Avant Garb Mag interviewed Melissa Cusanello ‘18 who shared about working on a ranch in Wyoming, her hat collection, and retro style.
Interview by Lexie Freund
Photos by Emma Jacobs
LF: What takes up the most space in your closet?
MC: I would say outerwear. I’m a big coat person. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been naturally drawn to coats and hats. They are my thing. They are usually oversized. I accumulate jackets, flannels, and fur coats.
LF: Tell me about your style.
MC: It’s funny because I’ve never really put my style into words. I don’t usually think of myself as having one certain style, but if I had to describe it I would say it’s mostly retro, boho with a healthy dose of 1970s motorcycle man, and a little bit of crunchiness. I really like the 70s aesthetic so I try to incorporate some of that into my outfits. I also usually try to make each outfit a little badass, which I think is different from grungy. It’s more like “I don’t care what people think” and “I am just gonna wake up and wear what I want to wear.” Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I think if you just own whatever you wear, it’s going to look good.
LF: What are you never seen without?
MC: My big black and red flannel that Santa brought me freshman year. I haven’t been wearing it as much this year because I upgraded to a Carhartt jacket, but for my first three years at Bowdoin, I wore it everywhere. I like that oversized, masculine look. It serves as a jacket for any season, any purpose. It’s a classic Melissa staple.
LF: When did you first become interested in fashion?
MC: I think I always had an interest, but I didn’t really act on it until my freshman year of high school. I started off at a public school right outside of Boston. At that age, people conformed a lot and I thought I was cool because at that point, Free People was just starting to become popular, and I started to branch out and wear flowy Free People stuff. My sophomore year, I really started to put thought into what I was wearing when I went to a small boarding school. The people there came from all over the country and had really cool, alternative fashion sense. That gave me the confidence to start experimenting with what I wore.
LF: What factors inform your daily outfit choices?
MC: I wear different clothes when I go to class versus when I go to dinner or a party. For class, because I went to boarding school and had a dress code, I got used to never wearing jeans or sweatpants. It just so happens that most of the stuff in my closet is pants or dresses and tights or jumpsuits. I always try to dress nicely for class, which is the opposite of how I dress to go to the library. When I go to the library, I wear oversized t-shirts with cut-off jeans or outdoorsy pants with a hat. I’ve had a big hat collection since my freshman year of Bowdoin. Before freshman year, I became interested in the outdoors when I went on an expedition to Alaska. My leaders were very loosey-goosey and I was influenced by that lifestyle as well as their fashion style. I think that shows through in the outfits I choose now. I’ll incorporate a little bit of an outdoorsy look in everyday life.
LF: How has your style changed over time?
MC: In high school, my style was more artsy, preppy, and alternative. I was always seen with a collar. Coming into college, I adopted a passion for the outdoors and that has become part of my daily style. I wear more looser clothing. I love flowy shirts and dresses. Big t-shirts especially. If it’s not double XL, I’m not buying it.
LF: If you could wear anything, what would it be?
MC: One of those big floral, maxi dresses that are very billowy. The ones you always see in magazines, but you would rarely wear yourself. Preferably with big sleeves. I love that sort of old-style, bohemian, free flowy look. I just think those dresses are beautiful and have yet to have an opportunity to wear one.
LF: Is there something in your closet that you can always count on?
MC: My black Doc Marten-style boots. I’ve had a pair forever and I wear them with everything. They are perfect for class and perfect to go out in. They are rain boots as well. I like to match them with cropped jeans.
LF: What item has a special meaning or story?
MC: My brown oversized t-shirt. I can wear it everywhere, even going out. Two weeks ago, I wore it to Redbrick. I used to work on a ranch in Wyoming and we were at Kmart and they had this. Double XL of course. It’s special because it has those roots in Wyoming and memories of being on the ranch, riding and hiking outside. It always makes me feel a little bit badass when I wear it. I wear it skiing, as a beach cover-up, and to the library. Working out on the ranch, we would always say “L’eter buck”. It comes from a film, maybe Arabian Nights. They say it when they’re about to go into war. Everyone on the ranch would say this, meaning “send it” or “let’s go.” It has become the anthem of how I try to live my life.
LF: Tell me about your accessories.
MC: I don’t wear a ton of accessories, and I have pretty simple jewelry. I love dangly earrings. I got these two from a small store in Nantucket called Patina. I love that natural stone look and the little drops. All of my jewelry is either gold or natural stone.
LF: Why is style important to your identity?
MC: I think it helps me remember the lifestyle I want to live. I don’t like conforming. Style helps me be different and unique in my own way. It allows me to live a carefree, no worries lifestyle. Even though that’s not always true, I try to show that.
LF: Should be fashion be discussed, and if so, why?
MC: It should definitely be discussed because much of your inner self comes true in your fashion choices. You can learn about someone’s background, who they truly are, and their hopes for who they want to be.