Social Analysis: Prada In Paine

Scene: the night before the first day of school.

"So, what are you going to wear tomorrow?"

"Dude, I don't know, I, like, really haven't thought about it yet. Maybe my gray dress? What about you?"

"I was thinking of wearing a green sweater and a black skirt....Wait, let

me show you."


It sounds like it could be a scene out of Clueless, the character Cher standing in front of her huge, automatated closet, talking on the phone with her friend Dionne while rotating the hangers. But what might seem like a

conversation out of a bubble-gum eighties-type movie must happen behind closed doors at Harvard.

One of my friends felt it after the first lecture of Gen Ed 105 (note to first-years: this is a notoriously easy, totally great senior-filled class that meets twice a week in Paine Hall). Surrounded by fashion plates, she wondered whether she should get more decked out to attend lecture. (She was wearing a pair of khakis, a nice T-shirt, and carrying a Kate Spade bag.)

I didn't understand why my roommates got dressed up on the first day of school when I was a first-year, having come from a laid-back, casual high school in Northern California. I had thrown on the first t-shirt and pair of jeans that were in my dresser--as I had done for my 12 other first days of school. Practically everyone else in my high school had done the same.

But over the last two years, something has changed. The conversation above took place not just behind any closed doors, but the closed doors of my own room, between my roommate and me.

Perhaps I have become more frivolous. Perhaps more superficial and materialistic. But then does that mean that Harvard makes people frivolous, superficial, and materialistic? I hope not.

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