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Self-Expression at Duke

By Victoria Kovarik, Class of 2024.

My 9:20 a.m. alarm goes off every morning, beginning a routine I know all too well.

Step One. Sleep for five more minutes.

Step Two. Check the weather.

High of 73 degrees? Not a problem.

Step Three. Get up. Open my wardrobe. What am I feeling today?

I am feeling pretty good! I want to dress cozily but also be eye-catching.

Step Four. Compile the fit.

Today I want to go with my “One Love” maxi skirt and a cropped sweater top to match.

Step Five. Makeup and skincare routine. Brush my teeth. Remember to use the mouthwash I just bought.

Step Six. Put on my trusted four-inch platform heeled Lamodas.

Step Seven. Have a self-love moment.

I look fantastic.

Step Eight. Go to class, and enjoy the day.

Person poses for a mirror selfie in a bathroom. They are wearing a black shirt, black purse, black heeled boots, and white checkered pants.

Self-expression at Duke is the utmost thing I admire. Everyday I walk outside in a new outfit with a new take on the day ahead and am met with warm smiles, frequent compliments about my style, and, similarly, an admiration for those around me. Not a single person at Duke is the same, and one of the ways I’ve noticed this striking difference is in the outfits around me while I walk around Duke’s campus. Everyone here has such a distinct style and personality; I’ve never felt more comfortable dressing how I want, when I want, knowing I will be met with exceptional kindness from those around me. It’s empowering to know that at Duke I can truly express myself in the manner I am most comfortable with. I speak through my sense of style, and it shows. People notice and celebrate me for it. And I do the same with others. It’s almost one giant cycle of positivity: people at Duke just want to make each other feel appreciated and seen.

Similarly, some of my greatest friendships have stemmed from this uplifting energy at Duke. My best friend and I started talking after we mutually complimented each other’s outfits in front of the Bryan Center. The ease at which people can strike up a conversation–in my case usually pertaining to fashion–speaks to how truly kind and friendly the people at Duke are. Complete strangers have no issue in passing off a simple “I love your outfit!” or “You look great!” during their day-to-day life.

A person poses for a mirror-selfie in their dorm room. They are wearing a white shirt with a black and red corset on top, a denim skirt, and ripped black tights.

College is meant to be a time to explore yourself, your passions, and your outlook on life. At Duke, that is no exception. Even during a global pandemic, my self-expression through an exploration of my style has sparked so many passions, friendships, and even simple ways to make my days a bit brighter. I use fashion to bolster my confidence at college as well as as a lens to explore my interests in marketing and photography. Dressing the way I want: casually some days, or like I’m about to go to a business meeting or a cottagecore picnic on others, serves as a constant motivation to love myself for who I am as well as to spread kindness always.

I have always loved to dress nicely for myself, and I love that that choice is recognized and encouraged by those around me as they also express themselves in a manner they see fit. Whether it’s art, academics, or just day-to-day clothing, self-expression is encouraged, celebrated, and cherished at Duke.

So that being said, I’m excited to pick out my next outfit and see what the day brings. It’s always something great!



Stories from Duke students for Duke students, prospective students, and alumni.

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