KG: I’ve been interested in fashion since I was ten years old. I went to the Field Museum that had a special exhibit of Jacqueline Kennedy’s clothes from when she was in the White House. I was enchanted by the entire experience. They had taken out all of her clothing from the John F. Kennedy Library and Archives and put them in a touring show. I saw what could be, and what had been, and it really made me more interested.
How do you think your personal style has changed over time?
It’s actually gotten more casual. Everyone thinks I dress so formally, but I definitely overdressed a lot in high school. But I enjoyed it, and I think I got positive attention from it. I’ve always been into the more classic pieces, rather than trying to be on trend. I’m a planner, so I think about what it will look like when I’m looking at pictures of myself thirty years from now, which, like, who thinks about that? But I love the idea of always looking timeless, so I try to stick to basics, and not too many prints, and obviously throw in a trend here or there.
What’s your favorite trend?
I dyed my hair white, and then lavender, and then dark gray, because I decided over the summer before junior year, I thought, “If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.” I’m not an employed person. I’m young, I need to take advantage of being in this time, and doing this thing that’s on trend.
Do you have any trends that you wish would make a comeback?
This is random, but aprons. Totally silly, right? But they’re actually super practical, like an extra pocket, another decorative accessory, another way to add a layer to your outfit, and they also just look really cute. Back in the 40s, 50s, you would wear one around the house, but even back further, you’d wear them out! I’d like to see the apron come back.
Describe your style.
Classic. I kind of hate saying, preppy, but it’s true. Almost everything I wear has a collar, and if it doesn’t, I would look like I’d fit right in at a golf club or a country club or out with the horses at the equestrian center. Definitely classic. I would say my biggest style inspirations are Jacqueline Kennedy — not Onassis, the later stuff, I mean — she was old and John was dead, so things went south from there — early sixties had some great stuff. Elle Woods, from Legally Blonde and Barbie. I think those are kind of silly style icons to put out there, but they’re definitely icons, and wardrobes that resonate with me — the femininity and the clean lines.
You have a lot of dresses.
Generally speaking, I much prefer to wear dresses and skirts than pants, just a comfort thing. And a femininity thing. I definitely am conscious about trying to present very femininely.
So I’m queer, and I definitely find it to be more part of my gender presentation, and I’m very intentional about it, and being my true self. And that all sounds like “Wooh, after school special!” but I think it’s really important to stay true to yourself, and I think before I was afraid to be as feminine as I wanted to be, and now that I’ve embraced it, I’m not afraid to wear fake eyelashes to school, or only wear skirts. It’s been a really positive experience for me.
So how do you see politics and fashion interacting?
I am upper-middle class, and so I have a lot of privilege when it comes to access to fashion [and] clothing. I’m also white, and I think that has a lot to do with what I want to wear. Like I mentioned, Jackie Kennedy, Elle Woods, Barbie — all very white female icons in history, and also, presumably upper-middle class, if not upper class. And so, I think trying to balance my marginalized identities, like being disabled and being bisexual, queer and a woman, those kinds of things, and balancing them with my more traditional fashion values, which values whiteness and money and thinness — that I want to be fighting, ultimately, for justice and equity. I’m interested in looking more into that and problematizing my super white, upper-middle class presentation and how that maybe goes against what I’m fighting for when it comes to social justice.
I really like your earrings – they’re sand dollars?
Yes! I have a silver pair too. When I find something I like, I try to buy it or something similar to it in a bunch of different colors. I have a lot of things in true blue, red, gray, black and navy — those are my five main colors. If you have a bunch of stuff in those five colors, mixing and matching is super easy.
I know this is not, “Kate Gives Fashion Advice to Macalester!” but I think it’s a really good rule of thumb to figure out what your colors are. Figure out what you like or what looks good on you. Don’t necessarily buy trendy pieces, buy something you know that’s going to make you feel good. Work it into your wardrobe so that not only can you wear it on its own, you can wear it with any other piece you already have.
How do you know when to get rid of something?
I actually have a really hard time getting rid of clothes. I have a super emotional attachment to all of my clothes, and I think that comes from my deep, deep love for fashion and clothing. Good times to get rid of something — it’s so worn out that you can’t wear it anymore, when something doesn’t fit anymore — and I think that’s the thing I’ve had the most struggles with. I had an eating disorder in high school, and I was really, really skinny. Now I wear a size anywhere between a 12 to a 16, and when I had my eating disorder I was wearing between a four and an eight, and I still have a lot of those clothes. It’s been really difficult for me to get rid of those, just because it’s like, “Maybe someday I’ll fit into them,” which is totally bogus advice – I was so sick, I never want to be able to fit into them again, but they’re beautiful pieces that I collected when I was younger, and I still have that emotional attachment.
My mom and I did a lot of sewing projects when I was younger. We made clothes for my American Girl dolls, and then I started sewing clothes from patterns that we bought and then I started making my own patterns. It’s not really a trend, but I think people should definitely get back into sewing their own clothes. It’s super cost-effective — it’s not super time-effective — but it really makes it so you can personalize items. It’s so valuable. If I buy something that doesn’t quite fit, I can take it in, or take it out in a snap, and it’s not a big deal. That’s something that enables my wardrobe to spark more joy, that I can personalize it.