for Fashion: Smith's Celebrated Love of Style
By Jessica Brophy '04
the things one might expect to find at an all-women's college -- particularly
Smith -- perhaps the last is a fashion club. Between the rigorous
academic schedule and the level of passionate activism on
campus, who has time for fashion?
Yet fashion is an important
element of life at Smith. Women's Wear Daily
(often called the "fashion bible") in its May college issue gave
Smith an honorable mention in its top ten list of "most fashionable colleges." The
called Smith dress "witty and thoughtful…students use body and voice
vigorously to express their opinions." A walk through campus will quickly
reveal diverse forms of expression through clothing, accessories and hairstyles
-- whether students are sporting trendy mohawks or classic wool coats with matching
Smith students now
have a dedicated group (and space) in which to pursue their interest in fashion.
PLAID, Smith's fashion club, now in its second year
of operation, already has "50 people on the e-mail list and 25 or 30
people that come to each meeting," says Nicole Rimedio '04, co-president
of PLAID. "There was also a large amount of interest at the orgs fair
this fall," continues Rimedio, which is impressive for such a new organization.
Rimedio '04, left, and Alexandra Gunn '06 are co-presidents
of PLAID, Smith's fashion club, now in its second year of operation.
They encourage Smith students to design and make their own
clothes as wearable art.
most things at Smith, the fashion club certainly isn't run-of-the-mill.
Scratch the idea of giggling girls critiquing the outfits of everyone they
see. Jie Zheng, a junior who founded the club last year, wrote in The Sophian, "‘Fashion' is
one notorious word, competing in infamy with the original f-word and feminism.
PLAID is not interested in obeying current trends in our dress or designs."
talk of "what's hot, what's not" and which designer's
fall collection is a hit. Smith's PLAID takes a more aggressive, hands-on
"It's all about making facilities and equipment available to people
who want to design or make their own clothes," explains Rimedio. The organization
has space at the Women's Resource Center, where a few sewing machines are
set up. The club hosts open hours so interested women can learn to use the machines,
discuss clothing designs and plan trips to buy materials.
"Wearing clothes you make is great," says
Alexandra Gunn '06,
also co-president of PLAID. "If you shop downtown, then you see
the same clothes all the time that you see on everyone at campus -- if
you make your own, people will ask you where you got the clothes," she
Last April the club hosted a fashion show
where members walked the runways in their own creations,
including a one-shouldered
clothing inspired by Asian themes. The club has also sponsored workshops
such as making clothes and accessories from unexpected materials.
Wellesley, a similar fashion club has made its own mark. Á la
Mode, founded in 1999 by alumnae, also focuses on fashion and design
and hosts eXposé,
an annual spring fashion show.
The interest in style at Smith is
not limited to students. Dean Margaret Bruzelius, who studied at
Harvard and the Fashion Institute of Technology,
worked on Seventh
Avenue (the heart of the fashion industry) in New York City. She
considers her unusual style to be an asset in her current position
as a class
dean of the sophomore
and junior classes. "It's useful," she says of
her own style. "It
puts people at ease." Bruzelius' style includes a different
pair of large, unique earrings every day. She also wears clothing
with a lot of color
and texture, and patterned tights -- not the usual, more reserved
attire of college administrators.
"There are a few students here on
campus who clearly shop in nice stores and wear beautiful clothes," notes
Bruzelius. "But I don't
think of Smith as fashion-obsessed with trends. There's
a large range of looks," she continues. She loves to watch
student fashions, whether they are handmade, thrift-store finds,
or an eclectic mix of designer originals and
department store flip-flops. "Students feel liberated to
wear what they want as a way of announcing their persona. I hope
that they continue to feel
that way after they leave here."
Laura Frye-Levine, a senior
geology major at Smith, enjoys making up her own fashion "do's" and "don'ts." She
has taught a January-term class for three years running on
making bags, accessories and
clothes out of different kinds of tape and other everyday materials
such as stamps or ticket stubs. She started exploring duct
tape clothing in high school, after
making wallets, and decided to teach a J-term class on the
activity her first year. "It's been really popular
and people have been wait-listed for it every year," she
I got here, I took one look at Smith students and said, ‘they
need duct tape.'"
Smith students are also questioning
the images of women and the concepts of beauty that are reflected
in -- or as some would argue, dictated by -- the fashion
industry. "We're getting there," said Frye-Levine
about fashion ideas on campus. "We're embracing
different body types. You can be hip and hot without being
a size 2."
PLAID encourages many different styles,
and urges members to view what they make as wearable art. "[PLAID]
is about whatever you want it to be about," insists
Rimedio. "We encourage people with different styles
to join -- the whole
point of making your own clothes is to be different."
clothing of one's own design is another way for Smith
women to empower themselves. "The great part about
Smith is that I think people are more willing to express
themselves," observes Rimedio. "Anything