Wearing a white oxford shirt and khaki pants, Karissa Kang ’17 complements her outfit with a corduroy jacket and a slim, knit green and cream-striped tie. She also sports her everyday shoes: tan, pebble grain oxfords. To complete the look, Kang accessorizes with a matching, green-striped, ribbon-banded watch.
“There’s stereotypes for the masculine woman… wearing a white ‘wife-beater’ tank top with cargo shorts. I’ve always tried to separate myself from that image, wearing clothes that really fit well and are of nice quality. And in that way, I’ve been creating this image of myself as so separate from… [that] identity that I’m often stuffed into,” said Kang.
Since she was little, Kang has prefered menswear to traditionally feminine or androgynous clothing, with her closet consisting mostly of button-down shirts, khakis and oxford shoes. As a queer woman, Kang hopes to legitimize her identity and gain respect through her fashion style.
“I’m not trying to assert myself as better than other people. I think the point [of my style is] that I like looking professional. I like looking quirky. I like not drawing attention to myself in a negative way, but drawing attention to myself as a respectable being,” said Kang.
Kang describes her style as that of an “old man” with hints of “old-school Ivy League preppiness.” Although she compares her clothing to that of a dad’s, Kang actually dresses completely differently than her own father, who often wears skinny jeans, T-shirts and Vans shoes.
“I think I was trying to be the antithesis of my father when I started dressing the way I did. It was also a way for me to assert some kind of masculinity and power over my life, which I didn’t feel like I had as a child,” Kang said. “And I like looking clean. I like looking respectable because then people do, in fact, respect me. It’s incredible.”
Kang draws inspiration from classic preppy icons such as director Wes Anderson.
“My favorite type of jacket is corduroy, usually a sort of like caramel-ish color, favored by Wes Anderson, who [also] loves corduroy. He does an excellent job of wearing blazers and ties and dress shoes, but he does so in the way that it’s obvious he does it not because that he has to, but because he wants to,” said Kang.
Kang’s friends say that her style reflects her personality and character.
“Karissa dresses in a very clean-cut, classic way, but with little twists, like a bowtie or cute sweaters,” said Zöe Sottile ’17. “This reflects a lot about her. She’s in some ways a very traditional person, but only because she wants to. She stays true to her own course above all.”