Candace Parrott, Staff Writer
Illinois Wesleyan University is full of fashionistas. We can’t help but wonder what influences their sense of style and where they get all of their trendy clothes. Meet Kristina Dehlin, a junior English-Philosophy major at IWU who’s studying abroad in Copenhagen this semester, and is taking a fashion class while there. I was able to chat with her about her fabulous fashion sense, and how it has evolved since she’s been abroad.
C: Do you believe in dressing up for no reason? Why or why not?
K: I don’t know if I ever really dress up for no reason at all, but I’d say I do believe in dressing up for no socially valid reason. I remember one day in high school I wore a simple dress and flats and my teacher asked me if I was going somewhere after school that I needed to be dressed up for. Then there was always the classic question from fellow students when I wore pretty much anything other than jeans and a t-shirt: “why are you so dressed up today?” They wondered why I didn’t just wear the easy outfits of yoga pants and sweatshirts. I really hate the idea of needing an occasion to “dress up.” In those days I was self-conscious enough as it was, so those questions really made me second guess what I should and shouldn’t have worn. Now that I’m older and (slightly) wiser, I let myself dress up in skirts and dresses and fancy jewelry just for the reason of wanting to feel good. I like the power dressing up has to make me feel put together, edgy, preppy or romantic, even if it’s just being seen by the seven other students in my one class of the day. I think it’s fun, and I buy all these clothes, so I might as well get my use out of them. If I were to die next week, I’d be so disappointed if I never got to wear that new skirt I just bought simply because there was no special occasion to wear it.
C: Are there any bands or celebrities that inspire you?
K: Taylor Swift is definitely a major style icon for me. I love pretty much everything she wears and I can see myself wearing it. Just the other day I actually bought a shirt at H&M just because I recognized it as one she owns. What’s really cool about her style is that it’s evolved so much as she’s grown up. I admire her for embracing change and not basing her style on what other people think it should be. Finding her style has been a true marking of her finding herself.
C: Has T-Swift inspired you ever make your own clothes? If so, what did you make?
K: The only thing I’ve ever made from scratch was a simple skirt years ago, but I am really into reconstruction. I like to buy pieces from thrift shops and reconstruct them into my ideal version of it. I’ve dyed a tribal print into a denim shirt with bleach, sewed lace onto pockets of jeans, transformed overalls into shorts, and added my monogram to a purse. I think it makes things a bit more special when I’ve worked to make them my own.
C: Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert, and how do you think that relates to your style?
K: I’m definitely more of an introvert. I’ve always struggled with verbally expressing myself to people, so I think I developed my interest in style as a another way to show who I am. I think, sometimes, my clothes definitely speak louder than me, but that’s alright because they still speak truly about who I am.
C: Where do you shop for the most part?
K: I have a few set stores where I get my basics because I know and trust that they’ll fit and last a long time. For instance, I always get my jeans at American Eagle Outfitters because they fit and feel the best for me personally. When I’m itching to try out a certain new trend (crop tops, velvet, statement necklaces, etc.) I go to the typical “fast fashion” stores at the mall like Forever 21 or H&M. I also do a lot of shopping at thrift shops. That’s my all-time favorite place to get sweaters. I love the hunt and I think it’s cool to have unique pieces with long pasts that no one else will have. It’s so heartwarming when someone compliments one of my finds and I can proudly tell them where it’s from.
C: Do you do makeup every day? Why/why not?
K: I find myself wearing less and less makeup these days. Part of it is probably because I’m usually sleep deprived and give myself little time to get ready in the morning. Makeup is less about self-expression for me than fashion is. It’s more for the purpose of a little feel-good boost, so I focus most of my efforts on what clothes I wear instead.
C: Do you believe in the look-good feel-good theory?
K: Definitely. When I love what I’m wearing, I feel more sure of who I am. I feel good about how I’m portraying myself to the world.
C: How does your mood or attitude change when you feel on point?
K: I stand up taller. I walk with more confidence. I think I’m even more likely to speak up in class or in social situations. I’m just more confident all around.
C: Advice for your fellow fashion-lovers?
K: I wish that when I was growing up I would’ve spent less time worrying about what other people thought of what I wore. I let rude comments get to me and drive me to focus on what others expected of me. Still today, I wish I was a little more adventurous with my style, so that’s what I’d tell my fellow fashion-lovers: don’t be afraid to take risks with your style. Forget what anyone else tells you about what you should or shouldn’t wear. Wear weird, unexpected, innovative stuff. If it doesn’t work out, it’s just one day’s outfit. They’re just clothes—have a little fun.
C: Why is style important to you?
K: Style is so many different things to me. It’s my main form of self-expression, my hobby and my creative outlet. It’s one of the only things that has been a consistent passion in my life ever since I can remember. It gives me confidence and makes me happy, but I also love the power it has to help other people. It can be used as an opportunity to encourage and embrace individuality, to show and share different cultures, or even to practice powerful consumerism in favor of fair trade or sustainability. Style has been a part of the human experience since the beginning of our history and if we use its power in a positive way, its everlasting presence in our lives can be used to do a lot of good.
C: How has being abroad influenced your style?
K: I’m spending the semester studying in Copenhagen, Denmark and I’m taking a fashion class here, so I spend a lot of time thinking about and observing what the Danes wear. There’s a stereotype that Danes only wear black, and while there are some exceptions, for the most part it’s true. The typical uniform for Danish women is black pants, black booties or Nike sneakers, a long, dark wool coat, and a thick scarf. It’s cold here, so they bundle up a lot and really focus on the durability and timelessness of their clothing since they’ll be getting a lot of use out of their jackets and boots. That’s one theory I’ve heard to explain the all-black ensembles—black never goes out of style and so will last forever. Another theory I’ve heard is that the lighting in Denmark makes colors seem brighter here, which makes them seem harsher, but really I think it’s a reflection of Danish society. In the U.S., we are very focused on the individual, but Danish culture is more about the collective group, so style becomes a means of fitting in. This was hard for me to grasp because at home my style is all about expressing myself as uniquely me. When I get dressed in the U.S., I ask what I can put together that’s different or unexpected, what will help me stand out as a creative individual and portray how I’m feeling that day. Here in Copenhagen, I’ve set off on shopping trips purely in the name of buying more black clothing so that I can look “more Danish.” It’s actually become a compliment among us Americans to say “you look so Danish today!” I think it’s because the Danes always look cool, but effortlessly so. A black leather jacket always comes with long, messy hair and a confident, careless attitude. They would never wear something that could be described as “tacky” or “so last season,” because everything they wear is sleek, well-made, and timeless (even on Friday nights when their wardrobe extends to include fur coats and the occasional pair of heels). While the pressure for everyone to fit this bill is strong, it’s interesting because it’s not in a Mean Girls you-can’t-sit-with-us kind of way. It’s not about the exclusion of all things different. It’s about equality—the same equality they strive for in their generally liberal ideologies. After living among the Danes for a while now, I don’t know who wouldn’t want to fit in with such a great group anyway.