas Traveler, the student newspaper.

On a warm day, students on the Fayetteville, Ark., campus can be found in their T-shirts and jeans—these vary from basic denim to the sorority sister’s Seven—playing Frisbee barefoot on the grass. Ultimate Frisbee and Frisbee golf are popular among many students, who abandon the town each weekend to follow these pursuits or to go hiking or rafting. An active lifestyle and a short drive to relatively untamed country add to the outdoor vibe that’s apparent in the way students dress.U of A stands out in the realm of fashion, though, thanks to its proximity to Wal-Mart, just 30 miles to the north, in Bentonville. There, the king of mass retailing holds court at its corporate headquarters while suppliers gather round in an area known as "Vendorville."

The retail Mecca has boosted the region’s economy and connected it with points afar by importing employees, their families, money and an accompanying flow of ideas, culture and style. Wal-Mart’s presence saturates the region—including the U of A experience. It seems that almost everybody on campus has some connection to the retailer; a family member works for the firm or there’s some vague link to the Walton family. Students recount stories of the late Wal-Mart founder, Sam Walton, sitting in the stands at a basketball game, looking like anything but a captain of industry.

Overall, U of A students may not possess the fashion acumen of their counterparts at urban schools, but it’s a safe bet that the fresh minds roaming the campus now will shake Seventh Avenue by pulling the strings of mass fashion at Wal-Mart—especially since these students offer the company a ready supply of potential executives already acclimated to life in rural Arkansas. It’s not hard to imagine that one of today’s barefoot Frisbee players may someday be deciding what millions of Wal-Mart shoppers—and, by extension, much of America—are wearing.

While U of A does not have a retailing major per se, there is an emphasis on the subject within other majors such as marketing, logistics and apparel studies, facilitated by the Center for Retailing Excellence, part of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. The center was established in 1998 with the help of a $50 million endowment from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. Last year, the Waltons gave U of A another $300 million gift, the largest in the history of American public higher education.

The Walton College matriculates 3,220 undergraduate and 279 graduate students. In a given semester, about 100 students are enrolled in retailing courses, and up to 300 attend the "Retail Rush" career fair. "Retail is very broad. If you get very specific, you lose a lot of opportunities," explains Claudia Mobley, managing director of the Center for Retailing Excellence. It’s also a career that requires a diverse skill set. "Retailing got a bad rap years ago," she says. "It’s always been a second-class major or profession." The Center aims to imbue students with a different vision. "It’s a wonderful, wonderful career, where you’re only limited by your lack of passion, your lack of drive," Mobley says.A small group of students who clearly don’t suffer such deficiencies gave up their spring breaks to spend a week at Wal-Mart’s headquarters, where they learned the basics of the firm’s apparel business in a pre-internship. "We saw some of our classes in action," says Sarah Davenport, an apparel student. "They sold the job to me," she adds, listing the firm’s strong corporate culture and many avenues for career growth as key attractions.

Kathleen Smith, an instructor in the university’s Apparel Studies program, says, "Right now, Wal-Mart is screaming for apparel expertise." And the school is trying to provide just that with a program that graduates about 25 students each year and boasts courses in merchandising, production and the use of computers in design. Apparel Studies students will also head to London and Paris this month to get a sense of the industry there, including a close-up look at how Wal-Mart’s George label comes together.

Thomas Jensen, chair of the department of marketing and transportation, acknowledges the school’s close ties to Wal-Mart and the vendors in Vendorville, but maintains that corporations are also kept at arm’s length."We don’t want to be beholden, but we’re crazy if we don’t leverage" access to these companies, he notes. "Having contact with companies reinforces what we’re teaching in the classroom."

—Evan Clark


Suny Purchase

Purchase College The State University of New York

Purchase, N.Y.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 4,000

Tuition: $8,300

You Are Fashion Forward If: Secondhand is second nature.

Fashionable alumni: Parker Posey, Edie Falco,

Stanley Tucci

Welcome to Purchase. The sleepy hamlet in Westchester County is home to Purchase College The State University of New York, better known as SUNY Purchase. The campus, established in 1969 by New York’s governor and philanthropic scion Nelson Rockefeller, is rich with ironies. So what if the town’s name represents an activity many of the school’s inventive and resourceful student types abhor, or that its art museum was founded by Roy Neuberger, a Wall Street hotshot who, nearing 100, still keeps a hand in his brokerage firm, Neuberger & Berman?SUNY Purchase harbors a crew that has little tolerance for labels—and is pretty vocal about that disdain. Embracing anti-fashion is a code of arms. "If someone is going to look at how I dress before they decide to talk to me, I don’t want to talk to them anyway," says senior Sarah Radziewicz.Self-expression is a hallmark of this artistically inclined campus, affecting all areas of life. Signs in the library advise students to "Ponder before printing," while in April, a campus visit revealed bulletin boards in various buildings that urged students to post their views on the war in Iraq. The personal voice is celebrated in all sorts of ways, and that filters down to style.

"As far as Purchase goes, it’s come-as-you-are. You could be hippie, punk rock or a skater chick. People put themselves out there," says senior Lauren Cardinale."You won’t find a sorority girl head-to-toe in Abercrombie & Fitch. But if you did, she wouldn’t be judged for that. Here, you’ll see a kid who grew up in a Bronx ghetto sharing a cigarette with a drag queen from Utah."

SUNY Purchase is Parker Posey country, with many undergrads displaying their predecessor’s penchant for quirky individualism. As aresult, no single fashion look dominates these 500 acres—although certain attitudes do. Purchase students flaunt their disinterest in brand names and expensive clothes. They know their kind of style can’t be manufactured—and that’s the point. Sophomore Carl Negro notes that his clothes are occasionally bleached by accident, not by choice. He describes his style as "Grandpa."

Many students sew, knit or crochet their own clothes. Others favor the offbeat counterpoint: ballgowns for class, sandals with knee socks, camouflage cargo pants done up with peace-sign buttons, long-sleeved T-shirts sliced to double as legwarmers or armwarmers. Clearly, this group isn’t taking cues from tv, magazines or celebrities. "Most of my friends don’t know who Marc Jacobs is," says Cardinale.

Several students say that their periodical reading begins and ends with the school paper. Magazines are dead. Books are another story., and they slip such titles as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Story of O into their list of must-reads.

Even students’ multiple body piercings and rainbow-hued hair are not to be taken lightly. "Most people don’t get pierced or tattooed just to be different," notes literature professor Elise Lemire. "There’s an aesthetic, but it’s also a political need to be respected, not an act of youthful rebellion. They’re sending an anti-capitalist statement. They know they can’t be hired by McDonald’s with all those piercings."Still, students here don’t lose themselves entirely in their bucolic anti-fashion haven. Just 30 miles to the south, Manhattan makes for a favorite getaway, as undergrads check out the music scene and museums. And with stores like Yellow Rat Bastard, H&M and Diesel, Gotham offers a diversity of shopping, as many kids said they can’t afford the gentrified stores in the Westchester Mall, and probably wouldn’t patronize them anyway.Even if he had "all the money in the world," ChrisMedaglia says, "I wouldn’t spend outrageous amounts of money on clothes, of all things."

Combing thrift stores in nearby leafy Greenwich, Conn., or "Sal Val"—a nickname for the Salvation Army—is a sport of sorts. There’s even an on-campus thrift store. In warmer months, vendors ferry secondhand clothes to sell from open-air booths. Most important, perhaps, students’ attire routinely reflects their craft, be it dance, theater or studio composition. As Julia Burrer, a dance major, says, "It doesn’t really matter what I wear, because I know I can be comfortable with myself without being dependent on being fashionable."

—Rosemary Feitelberg


Ole Miss

University of Mississippi

Oxford, Miss.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 11,000

Tuition: In-state: $3,916, out-of-state: $8,826.

You Are Fashion Forward If: You have a Louis Vuitton cell phone cover.

Fashionable alumni: Too many Miss Americas to count.

Time and tradition seem to stand still at the University of Mississippi, and life there takes on the sweetness of Tupelo honey. This feeling is evident in everything from the rituals of the sororities and fraternities that dominate the social structure on campus to the Southern hospitality that comes as a surprise to visitors. But if there’s anything that rivals adherence to proper home trainin’ (translation: good manners) at Ole Miss, it’s dedication to looking good.

Rebel Drive, the street that functions as a main artery through campus, is a sea of blond hair, tanned skin and toned bodies. Students may half-joke that girls enter Ole Miss blond and leave even blonder, but not every crucial style statement comes from a bottle. During the day, exercise gear (sorority T-shirts, running shorts and New Balance athletic shoes) function as fashion-forward attire since they indicate that a girl works out between classes. "You’ll see people power-walking from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.," says one coed.Of course, skimpy workout togs are a great way to show off gym results, too. "I think it has a lot to do with the climate, because you don’t have to cover up," says another girl. "If you’re going to be baring a lot, you want to look as good as possible." And bare they do. One local band even wrote a paean to the ideal Greek physique called "Naked Sorority Girl." ("Naked sorority girl, you drink all night and power-walk all day," goes the chorus.)

Campus style undergoes a seismic shift when the sun goes down. That’s when Ole Miss girls hit the Square—the center of town—for live music and drinks. Out go the gym clothes and in come the logos: Seven jeans coupled with feminine tops and heels have replaced black pants and skirts for going out in recent years, while Louis Vuitton bags dangle from the shoulders of enough girls to make your head spin. And with a nod to neo-prep, Lacoste shirts (with the collars turned up, naturally) are once again the rage.

The look is decidedly feminine, and the quaint Square, with its balconied elegance recalling New Orleans’ French Quarter, provides a perfect backdrop for the show. And while students don’t seem to trouble themselves with the nit-picking fashion-world details of which designer works for what house or which trends are hopelessly so five-minutes ago, they do know what they like.

Along with Neilson’s, one of the oldest department stores in the South, the Square sports ahost of small boutiques that offer the labels Ole Miss girls covet most: Nanette Lepore, Trina Turk, Lilly Pulitzer, Michael Starr and Seven.

What is particularly striking is the disproportionate number of semi- and formal dresses these stores stock—due to the endless whirl of sorority and tailgating functions that require dressing up. And the fall football season requires serious dressing up. These days the University of Mississippi football team has little to brag about, but that doesn’t stop undergraduates and alumni from turning out on the Grove—the large lawn on campus—for tailgate parties with a dress code approaching that of a polo match. Given the right dress and date, the seven Grove parties—one for each home game—can cement a girl’s social status. Make that seven dresses, chosen months in advance.If this sounds complicated to an outsider, it’s second nature to students. Ole Miss girls know they dress up more than any other school in the South, and that the boys take notice. "I just got back from the University of Colorado and man, Ole Miss is great," says one senior guy. "We have by far the best-looking girls in the South, and probably the whole country."

That genteel boastfulness is derived in no small part from the respect students have for the traditions that have been handed down to them. "We’re conservative because of tradition," another senior says firmly. "You’re just socialized into it rather than forming your own opinion."

Which is fine, it seems, by these students. "People say that this is a snobby school—that’s our reputation," says one. "But as long as you put your best foot forward," she assures, "you’re going to be fine."

—Dahlia Devkota


Yale University

New Haven, Conn.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,274

Tuition: $27,130

You Are Fashion Forward If: You rubelbows with André Leon Talley.

Fashionable alumni: Jodie Foster; Andrew Goodman, former owner of Bergdorf Goodman; Steve Kahn and Chris Edgar, founders of Delia’s catalog; Melina Root, Emmy-winning costume designer.

"Rule number one about Yale is that everyone carries a Nalgene," says junior Rebecca Dana. A what? A Nalgene, as any Eli would know, is a high-tech plastic water bottle commonly used by campers. Dana, editor in chief of the Yale Daily News, explains that the collegiate version is often seen emblazoned with the crest of a residential college and dangling from a student’s backpack.

Preliminary reports of the Nalgene’s ubiquity did not bode well for Yale’s fashion prognosis. But what soon rose to the surface of this intellectual preppy pond was a vocal and active community of bona-fide fashionistas, along with a considerable creative contingent. And these types refuse to embrace khakis and school sweatshirts by default.

With its renowned theater department, strong arts programs and a relatively flexible curriculum, Yale is perhaps the Ivy League’s artsiest member. Yet, however strong their creative impulses, students here find that their work load and multiple extracurriculars sometimes infringe on pre-class primping. That doesn’t stop a good number from seeking out the joys of fashion.Last fall, a group of students teamed up with the Yale Entrepreneurial Society (YES) to widen its traditional business scope to include the fashion industry. The result, the speakers series "Seventh on Yale," brought to New Haven the likes of FIT curator and fashion historian Valerie Steele, Diane Von Furstenberg and Vogue editor at large André Leon Talley. "We had an amazing response," says junior Katherine Capelluto, one of those instrumental in booking the speakers. "The fashion series showed that there was a huge untapped interest."

Steele discussed "Fashion: Italian Style," FIT’s current exhibit. "It was very crowded," she recalls. "I think many of the students are interested in trying to do something professionally—not necessarily as fashion designers, but something to do with the world of fashion in the broadest sense."

This year’s fashion issue of the Yale Daily News surpassed the usual "what’s-hot-on-campus" fare to include snarky first-person coverage of the New York collections, including sophomore Andrew Hamilton’s account of a day spent hitting the tents with Talley. (Another student, First Daughter Barbara Bush, likewise made the two-hour trip to check out some of the shows.) The tireless Hamilton also co-produced Yale’s recent student fashion show and designed one of the featured collections. "Yale students are pretty phenomenal," associate comparative literature professor Ann Gaylin says of Hamilton and his fellow designers. "They often have more than one extracurricular activity that they do—and do well."

Yale’s Sudler Fund for the Creative Arts, a sort of campus NEA, supports many of these outsideendeavors. In fact, two of the four designers who strutted their stuff at the show relied on the relatively easily obtained Sudler grants that provide $500 for individual art projects.

While a stereotypical brainy disdain for fashion does percolate here, it has its opponents among faculty as well as students. John Rogers, an English professor and master of Berkeley College hopes to convince Talley to teach a seminar. "Proust wrote about 20th-century fashion more beautifully than anyone," Rogers notes, offering as example the lengthy description of Odette’s sleeve in Swann’s Way.

And if the lengthy line for the recent fashion show was any indication, interest in fashion thrives at Yale. Hamilton turned away 200 of the more than 500 people who RSVP’d. Stylistically, the students in attendance showed a wide range—from dreads and cargo pants to polished pearls and perfect makeup to a more fashion-forward Japanese-style wrapped sweater and pleated denim skirt, with lots of jeans and flip flops mixed in.Ming Thompson, an architecture major who showed her collection, sums up the stylish Yalies’ perspective."We’re all very concerned with aesthetics and the way we look, but we don’t like to reveal that we’re obsessed with clothes," she explains. "You want to look fashionable, but not like you’ve put yourself together. Something has to be a little bit off."

—Meenal Mistry



Undergraduate Enrollment: 23,835

Tuition: In-state: free; out-of-state: $12,510.

You Are Fashion Forward If: Your iBook matches your Converse All-Stars.

Fashionable alumna: Edith Head.

Though it has evolved quite a few notches on the style scale since its years as the bohemian hotbed of higher education, the University of California, Berkeley, is still one groovy place. The number of students who dress like indie rockers or off-duty supermodels might equal those who cultivate effortless vintage chic, but without question, the style m.o. is still determined by the individualistic, free-thinking attitude that spawned the original hippie chicks.

A walk through the sprawling campus 16 miles east of San Francisco provides glimpses of skater girl, grunge, granola looks, but the pulled-together preppy doesn’t seem out of place, either. It’s no surprise then, that checking each other out is the favored pastime for students who congregate on Sproul Plaza, once the site of storied antiwar rallies and now a backdrop for everything from environmental- and political-action activities to sorority fund-raisers. Second-year mass communications major Katherine Malinowska, an aspiring publicist who’s weighing summer internship offers from ABC and a San Francisco-based public relations firm, says, "Every Wednesday a friend and I have lunch, then come to Sproul to people-watch. We basically rip apart their outfits." And she acknowledges that "even though we’re all aware of that hippie connotation, people here put a lot of time into their appearance. At any social event, whether it’s a Greek function or an off-campus party, people put themselves on display in terms of what they wear." In some cases, so does the faculty. But then, often form follows ideology. One female professor showed up for class in a chador the day the U.S. invaded Iraq.Overlooking the whole scene from a sixth-floor office is the school’s newspaper, the Daily Cal. Although you won’t find a fashion column in the well-read weekly Arts section, style-related editorials do appear on occasion, often focusing on the school’s undone inclinations. "One student wrote a narrative about seeing her prom queen, the most fashionable girl in her high school, walking around Berkeley all grunged out, with no makeup," says arts editor Eric Schewe. "Your outlook changes once you get here."

That’s not to say label-consciousness is entirely d.o.a. In fact, many fashion-savvy students who harbored preconceived notions about Berkeley’s "anti-fashion" leanings were pleasantly surprised upon their arrival. When first-year Pi Phi sister Amanda Cohn, who hails from Los Angeles’ fashionable West Side, was packing her suitcase last August, her mother suggested she leave the designer duds at home. "She thought it would look stupid to be so into Marc Jacobs and all these brands people wouldn’t recognize. Then I rushed, and every single Greek girl was walking around in Seven jeans and a Louis Vuitton bag."

Of course, it’s not just the Tri Delt and Chi O types (who comprise just 10 percent of the student body) who go for high fashion. You’re likely to find residents at the co-ops (student housing that’s tailored to a group’s particular interests—yes, there is a vegan house) who mix Gucci with thrift store finds or who cut up their Abercrombie khakis just so.

Given all this, it’s not surprising that although Berkeley lacks a fashion or design program for undergraduates, enterprising students find plenty of ways to get their style groove on, academically speaking. The interdisciplinarystudies department, aka "create your own major," headed by vintage-loving professor Renate Holub, is emerging as a popular way to take any and all style- and design-related classes available. These range from the always-wait-listed costume design class in the performance arts department to a media persuasion class in the anthropology department to a product-design class in the architecture school. In addition, the Haas Graduate School of Business (founded by Walter Haas, class of 1910, once the president of Levi Strauss & Co.) offers several classes in marketing, retailing and wholesaling, all of which are available to undergrads. One recent marketing class featured guest lectures by Banana Republic and Gap execs. It’s no surprise, then, that one 2002 IDS grad titled her thesis "Fashion and Society: The Meaning of Trend." Her adviser on the project was the theater department’s costume-design professor Clare Henkel, who also works as a stylist and theater costume designer in San Francisco. And true to Berkeley’s brainy roots, there’s just as much theory as practice in her costume design class. "We talk a lot about the reasons people wear what they do and the psychological aspects behind it. Whether they admit it or not, everyone is interested in fashion."Of course, access to San Francisco and Berkeley’s renowned art community also allows students to gain real world experience. Senior Caroline Wolff works part-time as a fashion associate at San Francisco’s 7x7, an upscale lifestyle magazine, producing fashion shoots and writing trend stories. (She’d already checked off an internship at Elle and a year of study in Paris.) "People here put more mental effort into style than they do in L.A.," Wolff says. "They’re willing to take risks."

—Marcy Medina

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