With over 100 Claremont McKenna College (CMC) juniors returning to campus from study abroad programs across the world, CMC’s campus not only feels like it is flooded with familiar faces, but also with totally new and exciting attire. It appears that my prayers have been answered as my peers have finally realized: Pajamas, sweatpants and leggings are not acceptable fashion choices anywhere outside of the United States.
As an international student from Europe, I have always wondered about how university students back home would react if they saw a typical CMCer strolling into their lecture, fitted up with the infamous Claremont-Mudd-Scripps shirt, flip-flops and gray sweatpants. My guess is that they would be flabbergasted and appalled and they wouldn’t hold back from sharing that opinion with you.
But to truly find out the attitudes of students and locals abroad towards American students’ fashion, I investigated the experiences of five CMC juniors who studied abroad in Argentina, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal and Tunisia. Hopefully, their shared, newfound wisdom will inspire CMC students across all years to ditch the pajamas and put on some real pants.
According to Jack Barrett CM ’25, during his pre-departure packing, “Fashion was kind of a secondary thought.”
Students like Henry Fina CM ’25 took a practical approach, carrying a “playing it safe” attitude.
“I wanted plain clothing that wouldn’t stand out in the crowd and make me a target,” Fina said. “I was very concerned about that.”
Upon arrival in Seville, Spain, Pierce Sanderson CM ’25 realized that he’d be needing to step it up.
“You feel like you need to dress to match the expectations and if not, you’re kind of getting some dirty looks,” Sanderson said. “In my opinion, this is not necessarily a negative practice and it may benefit CMC’s fashion culture, or lack thereof.”
Meanwhile, Talia de Beer CM ’25 had some more positive reflections to share.
“What I’ve noticed about Europe is that people dress like their cities,” de Beer said. “So when it comes to color palettes, I think that people very much dress in the same color palette as their cities. And I was able to pick up on this so I made sure that my pieces incorporated some patterns and colors to match the city.”
Our CMCers’ main fashion takeaways from their semesters abroad?
“It was a positive change,” Fina said. “I think I just got more comfortable with having pants on versus shorts and sweatpants.”
One more convert added to the list.
Additionally, de Beer noted the lack of judgment during her time abroad.
“I did think that it would be a fun experience to try new things with my fashion sense because I wouldn’t feel judged or pressured to dress a certain way when I was in Lisbon,” de Beer said. “And it really gave me creative freedom so I could try things that I probably wouldn’t have been wearing on campus.”
However, some CMC men still returned with their passionate obsession for sweatpants.
“They’re better to wear than a pair of slacks,” Fina said. “Especially if you’re going to work in an office, you hate your life, you have a wife and kids that you don’t really care about because you work so often so you never get to see them, it becomes a sore subject. And you just got to enjoy the little moments like putting on a pair of sweatpants and going to Walmart.”
Sanderson had a question for Fina.
“Have you ever worn a sweatshirt and no shirt and sweatpants and no underwear?” he said.
“That is freedom,” Fina replied. “And I think that one of the seminal American values is freedom and we dress to reflect that.”
One of de Beer’s favorite takeaways from abroad is one that I recommend all 5C students adopt.
“I think that I was very confused in my fashion sense when I first arrived at Claremont and going abroad and collecting new pieces has made me really excited to wake up in the morning and plan my outfit,” said de Beer. “I hope that sticks.”
George Ashford CM ’25, who studied in Tunisia, reflected on the wardrobe change.
“I felt lucky to be able to afford new clothes,” Ashford said. “That’s a big one, because pretty much all the clothes there are secondhand. I think that’s why some of the stuff felt a little behind trend, just because people can’t afford to buy new clothes, especially from American brands.”
Looking for a positive outtake on CMC fashion? Fina has you covered.
“Dress how you want to dress,” Fina said. “I think it’s one of the best aspects of our campus — you’ll see people wearing whatever. Some people dress like they’re about to go to a job interview, or like they’re about to step into an investment banking office. Some people are dressed like they just got out of the gym and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Elizaveta (Lisa) Gorelik CM ’25 is from Moscow, Russia. After spending Winter break at home, she feels very relieved to be wearing sweatpants again.