Julia Zell ’15 Pushes Boundaries Through Art and Fashion

After a week of anxiety, Julia Zell ’15, a four-year Senior from New York, NY, finally pierced her lower lip. Although she took out the piercing three days later, Zell managed to get her desired message across.

“I liked the publicity and controversy that it brought,” said Zell. “People began to call me different names… for getting the piercing, [including my family]. I ended up having conversations with them that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. That wasn’t the reason I took it out, though. Having a piece of metal rubbing on my gum and teeth drove me insane.”

Zell’s piercing is only one of her many fashion statements. Her style is unpredictable; rather than planning her outfits in advance, she chooses them based on her mood in the morning.

However, Zell does have one outfit that she wears every Monday. Her “Monday shirt” features a cat surrounded by psychedelic rainbows.

“Wearing my cat shirt on Mondays gives me an extra sense of comfort and protection, especially after a rough Sunday night,” said Zell. “It gives me a little extra [push] to get me through the day. Plus, it’s a great way to make people smile. Actually, a bunch of people were wearing the shirt for Halloween, and I was like, ‘I wear that all the time, but not for Halloween purposes.’”

For most of her life, Zell had little interest in fashion. Over the course of her four years at Andover, however, her style has transformed from conservative and quiet to daring and bold. She crafts her distinctive wardrobe from a variety of sources including thrift shops, online Chinese boutiques and Walmart.

“During my freshman year, I wore jeans and a sweatshirt every day, because I was scared of expressing myself,” said Zell. “But the next summer, I just stopped caring what people thought of me and blossomed. When I put on my clothes, I don’t worry about the kind of reaction I’m going to get.”

Wearing a black sweater, maroon shirt, black skirt, patterned tights and boots, Zell manages to put together a look that is daring yet fashionable. She completes the ensemble with two braids and black lipstick.

Zell has noticed that her changing fashion sense has influenced her work as a visual artist as well.

“I started doing a lot more art about political and social issues and also started working with gender norms and expectations a lot more, so I guess I try to defy those with what I wear,” said Zell.

Her thrifty outfits attract the attention of many other students around campus.

“[Zell’s fashion sense] is really classic and eclectic,” said Auguste White ’17, who sings in Azure, Andover’s female a capella group, with Zell. “One of my personal favorite [outfits] is her shift dress with a picture of a wolf howling at the moon. She is incredibly individual, and she definitely subscribes to her own style.”