Taking Status Out of Fashion

When I was in eighth grade, my grades started dropping. Something about being a cheerleader, on the dance team, in student council, and well, a teenager, didn’t agree with my report cards, and my parents were getting worried. That potential of real intelligence that my family thought I was showing, even at the age of 12, was disappearing, and something needed to be done. My grandad made me an offer: If I received an A+ in all of my classes, then he would pay for any new purse I wanted. Not a cross-body, sequined purse like my friends and I all already had, but an “adult” purse. Suddenly, all that laziness I had been fighting that year disappeared, and I found myself doing extra credit and showing up to class early and forcing myself to make pages and pages of color-coordinated notes on plant biology. I was more motivated than ever. The end of the term came, and my report card was made up entirely of A+s. I was proud of myself, but mostly I just wanted what I had worked for: a cream colored Coach purse, dotted with that trademark “C,” with a hot pink buckle and a velvet strap that felt like butter in my hands.

Looking back, it wasn’t my best fashion choice. I used that purse for less than a year before it went out of style. But this is an important moment regardless—it was my first experience with what I would come to know as “status.” I didn’t want that purse because it was just so much better than the purses I had before. I wanted it because no one else had it. I wanted it because it made me feel special, above everyone else, and at the top of whatever social ladder I had convinced myself existed in my middle school. I’m still guilty of wanting things for these reasons.

I may have grown out of that purse, but do we ever really grow out of that need for status?

Look around Boston College’s campus: It’s everywhere! North Face backpacks and Tory Burch sandals and Bean Boots. Even on a casual day, we throw on a “laid-back” ensemble that costs more than a new iPhone.

I’m well aware that some BC students have never stepped foot in a Nordstrom and think Anthropologie is a store for old women (or perhaps a pharmacy?). But whether an obsession with status is true for everyone, it’s a feeling that is prevalent on this campus and with students our age everywhere. This isn’t just a personal issue, it’s a social one.

The symbols of status that dot this campus cause BC to appear to rise above other schools, but they also urge us to strive to rise above each other. I’m just as guilty as—if not more guilty than—everyone else. There’s nothing I love more than a new Lulu workout top for all that working out I don’t do, or a new pair of Bean Boots that honestly looks exactly the same as the ones I have: “But, wait, these are fur-lined—it’s totally different!” Fashion is a huge part of how we present ourselves to the world, so make sure it represents you and not what the world expects of you.

So, if you want to wear something straight off the New York Fashion Show runway, do it! But make sure you’re doing it for you. If you want to spend an entire paycheck on a belt (I know I do) then go for it. Our choices of what to wear and what to buy, however, can so easily entangle us in the confusion of self-image and fear of not being enough, so tread lightly. Now, while you won’t see me burning my Madewell sweaters or giving my Apple Watch to charity in protest, I do think we should try to worry a little less about wearing the right kind of clothes and shoes and worry more about being comfortable, happy, and, above all, ourselves. Hopefully, this outlook will keep my bank account comfortable and happy, too.

Featured Graphic by Anna Tierney / Graphics Editor