Standing Out in Style - Rabble Media
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Standing Out in Style

Sep 03, 2020
Art

The term “back-to-school” can invoke a variety of reactions. It can mean dreaded 10-page papers, the mysterious classroom carpet stains and the seemingly endless struggle of trying to maneuver through flocks of conversing freshmen. Or, it can stand high, gleaming at the end of the tunnel, as a gateway to surprising everyone with a completely new look, a new you.

Yet, school in general has been known for its sidelong glances and open judgements based on physical appearances. It’s not uncommon when passing others in the hallways that the thought of, “Oh my gosh, what was I thinking when I got dressed?” sits in students’ heads.

The vicious tearing down of self-esteem by others unfortunately has become a daily occurrence in the school environment. It forces some to constrict how they carry themselves every day — mentally and visually.

Turning against the hormonal backpacked critics, some individuals find power within the muttered opinions of others. Instead of falling under the pressure of desired gratification and validation from fellow class members, they’ve grasped the true definition of “self-expression.” With pride for who they are, these four individuals have defied high school through their clothing and bold styles.

✰Amber Nicole Wolfe✰

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Within her self-discovery, 20-year-old Amber Nicole Wolfe found a new means of escape to help her come to terms with a recent adjustment. Wolfe gravitated to the therapeutic haven of thrift shopping and developing her own individual style. At 17, her view on life quickly changed with the mention of a single word.

“The summer after my junior year of high school, I learned that I was autistic, and I went through what is called ‘autistic burnout,’ which I didn’t know at the time,” Wolfe says. “I just went to this music festival and had what I now know as ‘sensory overload.’ I was basically in the hospital all summer. I ended up just going to thrift stores because I didn’t have to talk to anybody. I could zone out and find clothes that made me feel good about myself while I still felt so bad in every other aspect.”

When she lost sense of who she was, Wolfe used clothing to fight against the negative thoughts from her diagnosis. From the frequent thrift store visits, she formed a style that offered a feeling of ease and creative freedom. High-waisted jeans, platform shoes, T-shirts with peculiar phrases and kitschy dresses became staples in her closet.

“I found comfort in the way that I dressed,” Wolfe says. “Advice for any situation would be to always be confident in yourself. When you do start dressing out of the norm, I think it’s important to really, really love your outfit, especially when you leave your house. Learn to love yourself so you can always feel that way.”

Now an employee at Scout: Dry Goods & Trade—a vintage resale store in Omaha—Wolfe has joined a community that is accepting and aware of what she needs. This includes warnings before any certain noises and allowing time to calm down in the back of the store.

In addition to her ever-changing style through the years, Wolfe’s relationship with herself evolved into a connection of love and self-confidence. Through wearing unique and thrifted outfits, even enduring the comments and name-calling during high school, she has learned how to love herself.

“I have had to find my own acceptance within myself. I didn’t let myself find comfort in it until the word [autistic] sank into myself,” Wolfe says. “I started researching and finding other people online who were autistic as well. That’s when my life really changed. I am so happy that I know and am proud of that label because that’s who I am.”

✰Aimee Correa✰

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Rooted in balance between heritage and individual interests, 16-year-old Aimee Correa, of Afro-Puerto Rican descent, has been able to show pride for her background, not only through clothing, but from another physical aspect too.

“Being half-black, my hair has always been a big thing for me,” Correa says. “When I was younger, my hair was always something I would try to tame all the time. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized, whether I’m wearing braids, dreads, natural, straight, or a weave, it always changes my mood. I think that’s so fun.”

In her sophomore year at Papillion-La Vista South, Correa found a signature look by displaying a variety of color combinations, such as maroon with red, and purple with black, in her dreads. When switching it up, she often color coordinated her style with the pops of color in her hair, which also came with some difficulty. Outfits were easy to formulate at first, but as the days went by, the options became limited.

“I did primary colored hair, and primary colors are very promi- nent, but they don’t always match every little thing. It felt weird to wear pink or green,” Correa says. “After a while, you get over it and realize some of the things look a lot better than what you are conscious of.”

Residing in a mainly white suburb in Papillion, Correa said she has faced harsh judgments toward her appearance, especially surrounded by other students her age.

“Living in white neighborhoods my whole entire life wasn’t easy,” Correa says. “What people say is the least important thing. How you feel is what’s important. I’ve gotten, ‘Oh, is that horsehair? How do you wash your hair? Isn’t it gross to have another person’s hair on your head?” Correa says. “I can’t make people’s ignorance my problem, because if I do, I’ll just be burdened with it all the time.”

Hoping to be an example for other high schoolers who express themselves by their hair, Correa says she lives by never giving up on wanting to feel good in her own skin, even if some days are harder than others.

“Experimenting is great. If you hate a hairstyle, then change it next week,” Correa says. “It’s very beneficial to do as much as you can to find out what you really do enjoy. That’s not even just for clothing. That goes for the overarching theme of life.”

✰Mitchell Henderson✰

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From attending a private Catholic high school to attending a prestigious fashion school in New York City, Mitchell Henderson has shown that a devotion to one’s passion can take you far. Henderson, a graduate from Creighton Prep in 2017, developed his own way to push the boundaries set by strict high school uniform guidelines.

“I tried to push the boundaries where I could,” Henderson says. “You did have to wear a collared shirt and khaki pants. I wore skinny khakis with combat boots for more of an edgier and grungier feel, which I would pair with an oversized button- up to give myself some contrasting volume.”

Once he started to experiment with his outfits, Henderson felt drawn to the world of fashion. At the age of 15, he began to search for different outlets around Omaha through which to express his eclectic style and fashion skills. He signed onto Develop Model Management and had a collection in Omaha Fashion Week alongside other young designers at the age of 17.

“That was kind of a trial and error process because I had just started sewing at that point,” Henderson says. “I applied for fashion week, I got in, and at that moment I was like, ‘Oh, crap. Now I really have to produce 10 garments.’ But that’s exactly what I needed in order to push myself to do what I wanted.”

As a high school student learning to sew during free period to producing three full collections at Omaha Fashion Week, Henderson began looking forward by applying to schools across the country and landed a spot at the Fashion Institute of Technology. In the new environment, he noticed the increase of competition between younger artists.

“In Omaha, it was really great because the community really fosters young growth and pushes you to try new things. Even if you’re not spectacular at it, they want to help you grow with that. In New York, you’re already expected to be something because you’re competing against hundreds, if not thousands, of other designers for jobs and opportunities.” Henderson says.

While at FIT, he witnessed the presence of original and eccentric styles both on the street and in the classroom.

“It’s just really cool to be able to be in an environment that really cares and encourages uniqueness out there,” Henderson says. “No matter what you wear in New York, no one is going to give you a second look. You can wear the craziest outfit, and nobody is going to approach you or say anything negative to you.”

Even in the heavily populated city, Henderson was able to use his Nebraskan roots by establishing connections with Omaha native designers such as Kate Walls. These relations led him to secure a position with a sustainable fashion upstart called Querencia
Studio. He is now the associate designer.

Through immersing himself in the rapid New York life, Henderson continues to build his own foundation in America’s fashion capital. By walking on the streets and in the classroom, he sees others expressing themselves through clothing every day.

“Fashion is really something you can portray as whatever you want it to be. Don’t limit yourself to gender assigned clothing,” Henderson says. “Wear whatever you want to wear. There’s no issue with shopping in the men’s section or the women’s section
or wearing androgynous clothing. Don’t be afraid to stand out. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

✰Matt Hansen✰

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With a spontaneous time step and a carried vibrato, 19-yearold Matt Hansen has fully embraced the evolution of his image. Finishing up his freshman year at Lindenwood University in St. Louis, where he majors in musical theatre and minors in dance, he has found the style that fits him: a collection of fashion no-no’s done right.

Clashing patterns. Graphic tees with witty phrases. Visible tube socks with a slight flair. An occasional flash of a tie to make the look complete. Hansen has found his niche in the balance of practicality and vintage hidden gems.

His personal journey with self-image and style began at a peri- od of constant questioning and feeling ultimately foreign in his own skin. His life was built with a predetermined view on the world resulting in a youth spent with an outward appear- ance and character he didn’t feel comfortable in.

“It was a part of my life where I hated myself. I didn’t like myself in my own skin,” Hansen says. “My upbringing and the people around me were like a humble middle finger.”

He says each day he sported a default look consisting of a plain Old Navy sweatshirt and simple denim jeans. At school, the look was lost in the crowd of students who wore variations of the same outfit.

The constant mask he wore to fit in eventually found its way to the forgotten corner of the closet no one dares to delve into when Hansen stepped into his version of cheap heaven.

“Somebody wanted to go into a thrift store, and I literally found this ugly sweater, and I was like, ‘This is it. I need this,’” Hansen says. “I found out funkier things were better for
me.”

A love for good deals on second-hand treasures overcame Hansen as he began to build his own collection of vintage and wacky pieces. He snatched “ugly” oversized “dad” sweaters, quirky button- ups, and oversized worn jackets.

As the years of high school went by, Hansen found himself exploring the various depths of his constantly evolving style. Actively a part of the theatre department at Papillion-La Vista South, his close friends encouraged Hansen to grasp his true identity with support and open arms. The group gave Hansen a safe and judgment-free space where he could genuinely convey his preference to stand out.

“My best piece of advice is to just stay true to you, and if [your family] doesn’t accept you, you know there are people who will accept you,” he says. “Family doesn’t always have to be blood.”

Hansen’s story of self love and exploration of fashion has come full circle with hopes of transitioning his vintage Depop business — named “A Flood of Sunshine” — to a physical establishment. What once seemed to be a brisk stop in a brick and mortar thrift store turned out to be the spark for a deep appreciation for staying true to himself.

“I want to be different, I don’t want to be the pretty cookie
cutter house.” Hansen says.

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