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October Issue: Cross Culture Closet

An inside look at the unique style, clothing, and fashion choices of one Chinese exchange student at OSU.

By: Morgan Bennett

Fashion is a universal force that is used as a way for individuals to express themselves. Certain garments and particular outfits feed confidence and can you help present a version of yourself you desire. A mechanism of expression, the clothes you slip in to become tools of self-presentation. Before words are spoken, people use the appearance of others as a guide for judgment. Using previous encounters with individuals of similar fashion choices causes us to place the person of judgment into a category and guess what they might be like and how they may act, all according to the category we classify them under. The tricky part about these predetermined categories is that they not only differ from person to person, but they can be vastly contrasting across cultures.

Differing factors stem from each culture's unique set of values, traditional dress and their sentiment toward fashion. In our modern world, style inspiration is constantly spreading through the internet, creating a more homogeneous groove in the spectrum of fashion. Yet, there is still much to unpack when comparing fashion across cultures. To grasp a better understanding of the similarities and differences of fashion across the world, I asked Maggie Bao, an international student Oklahoma State, to share her fashion journey from the Sichuan Province, China to the small town of Stillwater, Oklahoma.

What is fashion to you?

"To me, fashion is not limited. It's cool that you can wear whatever you like and choose anything that makes you feel confident and makes your day better. Fashion is important because it makes me feel good and represents a style for myself."

What role does fashion play in your life?

"You must realize that you and I are not a servant to clothing, clothing is our servant. We can wear certain clothes as a way to service our mood and make us feel a type of way. This relationship with clothing to me is fashion; its an interesting way of using clothes to serve your style and express how you feel inside."

How do you use clothes to express yourself?

"I use style to express feelings. The way you dress can represent a mood or feeling about the day or events that recently happened to you. So if I am feeling happy and confident I usually wear bright colors, but if events that make me sad occur I wear darker colors, usually black in response to my emotion. Some clothing can make you happy while other times it makes you unhappy."

How would you describe your personal style?

"First of all, everyone needs to figure out their personality and then find what style is suitable for that. I am a pretty outgoing person; optimistic and talkative, and my style represents that. I use colors to portray personality, so when I'm feeling fun I wear colors like pink, purple, blue, and yellow to show how I am feeling."

What are some of your favorite pieces?

"My go-to is white t-shirts with logos that can pair with other things. My over-sized denim jacket is my favorite because it is so versatile. I also love all sorts of weird shirts because they can be formal or informal depending on how you dress it."

What are the major style differences in Stillwater compared to your home?

"Dress here is more comfortable. At home, it's abnormal to dress as comfortably, so it's hard for me to pick outfits for school here because it is much different from what I would have worn to school in Beijing."

How does Chinese culture impact the way you dress?

"In China, dressing style is much more conservative; we are cautious about how much we are wearing and how much we are not, so options can be limited. Business dress is very particular. For work, suit bottom and tops are typically black and worn with a white undershirt or blouse, and there are different kinds of suits made for different jobs; much different than here. The cultural background affects our fashion, but we are slowly changing. What I really want is people to ignore what others think and dress how they want."

Whether you're from a small town in Oklahoma, China or anywhere in between, clothing is a unanimous tool used in the act of self-expression. No matter your own styling choices, we can appreciate those styles that are different from our own and learn to forego assumptions— instead, be open to the person underneath the presentation of fashion.

Photos by: Whitney Whitmore


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