Name-Brand Culture Comes With a Cost

by The Cowl Editor on September 20, 2018


Photo of girls at golf party wearing Lilly Pulitzer dresses.
Female students feel compelled to wear Lilly Pulitzer patterns in order to attend golf party. Photo courtesy of Paige Delago ’19.

by Elizabeth McGinn ’21

Opinion Staff

It is 11 a.m. on a Saturday in September. Girls stroll by in flashes of neon pinks, blues, greens, and whites, arranged in nautical or animal print dresses or skirts, paired with Jack Rogers sandals. Guys don tee-shirts embossed with a smiling whale and matching bold-colored Bermuda shorts. 

Today is Golf Party. 

Lilly Pulitzer dominates the fashion scene of Golf Party, and it is easy to see why: in addition to fitting the “golf” theme, the outfits are vivid, eye-catching, and perfect for an Instagram post. 

Instantly recognizable, anyone with a slight idea of campus fashion can immediately spot a Lilly—or a fake. 

The desire to fit into the image of the preppy collegiate student can be overwhelming, and the cost might just break the bank.

So why is the cost of conformity on campus so high?

College is already expensive, and with tuition exceeding $45,000 a year, many families live by the bare minimum just to afford it.

When droves of girls sporting $200 dresses waltz by, combined with endless Instagrams on Eaton Street, wearing Lilly can feel like a requirement to participate.

Instead of dropping hundreds of dollars on a single outfit, this money can go toward savings or food.

The obsession with name-brand clothing is not limited to Lilly Pulitzer: Vineyard Vines, Lululemon, Canada Goose, Birkenstocks, Michael Kors, Jack Rogers, Nike—the list is boundless.

Take a walk around the PC campus on any given day, not just on Golf Party, and chances are that several of these brands will be spotted. PC gear can also be thrown in the mix; like all the others, the price tag is hefty.

Wasting a week’s paycheck on expensive clothes for a party or two should not be a requirement to be a part of the PC community.

While some students at the College are fortunate enough to own a wardrobe stocked with the latest fashions, most pick and choose which to purchase, or simply live without it.

The name-brand clothes clearly delineate among the students who fall into which category, and friend groups follow suit.

Exclusivity based on clothes is a massive problem that stunts potential relationships on campus.

This begs the question: what can we do about it?

Being mindful of the situations of others is the best way to start. Not everyone is in the same boat at PC.

Respecting students from all walks of life and financial circumstances is crucial to forming a supportive and inclusive Friar Family.

A little empathy and understanding goes a long way.

Every student is a complex and one-of-a-kind individual, and clothes can be an outlet for self-expression and creativity.

PC does not have a uniform, and the unofficial uniform of name-brand clothes does not necessarily reflect everyone’s story and personality.

Skipping the Lilly or Vineyard Vines for a week or two may open doors to new and meaningful friendships, based on who a person is rather than what he or she wears.

Although the cost of conformity is high, inclusivity is priceless; be aware and sensitive of name-brand culture on campus.