From the tip of her signature beanie down to the bottoms of her classic brown boots, Carolyn Dundes ’17 sure is spiffy. Dundes, a junior from the Bay area, sat down with The Argus to talk about saying good-bye to dresses for good, splurging on nerdy Christmas bowties, and styling outside the gender binary.
The Argus: Describe your personal style in three to five words.
Carolyn Dundes: Comfortable, dapper, and queer.
A: To what extent are you interested in fashion?
CD: I really don’t give a shit. I don’t follow fashion. Never have. But obviously everything you wear follows some trend, to a certain extent.
A: What’s an article of clothing you couldn’t live without?
CD: Just a simple V-neck T-shirt.
A: In what color?
CD: Gray. It goes with everything.
A: How do you get dressed in the morning?
CD: Typically, I just grab what’s on top.
A: So you’re comfortable wearing any combination of your items of clothing?
CD: Well, typically my clothes all follow the same color palette, so they most of the time go together. Obviously I wouldn’t wear formal stuff on a school day.
A: How has your style changed since coming to college?
CD: I mean, I don’t know if it’s symbolic that the last dress I wore was for my high school graduation. I can’t see myself ever wearing a dress again (sorry, Dad).
It’s definitely a lot more reflective of my gender expression. I’m more comfortable in my gender expression, so I feel like the outside matches the inside better—so more menswear items, button-downs. I pretty much exclusively shop in the men’s section of stores now, which I never did, really, before college. I’ve definitely discovered the art of the bowtie.
A: How else has your gender identity influenced your stylistic choices?
CD: I think that fashion has allowed me to explore my gender identity in ways that I wasn’t able to previously. What I’ve found is that I feel more comfortable in “men’s” clothes than “women’s” clothes. So recognizing the queerness of gender identity has allowed me to reject imposed fashion standards.
A: Where do you get your bowties?
CD: I’ve gotten them from thrift stores, from department stores, from online handmade places, and as gifts.
A: Do you like ones in fun colors and patterns?
CD: I do have my eye on a Christmas bowtie. It’s red and green. And it’s nerdy, because it has the [chemical symbol for the] element holmium [on it], because the symbol is Ho. So it’s red and green, checkered, and it says, “Ho, ho, ho.” It’s so nerdy, and I’m planning on buying it for myself for the holidays.
A: Are you totally comfortable shopping in the men’s department?
CD: I’ve actually had some homophobic experiences, and some that were transphobic experiences—even though I don’t identify as trans*—in the men’s section of stores. It was pretty hard to deal with at the time, but now it’s just something that’s unfortunately part of the gig right now.
A: How would you define style at Wesleyan in general?
CD: I think that for the most part people feel very free to wear whatever they want. But it can range from whether they want to be comfortable that day or whether they want to be fierce—and people can do that. I don’t think there are as many forced expectations. Of course in the winter you see the Uggs, and the Lululemons, and the Canada Goose. But those are people who make the choice to do that, not really because they feel they have to.
A: Are there any trends here you can’t stand?
CD: I mean, when I see trends that I might have an averse reaction to, it’s because I could never see myself wearing that. Because I’d never tell anyone else what they should or shouldn’t wear, as long as it’s not directly hurting someone else’s culture or lifestyle.
A: What’s your favorite season to dress for?
CD: Fall. Beanie weather.
A: Tell me about your beanies.
CD: I probably have about eight beanies, so it’s a tiny collection. They range from fun things—I have a TARDIS beanie that was given to me by my roommate freshman year—to just a simple black beanie. It’s great because they’re very stylish, but also if I don’t want to comb my hair in the morning, I can just throw it into a beanie. And it’ll keep my head warm.
A: Who do you draw inspiration from on campus?
CD: Well, another thing that changed when I came to college was that I got a side-cut in the spring of my freshman year. So in feeling more free to express myself with clothes, I wanted to do something with my hair, because that’s part of the style for sure. There was a junior at the time, and she had an amazing side-cut, so I was like, “I’m going to do it.” I was really inspired by her. She ended up giving me the side-cut on the porch of Womanist House.
A: What about outside of Wesleyan? Any icons?
CD: Not really. Sometimes I’ll be on Tumblr, or reading Autostraddle, and be like, “Damn, that’s some cool queer style.” But no one by name.
A: How do you accessorize?
CD: Scarves. Beanies. Occasionally I wear earrings, but I wear them so infrequently that people forget I have my ears pierced. Sometimes I’ll put on a necklace, but you can’t wear a necklace and a bowtie, unless it’s underneath.
A: Do you want to look effortless or put together?
CD: There are definitely times that I look in the mirror and think, “I look like I tried too hard,” and I’ll change something. I don’t want to look like something out of a magazine. That’s just not me. If you know me, I’m pretty laid back.
That’s a lie. I don’t know. I’m all over the place with who I am. So I guess I just try to not look like a mess.
I definitely don’t think too much about looking put together on a daily basis. Because I’m just studying today, I threw on a hoodie. But when I go to a formal event, I want to put on a bowtie and look dapper. I want people to look at me and think, “She’s got her shit together.”