Being away from campus over break made me worry I’d never see a proper outfit again.

Over spring break, I paid a visit to a best friend from home at her college, [REDACTED] University. I had never been to see her at her campus before, so I was very happy to do so and have the chance to cosplay as a [REDACTED] student for a long weekend. Now, while I’m sure you’re all just delighted to hear about my fun little trip full of characters none of you know, I bring it up because I realized something, people-watching on a bench with a dining hall smoothie on this [REDACTED] campus: no one dresses like Columbia and Barnard (Barnumbia, Bolumbia, Cumnard) students do.

I did not understand how spoiled I was; how spoiled we collectively are to be on a campus where everyone is so committed to the craft of wearing clothing. I sat there in the sun and watched these non-Columbia students walk around their non-New York campus in literally just pants and a shirt. Nondescript. Comfortable. Sneakers on their feet. Hair brushed but not manicured. I came away with many new understandings of the differences between Columbia and [REDACTED]—on average, we are shorter, nerdier, far more frequently vegetarian (and/or look like you would be vegetarian), and have access to far fewer cozy spaces on campus to just vibe than them—but nothing is quite as shocking as the difference in fashion average. 

I have never thought to appreciate it before, but the bar is so high at this school. Not just that—everyone meets and/or exceeds it. I have never looked at someone and thought, “Oh, that’s just an outfit.” We go beyond outfits. Beyond shirts and pants to Shirts and Pants. The hand-crocheted crop-tops; the vintage thrifted jeans; the DIY haircuts and hairstyles; the ankle-length coats; the layering dresses over what are full-on button-down shirts; the glasses even when you don’t actually need glasses. My own style is nothing to write home about—I pull on my little wide-leg corduroys, put on my silly smartwatch and other accessories, and, inevitably, a turtleneck—but I had no idea that while, in the fashion sense, I am but a humble Columbia four, I graduate up to at least a seven on any other damn college campus. And you know what? I’m a better person for it.

So thank you all. No matter how high-strung/overworked/under-rested/disillusioned you might be, at least you look hot while doing it.

Look at those outfits! from Bwarchives