I have been a clothes horse all my life. Like many women, I use clothing to express my state of mind. Some things have stuck with me since childhood – you can never go wrong with a classic penny loafer or a cable knit sweater. Some trends blessedly went away liked pegged pants, which were simply unfortunate on my already 5’9” seventh-grade body. Some have come back around again, but, honestly, I just can’t bring myself to relive Flashdance, no matter how cute the Donna Karan cashmere blend leggings look on the model.
Even as a poor graduate student I focused on trendy accessories, smart shoes, and elegant bags at great prices to help me develop my professional ethos. Former graduate faculty mentors still stop me at academic conferences to catch up…and to find out how many pairs of kitten heels I brought on the trip this time.
But that’s just part of the story my closet tells. The piece of clothing that I think seems to say the most about me, about how I feel, what I love and who I am, is my T-shirts – especially my Sigma Kappa T-shirts. I wasn’t one of the girls who gave her bid day and event shirts away at Senior Wills; I just couldn’t seem to let them go. I’ve been a Sigma Kappa for almost half my life now, and I’ve accrued even more shirts since graduation.
If you look at my ragtag collection of T-shirts now, you can see the bigger story of where I found myself as a collegian, where I’ve been in my life travels, and even where I am right now as an advisor, professor, and alumna. The sizes range from requisite late-90s XLs (Why, exactly, did we think it was cool to wear our shirts three sizes too big back then? Anyone?) to today’s slimmer American Apparel silhouettes, and they showcase every color of the spectrum, from white to pink to neon green. The tees represent different Sigma Kappa chapters around the country – my home chapter Alpha Sigma, chapters that I advise like Kappa Zeta or chapters that friends advise like Gamma Phi, and from alumnae groups where I found friends each time I moved to pursue a job or a degree. I have a shirt to fit every mood, shirts to remind me of every phase of my adult life and of the sisters I befriended along the way.
Isn’t that the way it should be? Is it that way for you, or did you give all your shirts away at Wills? Do you have your first Bid Day shirt? I still have mine, although it’s so tissue thin I’m afraid it won’t survive the next trip through the dryer. I think my chapter sisters will agree that it’s still quite possibly the coolest shirt ever created (but maybe that’s just my violet-tinted glasses). I’ll tell you about it sometime.
Other shirts have their own stories: the shirt that made a cameo in a friend’s Facebook picture of her new baby, which then led half of our chapter to post on the status of our own shirts; the Kappa Zeta shirt that arrived in my mailbox months before I got to campus from a sister who would become a mentor as I stepped into my first faculty position; the shirt that “got away” that I wish I hadn’t lost (seriously, where IS my Calvin Klein panda shirt?!)
I’ll show you all of those shirts. Well, except the Calvin Klein panda shirt. You’ll just have to trust me on that one. And I hope you’ll tell us about your bid day shirt, or your favorite formal shirt, or the shirt that Nationals probably wouldn’t let us make, let alone wear in public, today. Let’s get those shirts out of the closet one more time and see what they have to tell us about ourselves.
What do your T-shirts say about you or how you Live Sigma Kappa?