Fashion v. Function: Ruminations on Dressing for Rainy Days

Rain in Southern California is a rarity, but when it rains, man oh man does it pour.

Despite coming from Washington, a state known for its rainfall, I find rain in Claremont to be completely disarming; the rain falls in sheets, and nothing that I usually wear is suitable for such weather. Biking to and from class becomes a chore. Ultimately, I often take the safe route as far as rain-ready fashion, and rainy days end up being the coziest, laziest days for me. Rainy days are the days when I pull out my mom clogs and my hand-knit wool socks and pile on layer upon layer, topping it all off with a bright red raincoat. 

Walking around campus on rainy days, it seems that everyone has a similar notion: Rainy days are not for perfectly put-together, thought-out ensembles, but rather for big boots, roomy jackets, and whatever bottoms will be the least annoying when wet. (Can anyone say “Leggings as pants?” Because I can.) 

While rain makes me more inclined to consider the warmth and dryness of my clothes rather than the overall aesthetic feel, that doesn’t mean my outfit has to be any less interesting. Rainy day dressing is fascinating because people wear their clothes in ways they normally wouldn’t. The function of clothing becomes much more important than the potential fashionable aspects. You might don the boots you kinda hate but need to wear because the streets have become a one-inch deep, fast-moving, veritable river. Maybe you pull out the plastic purple raincoat lined with animal print fabric from your childhood that would be considered ironic on any other day of the year. You might just wear your pajamas out because it’s raining and literally no one cares when it’s raining. 

All of these possible scenarios, along with infinitely more, explain why rainy days are my favorite days to people-watch. Sitting under a tree with my hood up and a cup of hot coffee in hand, I love to watch friends, acquaintances, and that-one-person-who-was-in-that-one-class-for-a-day-that-one-time walk by, all in their strange amalgamations of practical, outdoors-y clothing. 

These survival looks raise questions and suggest truths about the people wearing them. It is on the days when we are forced to pull together our least-worn clothing in search of practicality that we can find new ways to dress, which may even find their way into outfits on clear sunny days when the shadow of rain has lifted and it feels like California again.

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