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Jae Rhim Lee (left) of MIT’s Visual Arts Department speaks with bystanders at the Seamless Fashion Show, which showcased wearable technology. Lee’s suit was impregnated with mushroom spores designed to break down harmful artificial substances in the human body after burial, preventing them from leaching into the environment.
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Hi everyone! We’d like to introduce ourselves. We’re the staff of Figuring out Fashion here at The Tech, and our job is to do what you wish you had time to do yourself. We will research, shop, try new things, ask experts, and decide how you can look and feel your best every day. For our inaugural article, we wanted to look into the role fashion plays at MIT, what is unique and cool, and what we can all work on!

Since your issues are our issues, we asked some of our classmates to comment on what fashion meant to them.

“It’s a way to make a good first impression and represent yourself well everyday,” said Thomas M. Ciesielski ’11. Jeremias Szust ’11 thought it meant, “hot women in Victoria’s Secret.”

Yet everyone agreed on MIT’s overall style sense. “The style here is eclectic,” said Wen Y. Tang ’10. Trace U. Sauter ’11 agreed: “It depends on what group you hang out with.”

So what comes to mind when you think MIT fashion? MIT sweatshirts, free T-shirts from the career fair, blue hair, cargo pants? Or perhaps you see high heels, suit jackets, and pearls? You’re right! That’s the beauty of MIT: it houses all the extremes and everyone in between.

One way to see this is to just walk around on campus; The sheer variety of clothing that people are wearing is stunning. Another way is to look at the fashion-related events that happen on campus, or are tied to MIT. The Network of Sloan Undergraduate Women’s business wear fashion show highlights Sloan’s fashion influence, and the professional side of all MIT students and graduates. Kappa Alpha Theta’s KATwalk showcases eclectic, trendy clothes from local boutiques.

In contrast, off campus shows like the Seamless Fashion Show, held in the Museum of Science, highlight the technological slant of the school by incorporating engineering marvels into beautiful clothes. The Seamless Fashion Show takes the Star Simpson concept to a whole new level of intricacy and beauty; this year’s show featured clothes with LED displays that changed when two wearers held hands, and a dress that fit five women at once and could be converted into a tent.

According to Amanda J. Parkes G, “there has long been a schism between what’s considered ‘couture’ by the high fashion set and Star Trek-inspired ‘wearable electronics’.” Parkes, who both designed a unique garment, which generates power using energy from human movement and was one of the producers of the show, said the goal of Seamless is to bridge that gap.

“I want technology to become another tool for designers,” she said. “It’s funny, people have this idea that garment construction is a very feminine, comfortable craft when it’s in fact highly technical in practice … MIT doesn’t offer any classes in sewing, but I encourage everyone to play around at least with mixing and matching store bought clothes and digging through cheap stores and stalls to find cool pieces. With just a good eye, you can definitely get cheap, creative outfits!”

Even our student commentators agreed that MIT students excel in some areas of being stylish. “We’re savvy,” said Szust. “We know how to take care of ourselves.” Sauter and Ciesielski agreed that at MIT, people tend to care a great deal about their health. Obviously, there is no lack of fashion here, and people are trying to look great (any many times succeeding). It’s clear, however, that there is a lot more that can be done. The tough schedules and heavy problem set loads make it impossible to put more than a few minutes of effort into choosing clothes and accessories in the morning, and make moisturizing, haircuts, and daily meditation a mere figment of our dreams.

There also seem to be some underlying social issues. Tang said, “people really need to work on their leadership and communication skills.” Ciesielski mentioned that, “not being awkward,” would improve many students. Not to worry, however. We’re in the same boat as you all are! We’re a bit awkward, extremely busy, and still have that desire to do it all with the stylish ease that some have (and we envy). We plan to travel around Boston, seek out tips and tricks that will making looking great easier every week, and try our hand at Figuring out Fashion! After all, if we can do our psets, why not this? We hope you’ll stick with us to enjoy the ride!

Until next week,

Manisha Padi and Ying Yang

Suggestions or comments about fashion at MIT? E-mail fashion@tech.mit.edu.