I have wildly cared about clothing my whole life. From spending hours of my childhood afternoons putting together outfits, to ceaselessly chopping up skirts and dresses to make my own creations, I spent a lot of my childhood thinking about clothing. My identity has largely, and unknowingly, been represented through clothes. Through this column, I hope to showcase my fellow Lawrentians’ understands of clothing, dissecting the nuts and bolts of what personal style is, and seeking out stories about how identity informs style and how the reverse also functions. Style is about so much more than just clothes. It is one of the most visual ways we pronounce our own identities.
Freshman and editor of this Features section Genevieve Cook has always had an eye for encompassing all of her interests into her style. From her fascination with the color yellow to her love of the life of Jesus Christ, all of Genevieve’s passions play a role in the clothes she wears every day.
Cook’s perspectives on style started taking shape when she moved to England. At the age of ten, Cook moved there with her family. This move instilled in Cook a sentimental value of clothing and what pieces remind her of.
Cook stated, “As I got older, I got more conscious of where my pieces were coming from, whether they were from my grandma or my dad or a friend gave them to me. Being separated from my family and friends in England made my clothes mean more to me. It was important for me to have bits and pieces from other people that I could carry with me to wear and to have as memories.”
When it came down to Cook pinning a label on her own style, words like “assortment,” “hodgepodge” and “hot mess” were immediately thrown in the mix. Cook attempted to put her style into words, stating, “I like bold patterns and I like to mix patterns that shouldn’t go together. Of course I like a lot of vintage too. I used to be so into the ‘80s. I have so many shoulder pads hidden away. But now I think I just mix a lot of eras together into some sort of hodgepodge.”
For Cook, her hodgepodge style has never been about making sense or assembling an outfit that is simply pretty for the sake of being pretty. She boasts happily that her clothes are for herself. Cook doesn’t always want to look beautiful.
That being said, she still puts time and effort into assembling every piece of her outfit. Cook compared how carefully she assembles her outfit to how carefully you’d assemble a museum exhibit. She stated, “Putting together my outfits is sort of like curating an art exhibit. You can’t just throw art up on a wall and just put it on display, you have to think about it. The same goes for how I put together my outfits.”
This exhibition-approach to assembling a look demands Cook’s sleep schedule to take the backseat to her creative process. Cook stated, “I wake up obnoxiously early so that I can figure out how I feel in a day and to be able to find some clothes that work with whatever headspace that is. My daily outfits are definitely a case by case thing. If I were to plan my outfits in advance, I might wake up and realize I am not that same person anymore. Who was she? I don’t know! It’s an identity crisis every morning.”
Sitting on top of Cook’s bookshelf, hidden but plainly displayed among other trinkets is a nice-sized plate with the dutiful face of Jesus Christ painted plainly on it. This plate is just the beginning of Cook’s interest in this religious figure.
When asked about the plate, Cook stated, “I am a huge fan of Jesus. I am not religious and I didn’t grow up religious, but I read a lot of religious texts out of interest. And at school in England I had to take religious studies. Jesus is just a dope figure. The concept of this black Jewish guy roaming around with other homeless people is awesome. He inspires me, Jesus is my homeboy.”
Not only does Cook display her love for Christ in her dorm, but also in the clothes she wears. Cook stated, “I wear rosaries. I have always admired them but was apprehensive towards wearing them. I reached a point where I understood enough about Christianity to where it didn’t feel weird for me to do. I love the symbolism behind them. I’ve never had someone come up to me about it or be bothered by it, which initially surprised me. I also know that I wouldn’t wear these if I didn’t know enough about the symbolism, it’s a very conscious thing.”
Cook thinks that every religion offers so much to all people that you can benefit from them even if you don’t practice the religion personally. Cook said, “There’s a lot to be taken from religion that doesn’t have to be institutional. I mean, people can even just practice faith and not be a part of the church and that’s a cool concept. It doesn’t have to be institutional.”
In Cook’s eyes, parts of religion can be shared with everyone. Cook stated, “On one hand there are rituals and symbols that are most important to the people practicing the faith. It’s sacred and deeply spiritual in a way that all people won’t necessarily connect with. But on the other hand if people are able to learn from and appreciate aspects of the religion, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t be able to express that and to learn more for themselves. Who’s to say that that is not a form of faith that they haven’t realized yet? At the end of the day, we made these symbols to explore life. Shouldn’t everyone be able to do that? It’s a human experience worth sharing.”
From her shoulder pads to her rosaries, at the end of the day Cook is looking to wear clothes for herself. Cook stated, “My style isn’t about drawing attention to me, that’s not what I am into. It’s all for me. It’s bold for me to feel comfortable in my body. If I am going to have to live in my body then I want it to be a space that I enjoy. It’s a lot more personal than it is presentational.”
If you’re interested in being a part of this project, please feel more than free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time for an interview.