Fashion: Not What it Seems (an Outsider Perspective)

In reflecting on my past three and a half years at Mercyhurst, I think I’ve done a fairly good job at strategically avoiding classes and subjects I have no interest in. For example, I’ve never taken a foreign language class, I’ve successfully dodged any class that deals with ‘computer science’ (whatever that is?), and I can assure you the math class I had to take for a core requirement was the easiest one offered. And, until this semester, I hadn’t set foot on the third floor of Old Main where fashion classes are held.

Allow me to stop for a second here and tell you that I have nothing against fashion (I do, though, truly hate math). However, a fashion class never really seemed like a place where I would fit in, so I did what I would with every other subject I didn’t feel a connection to — I avoided it. I avoided fashion classes until this semester when I felt I had downright exhausted all of the marketing, English, and psychology courses I could take. So, in looking for another class to add to my plate, I decided to take a leap and add a course called Public Speaking in the Fashion Industry. And, man — am I glad I did.

I guess hindsight is always 20/20, and I realize now how silly it was of me to avoid subjects that I thought I didn’t like when I really had no idea what they were even about (even in writing this, though, I refuse to give computer science a try. Sorry not sorry).

I vividly remember walking into this fashion class on the first day — into a room with floor to ceiling mirrors — and immediately regretting my decision to leave my comfort zone. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t dress like anyone, and I had never watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians, a show for which everyone in the room seemed to have an undying affinity (for the record, I now have a massive appreciation for the business women in the Kardashian family, and I’m currently on season six).

I remember calling my mom on the way home from that first class and telling her I was probably going to drop the class because I was so uncomfortable — and the uncomfortable part of the class was supposed to be the public speaking, and we hadn’t even done any of that yet. My mom laughed and told me to stop being so insecure, and she asked me to give the class one more try.

Fast forward to now, when I successfully completed the course, and I’m so beyond glad I didn’t drop it. Throughout the semester, I eagerly learned more than I ever thought I would.

I mean, for one, I’ve definitely learned a lot of fun facts. For example, I’ve learned the correct pronunciation of Givenchy (it’s “zhee VON shee,” if you didn’t know), I’ve learned Lightening McQueen from the movie Cars isn’t the only famous McQueen (I’m looking at you, Alexander), and I’ve learned that if you have the know-how, then you can effectively dress up pajama pants and wear them for a formal presentation (Chloe Speranza, you’re the coolest).

On top of learning fashion tidbits, though, this class has opened my eyes to an entire world I knew nothing about. Before, I thought fashion was merely hemlines and runway shows, but my peers have shown me it’s so much more.

Fashion, at its core, is undoubtedly unifying. As I’ve sat back and absorbed the passion my classmates have exuded in talking about their favorite aspects of fashion, I’ve seen first-hand how fashion can bring a room full of very different people together.

While every person in my class has a different background, and every person has a different view of fashion, we’re all able to appreciate and be involved in each other’s interests. All in all, the vast fashion world is a community in which those involved can feel at home regardless of backgrounds, interests, and differences. With this, I’m so excited to have gained a better understanding of an overwhelmingly inclusive community in which I originally felt I had no place.

Rae Pollack, '18

Non-major who took a fashion class on a whim and discovered a whole new side to the once-taboo topic.