United for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity and Sweater Vests as Tank Tops co-sponsored a dialogue-based event March 23 to discuss pressures students may feel to dress a particular way at the University.
Devin Rossin, second-year College student and outreach chair for UFUSED, said the event — called “Heard it Through the Vineyard Vine” — was formally organized when SVATT approached UFUSED with the proposition to host an event focused on fashion inclusivity at the University.
“U.Va. has a particularly homogenous fashion culture which excludes people from a lower socioeconomic bracket,” Rossin said. “We want to talk more about the clothes we wear and the norms we have and the homogeneity of the whole culture we have here as well.”
Shota Ono, Third-year Engineering student and SVATT founder, said the organization is heavily concerned with encouraging students to branch out and express themselves however they choose, with a humorous undertone.
“We try to challenge and subvert the fashion homogeneity at U.Va. by wearing sweater vests as tank tops to encourage people to wear what they want and not be afraid to be judged,” Ono said.
Ono said he believes it is important to consider the way norms in appearance may influence incoming students and how they choose to interact in the University community.
“For what it’s worth, I really enjoyed being a part of SVATT — a club that started and no one knew about it or thought anything about it,” Ono said. “Getting involved at U.Va. doesn't mean getting involved in big name organizations, and in fact, maybe it should never mean that.”
To kick off the event, three student speakers from UFUSED and SVATT spoke about their personal experience transitioning and assimilating to the University’s culture from high school. They discussed how their individual socioeconomic backgrounds influenced their take on the University student body’s sense of homogeneity.
For the second half of the event, attendees were encouraged to participate in a dialogue and share their own stances regarding fashion at the University and feelings of inclusion.
Attendees discussed the prevalence of major brands and pieces of clothing among students on Grounds, like Jack Rogers sandals, Barbour Jackets and Vineyard Vines T-shirts.
Dialogues then prompted students to debate how much they judge others by appearance and clothing, how much they consider their own socioeconomic status in comparison to others and in what ways their style is a reflection of self.
Fourth-year College student Kaitlin Mackie, an attendee, said she came to the event because she thinks it’s valuable to hear the personal stories and consider how students might internalize the standards set by clothing fads or fashions.
“I think that it is interesting to have a conversation about clothing stereotypes at U.Va. and elsewhere and how that becomes a look at the different socioeconomic associations people have with the typical U.Va. student — how that makes people feel like they’re on the fringe or the outside of the community,” Mackie said.