The Farewell of a Fashionista

As I wind up my last year at Harvard, I find myself vaguely nonplussed. Have four years of nonsensical response papers and vacuous political conversations changed my essence, my marrow? I have changed boyfriends several times, that is true, but that has seemed more a function of whim than personal evolution. A cute man is increasing hard to find.

When I look back on my life before Harvard, I find I was pretty much the same person, except that I did not know what country fried steak was and I did not have a newspaper column in which I lambasted other people’s fashion. In high school, I was obsessed with a mini-series called “The Thorn Birds” starring Richard Chamberlain, and I still am today. I still blare Haddaway’s “What Is Love” while driving down the street, hoping that people start unconsciously walking to the beat. I still sometimes pretend that I am secretly married to Chad Michael Murray, though for all worldly purposes that became unattractive quite a long time ago. In the essentials, I am timeless.

Harvard’s terrible fashion spurred me into action, and my life here has been defined by combating it. Leggings haunted my dreams. Hunting jackets ruined my waking hours. Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits made me shout expletives at the television in the Kirkland gym.

I have tried to empower Harvard women by stressing to them, over and over, how it is possible to look cute while studying, and how dirty pig-tails and light wash jeans are not the answer to any problem. Many a night, I have felt disappointed in my quest, especially after long days at Lamont, where I was awash with Harvard sweatshirts and conversations about problem sets.

But as I was walking down the street the other day, I realized that even though I may not have changed that much during my time here, Harvard itself has changed. I happened to see a girl in a kind of cute outfit. It matched. It was sort of inventive. It had nice shoes to go with it. Another day, I saw a girl in a positively gorgeous coat. Even the men seem to have improved. I even saw one in a well-fitting shirt—a big improvement!

Of course there will always be the terrible Harvard fashion traditions, like pants embroidered with spouting whales. Like the many chauvinist institutions on campus, I doubt they will go away or let women above a holding-pen type basement, unless we band together and protest. (Look what disassociating ourselves in 1984 has gotten us: nothing!)

But hey, I don’t want no hateration in this dancery. I want to congratulate a Harvard student body that has definitively improved its fashion. I will miss you all—especially your love of inappropriate bowties and strange long cashmere coats.

Three Tips to Continue Rocking the the Free World in My Absence:

1) Remember to perform the basic functions of hygiene, as that is important in any stage of one’s life.

2) Wear an article of clothing at some point that somehow reflects current fashion trends, as getting down with the youth culture is both valuable and edifying.

3) Try not to be an automaton/clone. I know that is a hard thing to do here, but I have faith in you, gentle reader. Just because someone else is dressing like they’re about to go hunting in the moors with Queen Elizabeth and her 17 new hounds doesn’t mean you have to. And when in doubt, wear a beret.

—Columnist Rebecca M. Harrington can be reached at