The tiny, meticulously decorated dorm room has hand-painted watercolor posters of fish and celestial maps lining the walls. Out of season but in style Christmas lights hang from the bedframe. Inside this chic room is chatter, the sounds of exciting preparation for a night out. Freshman Emme Van Vorhis applies bright green makeup on her friend, Anne Clingon. “I’m almost done,” says Van Vorhis, laughing, as Clingon squirms in her seat. Soft and somewhat soothing electronic music radiates from a phone that was also being used as a mirror. Other girls are coming and going from the small room, the noise level fluctuating with every opening of the door. Here, getting ready doesn’t seem like a chore. It is a community activity: the passing of the mascara wand and sharing of multicolored face paint are a sort of breaking of bread, bringing people together as one and allowing them to construct a creative nighttime persona together.
The preparatory process for a night out varies between groups of people. Since coming to college, my getting ready method has changed: now I have a space of my own and can invite anyone to come join the process, and, most importantly, we can be as loud as we want (before quiet hours). The fact that people can live with their friends in college creates a new atmosphere for a creative clothing studio. “You’re all basically living in the same place,” says Clingon, commenting on the accessibility of friends to give opinions on your outfit. Personally, my community involves people who I can bounce outfit ideas off of and then promptly ignore, all while listening to the calming melodies of the “Chronicles of Narnia” soundtrack. But no matter the exact routine, the chummy behavior is the same. The giggly energy in Van Vorhis’ room proved this.
Van Vorhis aims to make Clingon look like Ducky from the prehistoric classic “Land Before Time.”
Van Vorhis and Clingon were painting their faces for a costume party with no specific theme. They were assigned by other attendees to dress a certain way. Van Vorhis, an art major, was preparing to be Vincent Van Gogh. This was assigned because of her artistic aptitude as well as the fact that she suffered a concussion earlier this year, making both people “artists with head injuries” (regarding Van Gogh’s ear mishap). The looseness and comedic nature of the party’s theme made it possible to be as expressive as desired.
Van Vorhis preparing to be Van Gogh. Perhaps there is some Dutch art ancestory?
“Themed parties are more fun because everyone just looks ridiculous,” says Van Vorhis, painting her face to look like one of Van Gogh’s famous self-portraits. Van Vorhis and Clingon, who is dressed as Ducky from “Land Before Time,” thought that wearing a costume for a party is a fun experience. “It’s a good way to talk to people, because if someone has a creative idea or something that you relate to, then it’s easy to go talk to them,” she says.
Van Vorhis in her completed costume, sunflower and all.
Van Vorhis and Clingon were changing out of their Friday casual outfits: Birkenstocks and jeans for in-class comfort. As they put on different clothes, their demeanors changed and they seemed refreshed: a change of the status quo was an immediate stimulant. “When I go to class, I don’t feel any need at all to look nice. When you go out, then it’s fun because you get to dress up,” says Clingon. She was excited to go above and beyond her normal school-day look. Creating a look for a night out is reminiscent of an art project, and creative minds flock to the aesthetic pleasure of it. This enjoyment seemed to be shared by all sorts of partygoers: “It’s just fun to dress up,” says freshman Ariel Back, “These types of events are a good excuse.”
Back is a member of Gamma Phi Beta. On Friday, May 13 (which also happened to be her birthday), her sorority held its Barn Dance, an annual barn- themed dance put on by each sorority.
Back enjoys the formals put on by the sororities because she likes any reason to dress up and go to a dance. “It’s kind of like high school where you can dress up for dances, like prom,” says Back, getting ready for the formal. However many years ago prom was, the memories of the glamorous preparations are something people strive to recreate. The theme of this party was an important aspect of it, too: “Greek life loves themed events. They create unity and provide a connective thread throughout the evening, and the country style is very classic and fun-loving,” she says. It created a sense of novelty, as well: for an Oregonian, a barn themed event is totally new, yet classic: “The red, white and blue; haybales; denim overalls; and cowgirl boots are iconic,” she says. It is similar to dressing in costume for any other party: an imitation of an archetype.
The theme is only part of the overall feeling of the evening. “It’s very exciting,” she says. “It’s like a community experience where you all get dressed up and hang out beforehand, and then the formal is just total commotion. Everyone you know and love is in the house, and you feel very glamorous.” Back likes the fact that being in a sorority comes with a whole group of sisters, people that help get her ready and go out with her. She says, “One of the girls curled my hair, and they’ll help you with your makeup. It’s wonderful because of the whole sisterhood thing. I don’t know how to do my hair, so that was really nice,”.
Back before the barn dance.
She talks about her sorority sisters very fondly. She went on to debunk some of the misconceptions about sorority life: “You don’t have to be tall and blonde, because I’m not,” says the petite and dark-haired Back. The diversity of Back’s sorority allows for individuality and the ability to express yourself creatively, including when getting ready to go out. “There are so many different personalities in the house,” she says.
Freshman Cheyenne Thorpe desires to maintain her identity in a party setting as well. She describes getting ready as “a long process of putting on clothes, taking them off, throwing them on the floor, putting on more clothes, and probably ending up in the same outfit that [she] started with.” The frantic preparation involves finding something unique and expressive: she says that she likes to wear a fancier shirt than normal with a cute skirt or high-waist jeans: something different than the typical “party-going outfit,” which Thorpe believes to be a wrap skirt and lattice front shirt. “Usually I try to do something that might stand out a little bit,” she says. “I think that it gives more personality-I’m trying to be myself when everyone else is the same.”
It would be easy to get ready for a night out if there were some sort of standard uniform that we all had to wear, but it would also be a lot less fun. Dressing in a funky way or putting on cool eye makeup is a way to be creative, and it’s a way for groups of people to band together. Whether it’s laughing at ridiculous dress ideas, or trying on different berets, to find the perfect one (both things that I have done in the past few weeks), preparing for an event is an artistic endeavor.
At the end of the night, the girls in Gamma Phi Beta are all at the house together, taking their makeup and heels off. Van Vorhis and her friends walk back to campus together, laughing and discussing the night, sometimes ending up in somebody’s room to eat some ramen. “It’s important to slow down a little bit,” says Van Vorhis. And when one night is slowing down, more excitement can start bubbling up, because there are infinite more possibilities for things to do on Friday nights and even more possibilities for what to wear to them.
Words and photos by Taylor Griggs, @