“So then, what do you study?” is a question that I have come to dread. I may be having an interesting conversation with the person I have just met, but as soon as I answer ‘fashion journalism’ the cloud descends. The cloud is a shadow that passes inadvertently across the face of the person I am talking to and that fogs their perception of me. I see myself reflected in their eyes and watch as my IQ drops.
“I study journalism,” is how I usually start, perhaps followed by a sheepish, “specialising in fashion.”
The raised eyebrows that follow are the telling sign. As soon as I add fashion I become an airhead.
I study fashion journalism because I find it interesting. Most of all I find people interesting, and despite the inaccessibility (and often absurdity) of catwalks and couture, fashion is one of the greatest unifiers. You might say you are not interested in clothes, but you still wear them. I am interested in the business of fashion: it is a huge industry that affects so many people and generates huge amounts of wealth (and equally destruction). I am interested in the history of fashion, its social context and how it acts as a barometer of the times. I am interested in the psychology of clothes, and how what we wear affects how we feel and how people treat us.
Although I enjoy talking about and sharing what I do, sometimes I wish I didn’t have to justify myself. The sheepishness with which I talk about my course is so at odds with the way I talk about other things when I meet someone for the first time that it is not a true reflection of who I am: I am a confident, independent woman and I love meeting new people. But that is the point: I may feel the need to define my course, but it doesn’t define me. And it certainly doesn’t make me the stereotype that I know so many people see when I tell them what I do.
Today I well and truly let down the fashionista stereotype by tucking into a 12 inch pizza for my lunch. I may study fashion, but I would rather spend my money on pizza than shoes. There are so many sides to me that have nothing to do with my degree and that are at odds with perceptions of a fashion student. I study fashion journalism but I like books and burgers and baking, and I have more opinions than I have handbags.