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HOMETOWN HEROES 

HOMETOWN HEROES 

Written and photographed by Stella Ho '22, Michelle Wang '23, Rachel Wu '23, Ana Rubin '24

Directed, designed, and photographs edited by Serena Chan '23

Text edited by Kaia Carioli '22

February 28, 2021

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wellesley students have retraced their roots as they returned back home for winter break. Hailing from different cities and towns, Stella Ho, Michelle Wang, Rachel Wu, and Ana Rubin—dressed in different styles depicting their hometown pride—explore the history of how each style arose and made its mark in popular mainstream culture. 

STELLA HO and the UNKNOWN HERO of MARYLAND

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Stella Ho '22

The dress that launched McCardell’s career was the Monastic dress in 1938, a bias-cut tent-like dress. A 2018 Washington Post Magazine article described it as offering “American women something they’d never had: independence in the form of a washable, 

Claire McCardell isn’t a household name today (kind of an unsung hero), but from the 1930s to the 1950s, she was one of the most influential designers in America. Born in Frederick, MD (about 30 miles from my hometown of Rockville, MD) in 1905, she studied at Parsons and traveled to Paris in 1927 to study from the era’s couturiers. She started to gain name recognition in the 1930s; she wasn’t interested in copying Paris high fashion, and instead looked for inspiration in art and everyday street fashion, becoming a pioneer of the “American Look.” Also called sportswear, the American Look was versatile, accessible, and affordable, and is considered the U.S.’s most important contribution to the history of fashion design. In McCardell’s words, “I belong to a mass production country where any of us, all of us, deserve the right to good fashion.” In between formal and informal, McCardell’s sportswear designs were made to be wearable and comfortable the entire day, without sacrificing style for utility—they flattered a variety of body shapes, too. Among her 1930s innovations were sashes and spaghetti string ties. She frequently used denim, calico, and wool jersey, which came in handy during WWII because they were among the rare fabrics available for clothing production. In 1955, she appeared on the cover of TIME magazine. She was a trailblazer for her time, and her influence—not just design-wise, but in democratizing fashion and raising the status of sportswear/ready-to-wear—lives on in the casual clothes that Americans wear every day.

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ready-to-wear dress capable of fitting any body size.” The initial order of 100 sold out in a day. Her other famous design, the popover dress released in 1942, spoke to its time of rationing and price-consciousness. More than 75,000 sold during its first season. It was a versatile wrap dress that could be used as a cover-up, house dress, dressing gown, or party dressand came with a matching potholder! Other innovations included popularizing ballet slippers as everyday footwear, menswear details (her signature), sashes, spaghetti string ties, trouser pockets, revealing sundresses, frequent use of common, natural-fiber fabrics such as cotton, twill, gingham, denim, and jersey, no more highly-structured undergarments, fabric draping and gathering to accentuate the body’s natural shape, and the use of rivets and other work clothes fasteners. Thanks to her, many of these characteristics have become staples of casual wardrobes. Isaac Mizrahi, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Norma Kamali, and Cynthia Rowley have all named her as an influence.

Maryland’s not exactly known as a mecca of stylein fact, McCardell really started her career in NYCbut I’m proud that someone who had such a profound impact on the trajectory of American fashion came from my home state. In my outfits for this project, I tried to channel some of McCardell’s design characteristics through a modern lens to show how much today’s day-to-day fashion owes her and her radical vision of what getting dressed could look like in mid-century America. I was pleasantly surprised by how many of them were present in my own closet. (Proof that her influence is long-lasting!) I love dressing up, but I’m grateful that she pushed for the acceptance of comfortable, functional, yet still stylish clothing, since that’s what I wear most days.

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MICHELLE WANG and SUNNY SAN DIEGO

While San Diego is an incredibly diverse city, much of its local culture can be tied back to its historic beach towns. As a result, the style, at least among the youth, can be described as laid-back, practical, and unpretentious. While much of LA has picked up its pace, San Diego beach towns remain reminiscent of 70s Malibu. Life moves slower here.

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Michelle Wang '23

Emily Ratajowski, an Encinitas native, explains how San Diego has influenced her personal style and clothing line: “I remember when we were driving around we didn’t have extra outfits in the car, we had extra bathing suits. It was our uniform. We were so lucky to have the experience of seeing girls of all shapes and sizes walking around, shamelessly, in their Brazilian cut bottoms on D Street.” In a city where you can frequent nude beaches, comfortability takes precedence, which means board shorts, bathing suits, and sandals year-round. 

The popularization of the quintessential Southern California style originated largely from Hollywood. Think Beach Party or Baywatch. Now, the typical image of Southern California style is ingrained in the American consciousness thanks in part to surfers, skaters, and The Beach Boys. It’s also something we see heavily capitalized on in advertising. Major brands like Vans, PacSun, Hollister have centered their brand and image around selling the Southern California dream, regardless of whether or not their brand is locally based. 

I’m unashamed to say that I wore Rainbows, the staple Southern Californian sandal, almost every day during my senior year of high school. While many locals are true examples of “function over fashion”, I’ve settled into a nice middle ground. I love venturing out into different styles and buying statement pieces, but the pragmatic side of me understands the value of investing in a practical, albeit slightly tame, pair of brown leather flip-flops.     

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RACHEL WU and into the SUBURBS of the GARDEN STATE

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The “e-girl” style gained popularity recently through Tiktok while the light academia-inspired piece has been popularized by many fashion blogs on platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest. Both of these aesthetics have stereotypes typically associated with how they look or appear. For example, e-girls are often gamers or enjoy watching anime while light academia is often linked to classics in literature, old bookstores, or drinking tea. To further illustrate these styles, light academia has been defined in contrast to dark academia, a style that is defined by academic clothing that is light in color, oftentimes beige, white, or cream. This includes blazers, turtlenecks, button-up shirts, trench coats, and dress pants. 

 As a suburban town in central New Jersey, my hometown doesn’t have any historical or significant fashion trends. Instead, people who eager to express themselves and find their identity turn to the internet for inspiration. The two outfits I chose highlight the popular online aesthetics “e-girl” and light academia, styles that are quickly growing out of their interweb space, into the real world, and onto the quiet neighborhood streets of New Jersey.

The e-girl look contrasts largely from light academia as the style is a subculture of the scene aesthetic and includes dark colors such as black, chunky sneakers, oversized t-shirts, chains, and striped long-sleeve shirts. Pop culture has seen the rise of aesthetic communities such as these that have influenced the way people dress, have fun, and live their daily lives.

Rachel Wu '23

I enjoyed wearing both of these pieces because I personally associate myself with aspects of both aesthetics. However, I’m not sure if they perfectly express where I've come from. I’m sure my hand-me-down jacket, classic Timberland boots, and hand-printed t-shirt resonate with some of the members of my local community, but in the end, the influences from each person's online community have branched into so many different aesthetics that I couldn’t possibly represent all of them in just a few outfits. 

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ANA RUBIN and MIAMI VICE

Miami in the 80’s was not deemed the cool beach city that it is today. In an article by The Rake, they explore the ‘Miami Vice Effect’ where the popular show by the same name influenced the city’s architecture, popularity and a whole era of style. When the show started filming, producer Michael Mann had many buildings repainted and rejuvenated to fit the pastel colors of the series; in fact, we owe the current aesthetic of Ocean Drive to him. Its popularity boosted tourism in Miami, and it went from being a place where people retired and crime was ramping to being one of the number one hot spots for young people in the mid-80s. With the phenomenon came many new trends, such as no-show socks and the Miami beard, but probably the most important was the clothing style. Designers like Gianni Versace came to rise thanks to the new colorful art deco style that made the Miami Vice blazer look what we know today. Even though the trend did not translate into the next decade, it came to define what we now see as the 80s look and influenced fashion nationwide in a significant way.

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Anything pastel and beachy is amazing, but my favorite look influenced by the style is an oversized jacket with a colorful top and trousers or even just shorts or a skirt. I accessorize it with pastel nails, gold hoops, and some colorful playful makeup to pull the whole look together, and of course who doesn’t love a good belt. I love the Ray-Ban look as well, but like to opt for smaller sunnies when styling my fit or maybe some bright colored ones to change it up. Also, since it's Miami, a good bikini as a top never fails. I love being able to play around with colors and shapes that resemble the era and I appreciate the influence it had in making the city I live in today what it is. There’s nothing compared to skating through Ocean Drive, looking at everyone’s different styles after a long day at the beach. 

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Ana Rubin '24

Every time I walk through Miami and see the buildings influenced by the movement, I am reminded of their impact on culture. People everywhere wear neon colors, pastels, high-waisted trousers, and bikinis that resemble the era. There are so many ways to pull looks inspired by Miami Vice, so I had two friends come in and model for me to show a wider variety of looks.

The style gained popularity thanks to the show Miami Vice, but it transcended to defining a whole era of fashion. We still see its influence today, with the infamous oversized dressed-down blazer looks, colorful tones, shoulder pads, and colorful makeup. We can see its influence today in artists like Dua Lipa who reminisce about the era by dressing similarly to those in the show, or even in the New Jersey line for the Miami Heat which pulls its color palette from the tones of the era.

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Mariana Gamboa UM '24

 

Sophie Diebold UBC '24

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