Maria Valencia is a junior in the School of Communication majoring in Radio/Television/Film and Anthropology and pursuing the Integrated Marketing Communications certificate.
Responses have been edited for clarity.
What are you involved in on campus?
This is a complex question for me right now. My involvement on campus has fluctuated a lot recently. I used to be part of so many student organizations but, this year, I have decided to allow myself not to be overwhelmed. Currently, I am part of the multimedia team for STITCH and I write for Sherman Ave (it's been a while since my last article, oops). I was also co-president of Multicultural Filmmakers Collective up until we had leadership transitions this May. This quarter, I have been interning full-time as part of CFS, so I have felt somewhat disconnected from campus. I am going to be a PA for the class of 2023, so training for that has been a big part of my spring quarter too.
Could you describe your personal style?
I would describe my style as eclectic, I guess. It changes a lot because there's so much variety of colors, textures, patterns, and just pieces in general in my closet. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure out what I want to wear, and sometimes it feels like I woke up feeling a certain way, and my outfit practically chooses itself. I think something that's always consistent is I am attracted to romantic (or "feminine/girly") pieces.
How does your cultural background play into your style?
I was born and raised in Cali, Colombia, lived there until I graduated from high school, and I had to come all the way here to understand how my cultural background affects my style — and literally everything else about me. My personal conception of Colombian fashion is there is something bright, happy, and traditionally "feminine" about it. I love incorporating pieces that embody that conception into what I wear.
Moving to Evanston has also made me realize how weather plays a vital role in my style. Cali is hot and humid. Going outside at noon feels like you could just put your hand up and touch the sun. The heat is almost oppressive, and I used to complain about it, but now I love it and miss it so much. The weather in Chicago is so unfortunate, in my opinion, and having to wear a huge winter coat makes me feel uninspired. I'm not used to the cold at all, and I hate having to think about not freezing before I can even consider doing anything fun with what I am wearing. As a Caleña, I guess summer fashion trends have always been a part of my daily life. Maybe this is just a complicated way of saying I don't like wearing too many clothes!
Colombia is also a country that's full of contrasts and contradictions. What Colombia is in 2019 is due to a very complicated history which resulted in the merging of contrasting cultures. Unfortunately, our history also makes us aspire to follow European/US standards, so a lot of what we wear is influenced by that for sure.
How did you figure your style out; what was your style journey and how did you settle on what you wear now?
I think my style changes as I grow, but at the same time, some of the things I like have remained the same or similar. In middle school, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with Tavi Gevinson and all things that resembled fashion trends of the 60s and 70s. My school back home was such an interesting place, and it affected my style for sure. We didn't have a uniform (which is rare in Colombia), but there was this sort of unofficial uniform that consisted of skinny jeans and polyester blouses. Literally, just by wearing a skirt to school, you were fashion-forward. I was the girl who was wearing weird shit, but it wasn't anything special, it was just not skinny jeans. In high school, I became a little more basic and had an "Okay, but first coffee" t-shirt and wanted everything from Brandy Melville. Now in college, I feel more comfortable exploring my personal style, even though I still feel like I am figuring it out. At the same time, it's weird to explore my personal style in the age of Instagram, because I am aware of how influenced I am by social media trends.
Do you think your family has influenced your style at all? What did you know about style growing up and did they influence anything about what you wear?
Definitely! My mom has always been a part of my style journey. I remember getting dressed when I was younger was a collaborative effort between her and me. She has such an amazing sense of style, and she's also very creative and resourceful in a way that I am not. Something that has always impressed me is how I can show her an outfit I like from some Instagram account or article, and she's so good at recreating it with pieces I already have in such a creative way. This is hard to describe, but it's almost like she understands the essence behind an outfit and knows how to incorporate that essence and tweak it to make it more personal.
I think clothes and style have created a strong bond between my mom and me. Growing up, she would use words such as "unique," "weird," and "different" to describe an outfit we had successfully put together. These words now feel very encouraging to me and replace "beautiful" or any other word like that.
Honestly, my mom should be a stylist. Sometimes I think she knows my own style better than I do.
Do you think fashion to you is a form of individuality?
Yes! I think it's so cool that we all have to choose what to wear every day before we go out into ~society~. The decisions we make say something about us, our background, mood, lifestyle, tastes, influences, etc. I think the way we portray ourselves to the rest of the world is a form of communication, even when we're not entirely sure of what we're saying because that does not stop other people from reading into the way we look.