On move-in day, parents’ SUVs can only hold so much luggage. Come October, however, the chair full of dirty laundry in the corner only holds summer-suitable outfits and the odd Ohio University brand sweatshirt. In the fashion desert of Athens, switching up styles is hard.
This is where not having many clothing store options may be an issue. In comparison, some might even say that the Walmart on East State Street is a bountiful Eden-like garden of clothing opportunities.
Jailei Maas, a senior studying studio art and art history, is a self-proclaimed thrifter. She’s been around the block enough times to know what shopping places help in dressing for success and which ones are less well-suited to student needs. Those who are less experienced, however, may need guidance as to which shops are viable and what the price ranges are.
“I feel like we do have a lot of nuance in our restaurants and some of our clothing stores and different things like that,” Maas said. “We have that on Court Street for sure. But it's not accessible or affordable in that regard, and a lot of the affordable places you have to drive to. That's another accessibility issue, I definitely wish that there were more options for people, especially people that have to walk”.
Accessible and affordable? It’s a big ask.
Kismet, located at 19 W. State St., generally aimed toward feminine items, believes in its own message it puts out to the Athens community.
Jocelyn Williams, the owner of Kismet, wants Kismet to be a store that everyone can go to.
“It really feels like my intention when we open the stores and this one in particular is a place that women could come in and find something that they feel beautiful in,” Jocelyn said. “It really is about having someone come in and just feel like they love it so much and can afford it.”
According to its website, Kismet’s products range in terms of prices. A typical price for a dress is around $46 and a T-shirt goes for around $28. In comparison, Walmart sells dresses for around $19 and a t-shirt for anywhere from $4 to $15.
Although Kismet’s message of seemingly affordable and feminine clothing might speak to some of the student body, there is only so much one store can provide for a whole college campus.
Maas agrees. There seems to be an ever-expanding snag in the crocheted cardigan of fashion lovers at Ohio University: urban planning and accessibility. Seniors aren’t the only ones affected by this. Emma Cooper, a freshman studying middle school education, finds the accessibility, or lack thereof, in Athens to be a hurdle.
“I haven't gotten to explore the pool of Athens yet, but I think from what I've seen, instead of having a bunch of bars close to campus, we could replace those with some little boutiques or some more stores,” Cooper said.
American Eagle is a store she offered to find a roost on Court Street; Target was another one. However, not everyone is involved in name-brand stores. Thrifting for styles remains popular with certain subsets of the student body. Cooper makes a divide between the different aesthetics that can be found at OU.
“I would say there's two very distinct styles in Athens, you've got the sporty—I don't want to say basic—it's just normal fashion, but then you've got more really unique pieces. It allows everyone to bring their own style to the table without everyone looking the exact same,” Cooper said.
Fashion is a market that constantly rolls over itself, spewing out styles and aesthetics that can be amalgamations of different eras, trends and personalities. One has to curate a closet for oneself. Whether it be thrifting or name-brand, Walmart or Kismet, or even online shopping, it seems students can always find a way to share fashion as a community. Thus, fashion can even transcend time and marketing.
“But what's cool about here, and I'd say about a lot of Appalachia in general, is that a lot of people here are collectors and love to find things and have little knickknacks and cool pieces for their house or for their closet,” Maas said. “A lot of people are really excited about used items that have a history.”
Athens might be considered a fashion desert, but when people put effort and love into collecting and curating, it might be more accurate to call it an oasis.