Monochrome Streetwear to Brandy Melville: Thrifted Experimentation in Style of Mia Pao ’24

Layering a sleek white puffer jacket over a black sweater and pleated white skirt, Mia Pao ’24 fuses streetwear and schoolgirl styles with a striking monochrome aesthetic. A pair of dark tights, cozy leg warmerss, and Nikes complete her sharp look. Pao talks about the diverse and experimental nature of her fashion.

“A lot of it is influenced by my mom and by streetwear I just see, and the internet, a lot of it is Pinterest based, and my aesthetics are all over the place. Some days I’ll do streetwear, some days I like doing uniforms, Catholic school girl style stuff, and some days I like to do more basic, girly stuff. So I would say it’s really all over the place,” said Pao.

With uniforms enforced throughout middle school, Pao did not have many chances to develop a personal fashion sense before high school. When she came to Andover, Pao was able to experiment with many styles, from a pink Brandy Melville aesthetic to graphic T-Shirts and casual clothing inspired by her friends.

“Here [my style] has grown from [Junior] year. It was really Brandy Melville girl, and a lot of pink. I think the colors that I wear have changed a lot. Also what my friends are wearing, I copy them, but I think they’ve really influenced me too… I wouldn’t say I’ve had an unnatural progression with fashion, I think it’s just, for me, a part of growing up and expressing myself in a different way,” said Pao.

In addition to purchasing from brands like Urban Outfitters and Aritzia, Pao explained that many of her favorite pieces of clothing are from thrift stores. She first started thrifting when she found a race car jacket sweater while walking on the street in Tokyo and has enjoyed the unexpected surprises from thrift stores ever since.

“I love thrifting, because you never know what to expect…. Most of it will be stuff you don’t like, old people stuff or kids stuff or guy stuff or just stuff you don’t vibe with. But when you find a piece that you really like, it’s really exciting. And the fact that you know it’s somewhat unique and not sold in mass pieces, it makes it more personal or more interesting or more of an experience to me,” said Pao.

Other key components of Pao’s style are her signature necklace and bracelets that she wears everyday. In terms of color palettes, Pao usually focuses on dark and neutral shades such as black and gray. Recently, however, she has started to experiment with bright and pastel colors.

“I like dark monotone colors a lot, but recently, I’ve been getting more into brighter colors as well. A new favorite of mine currently is brown, still pretty dark and earthy, but I’m trying to get into more neon pastel colors. But for me, my favorites will always be black, white, gray, and brown,” said Pao.

Additionally, Pao typically finds inspiration from her style by scrolling through social media like Pinterest and Instagram. She also looks up to media personality Emma Chamberlain as a fashion role model. This helps her fashion to evolve and pushes her to try new pieces outside of her usual attire.

“[In] random photos that I see on Pinterest, based on my feed, I will love it and obviously it’s all different aesthetics, but I think all types of fashion are so cool and something I definitely want to try out, but I think just the internet for me is mostly where I get my ideas and influence from. Also, I’m from Hong Kong and I’m in Tokyo a lot, walking around…and seeing what the other teenagers wear is kind of how I got more into it, too,” said Pao.

As opposed to having a cohesive style, Pao describes her style as spontaneous attempts. Even so, she makes sure that each piece contributes to the overall aesthetic of her outfit. Although she is not sure what her style will look like in the future, she is open to experimenting with a wide range of styles.

“I would say my fashion is based on my mood, in a phrase. Like I said earlier, it’s really random. It’s really not cohesive. I feel like a lot of people have a very cohesive sense of fashion where when you see their outfits, it’s like, ‘oh, yeah, that makes sense for them’. But for me, it’s literally polar opposites some days, and it’s based on my mood,… Random but organized,” said Pao.