Avant-Garb Mag interviewed Surya Milner ‘19 who shared about thrifting in Montana, her Indian influences, and her love of clogs.
Interviewed by Matt Williams
Photos by Emma Jacobs
MW: What’s in your closet?
SM: My closet consists of a hodgepodge of items from different points of my life. I’m from Austin so the clothes that I wore growing up are not suitable for the weather in Maine. I like to wear clothes that represent a certain time or place in my life. For instance, Montana is a place I’ve visited since I was a kid and it’s my favorite place to thrift shop. It’s probably where 50% of my closet comes from. I also like to wear hand-me-downs like the shirt I’m wearing right now. It’s from my great uncle. In general, my style consists of things that I like while also I’m also aware of trends.
MW: How has your style has changed since you’ve come to Bowdoin?
SM: I’m grateful that I’ve hoarded sweaters before coming to Bowdoin because I can finally wear them here. My style has changed in more dramatic ways. I used to hate jeans and I would never wear them unless I absolutely had to. I thought they were so uncomfortable and ill-fitting on my body. Once I came to Bowdoin, I decided that I would wear jeans for the rest of my time here.
MW: When did you first become interested in fashion?
SM: When I was a kid I always liked dressing up, but not necessarily dressing nicely. I thought it was fun to imagine different outfits. I became really interested in fashion during middle school since my family traveled frequently, which allowed me to see how people wore different clothing around the world. You can be in one place and feel like everyone dresses homogeneously and think “this is style.” There is more variety in style in Austin but even there I think it is easy to think “this is what’s hot right now.”
MW: Tell me about your accessories.
SM: My everyday accessories are pretty simple. I always wear a nose piercing and this gold necklace that my mom gave me, which is pretty impossible to take it off. Gold is really big in India. Everybody, even women working on the street, will have a massive gold nose piercing or something like that. I really like this other Kendra Scott necklace that I received as a gift. Kendra Scott is a super preppy brand from Texas that all the sorority girls wear. Although I would never wear my necklace back home because I didn’t want to identify as a sorority girl, it’s fun to wear here because the students from Texas recognize it, so the necklace becomes a point of companionship. I would say this anklet was a staple of mine in high school. You can buy beautiful anklets on the street in India for less than a dollar. I’d wear them all the time in high school when I didn’t wear boots. I also have these little sun earrings that feel like a part of my identity since Surya means sun.
MW: Do you have any fashion faux pas?
SM: I actually think that “faux pas” fashion can be more fun to dabble in. In high school, I was often the friend that would pull something out while shopping that everyone would find super ugly. Even though clogs are more accepted now, I would regularly wear them in high school. One thing I really don’t like is crocs. I know that people are reclaiming the croc, but I really don’t like its texture.
MW: Why is style important to your identity?
SM: Style is important on a personal level because wherever I am, whether it’s Bowdoin or at home, I don’t know what my day has in store. Having style and a closet that I can wake up to and make something new out of can be a consistent source of joy. I like that my style gives people a sense of who I am and where I’m from. Because campus can tend to look so homogeneous on an everyday basis, if you see somebody who might be dressing in an interesting way, that could be something that brings people together. One of my best friends from high school is Indian and I became friends with her because I was wearing Chappals, which are Indian sandals. She thought I was the biggest poser because I was wearing these street sandals from India. That’s how we became friends, by having a conversation about sandals.
MW: Do you think fashion should be discussed?
SM: Yes. I think fashion can carry meaning beyond just a physical, material worth. Its significance also extends to the fabrics we wear. A lot of the countries in which our clothes are produced are not the countries in which we live, so there is a whole global consumer side to fashion that I think is important to talk about. There’s a symbolic and cultural side of fashion as well. I am half Indian and definitely derive a lot of my style from that. I do think fashion is worth being talked about because there’s a lot more to what you wear than meets the eye.