By Teresa Blackman & Elizabeth Kerin
Contributing Writer, Staff Writer
Sometimes it’s what you don’t see that matters most. And for once we’re not talking about modesty. When traveling abroad, one notices a conspicuous lacking, not only of Targets and peanut butter, but also of loud American style.
Many students at the University of Dallas cross the great Atlantic Ocean and spend a semester immersed in the beauty of the Eternal City and various metropolises throughout Europe. Such an experience often changes students’ dress, immediately by the addition of a few choice items (the infamous Florentine satchel or Irish sweater) and perhaps more permanently as the ethos of European style seeps into their wardrobes. Senior Claire Ballor observed that UD students show a notable European influence in the way they dress.
“People come back from Rome and their style is a lot more minimalist and neutral,” Ballor said.
Undoubtedly the exposure to new and different styles sticks.
“I guess to some extent [while abroad] you see new things and you add it into your style,” junior Lauren Bergeron said. She recalls that over the course of the semester she and her friends gradually incorporated European looks into their wardrobes.
For senior Will Chavey, his wardrobe shift was more influenced by the constant close proximity to his peers on campus and traveling rather than being exposed to European fashion.
“It magnified the peer pressure to dress like everyone else,” Chavey said. “I started dressing more like my friends in Rome because I was around them all the time. I started dressing like I was from New Jersey.”
Junior Mary Rose Purk, who traveled to Rome in the fall of 2013, noticed a shift in her own closet.
“Freshman year I was really into bright-colored, preppy things,” Purk said. “Once I went to Rome I started to really like the European style of things. It’s a lot more classic. I still wear preppy clothes, but it influenced me to have better style. I started wearing a lot more blacks and grays. In Rome you can’t wear these bright colors because people automatically think ‘tourist.’ I wanted to look like them. They look amazing.”
Purk recognized a key element of why our style changes in
Europe: We don’t want to stand out. In Europe, the bright casual wear of America is nowhere to be found, and most do not want to be the one to resurrect it.
“It’s natural for people to try to fit in,” junior Luke Christianson said. “The more time we were in Europe, people wanted to be more smoothly integrated in the places that we traveled. It was nice not to be identified as ‘Oh, Americans!’ It almost seemed to me that people actually started to care about fashion for the time that we were in Rome. All the guys were like, ‘Screw it, we’re going to get Eurocuts [European-style haircuts].’”
While trends like the “Eurocut” change the traveler’s look, his look is also changed by the activity of traveling. Relocating for a semester and vagabonding every weekend leads to a necessarily more efficient wardrobe. Sophomore Annamica Reding noticed ironically, that while adventuring, her wardrobe became a “little less adventurous, more practical.” Purk agreed that traveling changes the way you dress.
“[Rome] makes you a lot more versatile,” she said. “My style got a lot more basic … You start to have staples — different things that go with a lot.”
Sophomore Joey Kelly shared that during his time in Rome, the combination of the need for greater wardrobe efficiency while traveling and admiration for the way Europeans dress did not necessarily equate to being better dressed.
“When I was there, I have to say that my sense of fashion went out the window because it was more about survival than anything else,” Kelly said. “But then when you go to places like Venice, Norway, you know, people there are well put-together and they have a different sense of fashion. I’ve always tried presenting myself well, but at the same time I guess it puts perspective on why it’s good to present yourself well.”
Senior Mary Trinko described how this economic way of dressing helps people to define their style.
“There’s always the after-Rome shift: more clean lines and less sweats,” Trinko said. “I started wearing a lot more neutrals and people really find their voice more. In Rome you had to figure out what you really liked.”
Students seem to agree that neutralizing the spectrum of their closet is a process that continues after the Rome semester, in some cases for the sake of practicality, in others for the sake of attaining that European elegance.
While many students spoke about how Rome transformed their wardrobes for practical reasons, they also described how the Rome semester was a broadening and defining experience for them personally.
“Rome altered not only my outlook on life, but also, my outlook on fashion,” junior Sarah Donovan said. “Be it being influenced by the art and architecture of the ages or learning how to pair that one blouse 73 different ways, Rome transformed me for the better!”