Making a Fashion Statement: With Paris Fashion Week earlier this month, fashion, textiles students tackle idea of using fashion to make political statements


Veronica Teeter

Senior Katherine Springston makes her own graduation dress. She said this is currently her eighth garment and has been working on it since the end of August.

Grace Xu

“When you walk up to a person—when you first see them­­—the first thing you notice is what they’re wearing.”

Those words came from Katherine Springston, a senior taking Fashion and Textiles III. Her own sense of fashion seemed to model that sentiment. The day of her interview, she wore a yellow-and-white-striped flannel (her “statement piece” for the day), paired with ripped jeans.

Her views on fashion aren’t unique. For example, the events that occurred during Paris Fashion Week earlier this month included several controversies as well as political statements. For instance, several designers showcased “power wear” for women, such as blazers with large shoulder pads, in solidarity of the “Balance ton Porc” movement, the French equivalent of #MeToo.

Vivian Luo, Fashion and Textiles IV student and senior, said she definitely agrees that fashion designers not only often have deeper meanings behind their work, but their influences can spread far and wide.

Veronica Teeter
Senior Katherine Springston plans out the design of her dress. She said she often works from patterns to learn necessary techniques to make designs from scratch.

“Especially when designers have famous people wear their clothes that have anything to do with political statements, it can be very influential. If you see someone at the Golden Globe awards or at the Met Gala wearing something that someone designed specifically for them, or for some specific political or social issue, it can have a very long-lasting impact,” Luo said.

Nancy Spencer, the department chairperson of family consumer science, said she agrees that the impact a fashion statement can hold, especially as fashion trends can spread like wildfire, allowing political messages to reach more and more people.

“Young people are very impressionable, so when it comes to following a particular fashion or style, I think there is merit to that,” Spencer said. “People do something because someone else is doing it.”

Yet fashion is not only an effective way of expressing an opinion, according to Springston; it can be a much more convenient way to do so as well.

“I think that using fashion to make political statements is something relatively easy to do,” she said. “It requires effort, but going out and publicly speaking your mind is a lot more difficult than just wearing something. For the more introverted people, (fashion) can be a way of conveying their thoughts to others.”

While many are often easily influenced by the fashion of others, Spencer said it is important for students to understand that, at the end of the day, fashion should not be based off of others, but rather on how you want to express yourself.

“Fashion is what makes you feel good, and what makes you positive and empowered,” Spencer said. “Don’t do it for other people; if you’re going to make a statement with what you wear, it’s got to be something you are empowered by.”

Springston said she is currently following that advice, as she is working on a new creation for her fashion and textiles class that holds a lot of meaning for her personally: her graduation dress.

“In my mind, it’s something special,” Springston said. “It’s the last white dress I’m going to wear before I get married. It’s important and it’s a tradition, and I’m very excited. Most people just go out and buy a dress for something like graduation, but I have the opportunity to make it with my own two hands, and that just makes it so much more special.”

Luo said she is also creating her own fashion pieces that hold special meaning to her, as well as building up her own fashion portfolio. She said she has an idea for a future piece based on the idea of reflection and anxiety, and while she hasn’t started yet, she thinks it will probably be in avant garde style.

“Right now, I’m building a portfolio for college admissions,” Luo said. “It’s mostly avant garde work with a lot of complexity, but it also has to do with other art forms, so you have to merge things that you design with drawings and paintings.”

Yet no matter how controversial different fashion statements can be, according to Springston, fashion just really comes down to self-expression.

“Fashion isn’t sticking to the trends,” she said. “It’s rather conveying how you feel on the inside in a form of self-expression. It’s a way of being your own person and expressing yourself, and other people can see it easily.”