Sophomore Hannah Petersen when dressed for this year’s Valentine’s Day, she wears a pink dress with red hearts and neon pink eyeliner. She is one example of the way students break out of the traditional clothing expectation. Photos courtesy of Hannah Peterson
Many students said they believe college allows them the chance to experiment away from the expectations of parents and the environments they grew up in. One of the many ways Pepperdine students experiment is with uniquely curated outfits, precise colorful eyeliner and bright hair colors.
“The environment I grew up in was very conservative,” sophomore Hannah Petersen said. “Both at school and at home, they allowed self expression as long as it agreed with what they thought. So after exiting high school and entering college, it was like, ‘Wow, there’s so much freedom.’ I don’t have to answer questions about why I choose certain colors, patterns or levels of midriff showing.”
Petersen, who has always experimented with her makeup and style of dress, said college finally gave her the excuse to dress and look how she wanted. While she doesn’t identify with any particular subculture, she said she is very inspired by TikTok and makeup influencers. Her style uses a lot of bright colors, patterns and fun eyeliner that matches the colors of her clothes.
Petersen said it can sometimes be hard to dress non-traditionally. Despite the support she receives from her roommates and friends, Petersen said many people treat her differently because of her style of dress.
“There is a very popular demographic within Pepperdine, if you don’t necessarily fall into it, it can be really hard to find acceptance,” Petersen said. “If I do my makeup darker and heavier I tend to get less receptive responses. But if I do something more colorful, experimental or feminine I get a lot of compliments, but it really does depend who I talk and interact with.”
As a feminine person studying Sports Medicine and planning to attend medical school, Petersen said a lot of people are surprised by the way she dresses. A big struggle from this year has been learning how to express herself and feel good about herself, while also presenting as professional and being accepted by her department.
Junior Anna Skupin identifies as goth and also plans on going to medical school after undergrad.
She also agreed with Petersen’s struggle with femininity and professionalism.
“Dressing feminine in STEM is just this whole big thing,” Skupin said. “You’re expected to keep your head down, focus on your work and if you have any personal style you’re out the window, you and your work aren’t valid.”
Skupin’s experience in alternative fashion has been very different than Petersen’s. She said she always gravitated toward darker aesthetics. It wasn’t until she was doing classes remotely and seeing the rise of alternative styles like the E-Girl and gothic-inspired outfits on both TikTok and her friends that she decided to embrace the style fully.
Skupin said her experience at Pepperdine has felt accepting of her fashion choices, but she also cites that her decision to study Psychology as being the main reason for that.
“Nobody’s gonna make fun of you in the field of psychology,” Skupin said. “When you dress differently, you do stand out here because so many people wear just jeans and a T-shirt. But I think people appreciate the variety.”
Both students offered similar advice to others interested in experimenting with their fashion. They suggested starting small with one piece of clothing and seeing how it makes them feel and how the people around them react. If the reactions and feelings are positive, continue to add pieces that nurture those feelings.
Additionally, both Petersen and Skupin encouraged people to be themselves and dress however they want.
“More variety in clothes and alternative fashion styles is good for everyone.” Skupin said. “You can be free to finally express yourself the way you want to and wear things that are flattering and make you feel comfortable and confident. Just go for it, don’t be afraid to buy alternative clothes you like because you might end up discovering something new to incorporate in your daily style.”
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