Because online shopping is my source of inspiration for this column—though this time I was shopping for Mother's Day gifts, I swear—I happily landed upon the Free People website (freepeople.com). The home page has the title "Shop by Girl," and shows five different girls underneath with whom you can identify. Ginger is "confident, sensual, and a flirt," and Sandy is the "beach girl, easy-going and effortless," while Meadow is "bohemian, a free-spirit and creative." Candy is the "romantic, sweet and girly" one and then there's Lou, the "tomboy, adventurous and fearless."
What I find ironic about trying to categorize Free People shoppers into these separate identities is that the brand itself is a total convergence of all of these personalities. The lines between these girls are blurred by the brand itself, as Free People serves someone who believes that she could be all of these attributes.
Case in point: I tried to figure out which girl I felt most closely related to, but quickly decided against identifying myself with any of them—all of whom are named as if they were dogs—and subsequently clicked on the Sale tab.
My question is this: who doesn't want to be fearless, confident, easy-going, and sweet? This process of selection is reminiscent of the once-popular Facebook quiz "Which Sex and the City character are you?" Everyone wishes and believes that she can be Carrie, as she is the embodiment of only the best qualities of the other characters. She not only is a great friend, but also effervescent, funny, charming, beautiful, outrageous, talented and compassionate. The reason we find her so intriguing is precisely because she is impossible to define.
Free People utilized a great marketing scheme in their website design, but ultimately, it is neither possible nor desirable to stringently categorize your style. Though, as I mentioned in one of my previous columns, we may be drawn to certain patterns, cuts or colors, it isn't against the law to purchase something completely different from what you're used to.
Just because we have fashion icons and idols does not mean that we swoon at every outfit they wear on the red carpet. Fashion magazines and media sources attempt to have us define what we like and don't like, thereby restricting our choices and trying to pigeonhole our tastes.
Though many joke that Bowdoin is simply a collection of students from just outside of Boston, Connecticut and a couple of random kids from California, there is actually quite a diverse mix of people at the College, which also means that there are a wide variety of fashion tastes. Having lived in a suburb of Connecticut for most of my life, I don't find the overall Bowdoin garb particularly preppy, distinctive or strange.
However, I can understand that Midwesterners, Southerners and even some New Englanders can initially feel unsettled, and inevitably experience the tension that arises between retaining old, familiar fashion choices and assessing the new styles you were introduced to at Bowdoin.
College presents the invaluable opportunity to witness, explore and experiment with a multitude of styles. Removed from your hometown and its potentially homogenizing effects, you're able to have a better understanding of the kinds of choices available to you, and you will discover the ability to mix and match bits and pieces of the fashion you see everyday.
As we all go our separate ways this summer, consider which stylistic choices you wish to extract from the College: your travels abroad, your magazine-skimming and TV-watching and which components of home you wish to hang onto.
You will come to find that you can be Sandy at times and Ginger at others. Or occasionally Candy, a little bit of Lou and Meadow in the summertime. Or, whoever decided to be a bargain hunter that day.