Dismal weather can send even the most ardent fashion followers into a fugue. Yet Cornell students manage to fuse functionality and flair. Traversing the campus’ hilly terrain, it’s no wonder that there is nary a kitten heel or stiletto in sight. Instead, neon Pumas, checkered Vans and, of course, Ugg boots abound.
“We don’t always have the best weather. There are lots of hills and it rains a lot,” says junior Katie Azzaro, a communications major. “So whatever we wear has to be durable and comfortable enough to get us to class.”
Sensible footwear is often paired with outerwear that’s also weather-dictated — North Face jackets, Patagonia fleeces or, for the more fashionably minded, Marc Jacobs parkas. And, despite the take of some dissenters who discount Cornell fashion as “homogenous” and “uncreative,” many students spice up their typical New England staples with inventive touches. Indeed, Cornell has its share of fashion innovators.
Anna Johansen, a Vermont native, recently sported clogs and a brown sweater with a John Deere-print flannel skirt she made herself. “I found the fabric at Jo-Ann’s and then copied an A-line Banana Republic skirt that I had,” she explains.
Freshman Julia Donahue, who hails from Manhattan, works inventive mixes of vintage along with designer pieces “that aren’t obvious.” However, she ruefully admits to joining the ranks of fashion victims by buying a Jelly Kelly handbag.
In fact, the school’s fashion-aware element can find official outlets on campus. The Department of Textile and Apparel offers courses in fibers, fabrics and finish, as well as draping and pattern-making. A student-run design league puts on a full-fledged runway show each spring. And fashion journalism also has a niche. The Cornell Daily Sun features a weekly column entitled “Campus Couture,” and there’s a student-founded fashion magazine, Awkward. The newest issue features a fashion spread of girls at a frat house the morning after a big mixer. “They’re dressed up, but look a little hungover from the night before,” notes sophomore Kristin Ming, an editor at the magazine. “We try to relate it to Cornell, but in a more fashionable way.”
Classics 101: North Face jackets, hooded sweatshirts, blazers, Pumas.
Style syllabus: “A lot of girls are preppy here, but not in the old standard way. Instead of wearing their mother’s twin set, they went out and bought matching mother-daughter twinsets last week at Bendel’s.” — Julia Donahue, ’07
If your school were a designer, who would it be? “Ralph Lauren. Everyone seems to own something from Polo. Both guys and girls dress very preppy.” — Kristin Ming, ’06
In everyone’s closet: An “Ithaca is Gorges” T-shirt.