The most significant time in my life that I felt uncanniness was during a recent interview. It was for an internship, that was going to give me credit towards my public relations minor. The company focused on event planning; things like weddings, galas, sweet sixteens’s, etc. I was in contact with the owner back and forth, for a month prior. She did not specify what the dress code was for the interview so naturally I dress business casual. Wearing a color blocked vince dress, with a black blazer and heels I walk into the not so safe looking warehouse for the interview. I walk in and am greeted by a mountain of clutter and 3 employee’s working on different crafts / tasks. The boss was wearing ripped jeans that looked 2 sizes too small and a black t shirt that left little to the imagination. I should’ve seen the red flags but I continued to follow through with the interview. I would never have expected to be interviewed by someone dressed like she was. I felt more professional and prepared than she was, even beyond the appearance factor. It was slightly uncomfortable but it gave me a clear idea of what it would be like to be apart of her event planning team. I thanked her for the opportunity but took my interest and time to a place that I would benefit from.
A time that I felt out of place in the fashion world was when I went abroad. The month before I left, I researched what Italian women wore and I bought clothes that were similar to the styles I saw. Although this helped me slightly, I still stuck out like a sore thumb. Even when I thought I was doing a good job blending in, promoters for travel companies would come up to me to promote student trips, Italians would talk to me in English and even other tourists would ask me questions in English. After a few weeks, I reevaluated my clothes and I realized one of my biggest give aways for looking like an American was wearing leggings and going to class with wet hair. Italians rarely wear them and they typically wear jeans or dress pants. They also would never leave the house with wet hair because it is seen as sloppy and unprofessional. I started always wearing jeans and dressing up a bit more for class. I also started showering at night so that my hair would be dry for class the following day.
The most rewarding moment after I made these changes was walking through the leather market. Usually all of the vendors speak in English trying to get tourists to spend their money on products. I went into a small shop and the store owner immediately started speaking to me in Italian. I had to slow her down and tell her I was American and she said, “Oh, I’m sorry I thought you were Italian.” It made my day.
After returning to America, I still find myself dressing up more than the average college student and I try my best to not leave the house with wet hair. One of the biggest changes I have realized if how uncomfortable I feel leaving the house in leggings. I became so used to wearing jeans every day that when I wear leggings now I feel underdressed and inappropriate.
One moment in my life where felt a sense of “uncanniness” was when I first starting living abroad in Florence, Italy. Every part of my day to day life had changed and the culture was all new to me. Interacting with others that spoke a different language was an adjustment within itself. It was not until I started working over there when I started to feel at ease. I fully immersed myself in the Italian culture and begin to understand the language piece by piece. Those first moments of uncertainty helped me become a stronger person and grow as an individual.
One time I felt out of place was when I was in the URI business school and there were business seminars held in Ballantine. I was only a freshman and I did not have business wear to wear to the event. I forget what I was wearing but everyone was dressed to the nines! I felt really out of place because it was my first time being in a business formal situation. I must have been wearing business casual. I felt extremely out of place as well as intimidated. I dealt with it by just listening and trying not to pay attention to what everyone else was wearing. I conclude that if you are surrounded by people unexpectedly dressed to the nines in business formal as freshman it is pretty intimidating.
Last spring I got the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far. Going into it I know that there was going to be some cultural differences with the way of life but what stood out to me was the way of dress. You could easily spot an American student in the streets and even I could recognize it. Sometimes going to class I wouldn’t dress up as much but wearing yoga pants or sweatpants I felt that I stood out like a sore thumb. Everyone would be particularly dressed up and I felt uncomfortable or that people could tell I was American and I wanted to go home and change. I had a familiar feeling when it started to become warmer. In the states especially New England the moment it becomes a little warmer it is not uncommon to see someone dressed in shorts and flip flops but that was not the case in Florence. I found myself walking around in flip flops and the person walking next to me was wearing a puffy winter coat. I became aware of these differences and wanted to adapt to my surroundings and that is what I did.
A time when I through fashion felt like I was “in the wrong place” was this summer; I completed a summer session program in Lyon, France. It was during the last week of the session, the program coordinator made reservations for our last dinner celebration. I dressed very casual that day, especially because I wasn’t feeling well; I woke up with an allergic reaction that swelled my face (great way to celebrate, right!?). When we arrived to the restaurant, I noticed that I was “underdressed”; it definitely made me feel uncomfortable. I prefer being overdressed than to be underdressed. When getting dressed the day of the dinner, I remember thinking about a business cocktail party we attended earlier that week. I noticed that it was casual attire so I thought “maybe no one will ‘dress up” for dinner then. It’s sad to say that I let myself feel “out of place” instead of being in the moment and enjoying the night I was too worried about the way I looked.
A time I felt out of place was when I went to a banquet for a scholarship I was receiving. The reason I felt out of place is because I was the only person receiving the scholarship who was wearing sneakers. I was wearing a pair of black and white Air Jordan 1’s. The rest of the people receiving their scholarship were wearing dress shoes fitting in. I couldn’t do anything to deal with it so I tried my best to embrace my aesthetic. Regardless, I couldn’t knock the feeling of being uncomfortable and not wanting to be seen. What I learned from this situation is if I’m being awarded something important I’m going to dress appropriately with the proper attire and shoes.
Growing up as a horseback rider I have always felt ‘uncanny’ when wearing my riding clothes outside of the barn. When I was younger I wouldn’t go to the grocery store, out to eat, or in general anywhere in public that I may come across classmates. My mom used to pick on me for being so self-conscious about my riding clothes yet I also felt like people were staring at me because I was wearing riding pants with tall leather boots. I always felt like people thought it was “gross” to be wearing clothes that were worn in the barn to a public place yet it wasn’t like I was rolling around in manure, I had instead been practicing for my sport just like a soccer player would be wearing cleats from their practice. When I entered college I joined the equestrian team at school and noticed how comfortable my teammates were wearing their riding clothes around campus, out to eat, and hanging out with friends. I started to see that it is “ok” because now I was part of this group who had established this idea of “normal”. For awhile I would only wear my riding clothes as a group because we are looked at as a group, not an individual. I also noticed the people on college campus’s are interested by the idea of horseback riding and even ask about it if they see you dressed in your riding attire. Now that I am a senior I have no problem wearing my riding clothes in public because I now identify myself as a URI equestrian rider, a member of a team recognized by the school. Even my mom has noticed how my comfort level has changed towards wearing riding clothes in public because I will get dressed to ride and wear it as my attire for the whole day instead of changing into a more “normal” outfit.
Similar to my first fashion moment, a time where I totally felt out of place was not just one specific memory, but rather an event at school every year. When picture day in elementary school rolled around, my mom would dress me in an outfit that, to me at the time, was completely absurd. I don’t remember everything, but I do know I looked like I was going to some formal event. It felt like every single one of my friends were in their regular clothes, like it was just another day at school. Not me though. I had to be dressed in pleated skirts, matching button ups with matching sweaters on top, Mary Jane shoes, and every matching accessory she could find. Although she made me dress nicely every day, picture day was over the top. And for what?! You could only see from the shoulders up in the actual pictures. Plus, I had to walk around school all day in the outfit for a picture that took 5 minutes. I remember feeling so out of place. I also remember feeling like my mom was the only parent who cared about what the school pictures looked like. Why did I have to be the only one whose parent cared about the pictures?? I thought it was dreadful, and I felt so out of place every year. There was really nothing I could do about it too, because my mom wouldn’t hear any of it. There have been many times in my life where I have felt out of place, but picture day is the most specific “story” I can remember.
Like many students in this class, I experienced unheimlichkeit or uncanniness while studying abroad in Italy. When first in Europe, I found myself feeling out of place and judged based on the clothing I wore. I remember packing for the semester and looking up outfits on pinterest that typical italian women would wear. Even with this research, there was never one moment where I was viewed as anything other than an american student. It felt like a clique that no matter how hard I tried to fit in, there was still a special secret that I would never be able to find out. This was really the only form of culture shock that I experienced while abroad. It was one of the first times that I was obviously judged immediately for my appearance. This was more prevalent in some cities that I visited compare to others. Especially, in cities like Prague, natives told us how much they hated americans. They told us this before we even spoke. The citizens could tell by our mannerisms and outfits, that we were American. Even when we were trying to fit in. Many students studying abroad would buy “authentic” italian leather jackets, shoes and bags to better blend into the city and its people. Italians, however, were still able to automatically label the women who were trying to look italian wearing their leather goods bought at the central market vs. real italians wearing actual authentic leather.