Looking Good Is Feeling Good: International Students Present Their Case

This is the second installment in the 4-part series on student life by Rūta Petersonaitė, a fourth year student of publishing at Vilnius University, who is currently spending this autumn semester in Tartu. Rūta’s first story explored why students chose Tartu as their study destination. Don’t want to miss the coming parts? Subscribe to our blog by email or RSS.

Yves Saint Laurent once said: “Fashions fade, but style is eternal.” Someone else said that style is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma, and that fashion is something that comes after style. I am not completely sure who comes after what and who fades while others stay, but I do know some international students here in Tartu who never fade in a crowd. Each was charming in his or her own way, yet still approachable and willing to have a small chat about style issues.

Every time I travel somewhere, I love to stop for a while and stare at the people to observe their style of walk and talk, the way they are dressed, and what colors they wear. “A waste of time” – you might think, but I believe that it gives you more than just scenery, rather some hints at what a nation is really about. This is why I was so keen on meeting some stylish international students and asking them about their own attitudes regarding style and what they think it means to “be stylish” in their countries:

Diana from Poland: “For me fashion and dress are a way to stand out in the crowd and show that you are different. It’s not just about buying clothes. People can be stylish without spending a lot of money, as you can buy clothes from second-hand shops. It is not a matter of money but a matter of some feeling for fashion and style.

In my opinion, Polish people are becoming more stylish but still aren’t so creative in comparison with western countries. We are trying to build our own style though by not just buying from the main clothing shops like Zara or H&M, but also focusing on vintage shops where you can find unique pieces. We also look for inspiration on the Internet, following style and fashion blogs.

I think that in Poland guys definitely pay less attention to style than girls. The problem is that men are afraid of dressing up more because they don’t want to be perceived in the wrong way. I think you have to be quite courageous to be a stylish guy in Poland.”

George from Georgia: “For me style is a way of expressing myself. The clothes I wear depend on my mood. I change quite often, as dressing is an expression of the mood I am in. For me, it’s interesting when a person has his or her own style, not copying or following any trends, but trying to find different pieces to diversify the outfit.

In Georgia the problem is that lots of cheap clothes are imported from Azerbaijan and Turkey and most people wear them. At some point you see that everyone looks the same and you want to find something, which is really yours and no one else is wearing! Second-hand shops are probably the best decision in this case, as you can find unique pieces, which are also quite cheap! Among my friends it’s common to go there and look for something that no one else is wearing.

Georgian girls are more stylish than guys, who don’t think it’s necessary to look stylish and prefer to wear simple outfits, such as all black. In contrast to them, I have noticed that Estonian people like to wear different colors and brighter things, as well as open clothes. When it comes to girls, quite a lot of them wear short skirts, open blouses and high-heels. But no offense! :)”

Hanne from Germany: “I believe that it is important to wear what you like, as it gives you more self-confidence and makes you feel comfortable. But I don’t want to spend too much money on clothes or put too much effort into appearance. Still, if I see something nice and if I feel like wearing it, of course I want to buy it.

It’s hard to say if German people are stylish in general, as it really depends on where you are from in Germany. I would describe Berlin and Dusseldorf as the most stylish cities. Speaking of German style, I would say that we want to differ ourselves somehow from the majority but a lot of people still buy the clothes in those big chains like H&M. Though you are trying to wear exactly what you like and be different, in this case it doesn’t always work, as a lot of people are wearing the same. There are also those who create their outfits in vintage or second-hand shops. All in all, I would say that the main idea is that it doesn’t have to be expensive but it should be different. The amount of attention paid to style among girls and guys in Germany is more or less equal.

In comparison to Estonia, in Germany girls wear high-heels less and are less elegantly dressed up than Estonians, especially when we go to university. We prefer just simple and comfortable outfits.”

Jeroen from the Netherlands: “I simply wear what I like; it’s not that I want to express something. I like certain styles from certain ages, like the 1800s in France or the 60s, but it is not that I want to look like someone from that period.

If I had to name some certain features of Dutch style, I would say that guys usually have a little bit longer hair and they slick it back using hair gel. It is also popular to wear button shirts with high collars in this kind of Italian style. The girls mostly wear tights and Uggs shoes and mainly brownish colours. I think they really want to look like the girls from The Hills.

In comparison with Estonia and most other countries, I would say that Dutch guys put quite a lot of effort into appearance whereas the girls in general pay more attention to style and like to do shopping. When it comes to Estonian girls, in my opinion, they dress in a very sexy style, usually wearing high-heels and skirts. And I think Estonian guys don’t focus on style too much. They usually wear normal sneakers, a pair of jeans and a sweater – nothing complicated.”

Aurelija from Lithuania: “The creation of your own style is just a way of expressing yourself. It’s not hard and it’s not expensive at all – sometimes it’s even cheaper! I would say that my style is a simple one. I was addicted to black, but now I am starting to use some bright colors like orange, red, brown, and dark blue. I love dresses and skirts and I think women should wear these kinds of clothes more.

When it comes to Lithuanian style, I would say that we started to pick up colorful clothes and mix them with our national color – black. Girls definitely care more about their appearance, but in Vilnius I would say that girls and guys are quite equal in regards to style. Current trends include vintage, old-school fashion, clothes from second-hand shops, grandparents’ wardrobes, homemade accessories, and made-to-order clothes via the Internet. In my personal view, this is because of the economic recession, as we are used to change clothes quite often but at this time we have to save money while still staying stylish! I think Lithuanians are oriented towards Scandinavian style, because of the mentality of society and climate.

I didn’t notice a huge difference between Estonian and Lithuanian style. They also enjoy the assortment of second-hand shops, but I think that Estonians are closer to Scandinavian style than we are.”

Max from the United States: “In my opinion, the best type of style is the kind that doesn’t take a lot of time or money! Style is something that has always been important to me because you can express so much: your mood, your taste in music, even your political views or social affiliation. And like your personality, your style can change with you over time.

America is a very casual country, and that attitude is reflected in our clothes. If you look at classic American style (especially from the east coast, where I live) it’s influenced as much by leisure activities than anything else. A simple, clean outfit of khaki pants, a polo shirt, boat shoes, and a navy blazer is suitable for a day of golf or a day at the office. But, of course, Europe is still the capital of fashion, so many people are always looking across the Atlantic for the latest trends. Outside of the big cities like New York or Los Angeles, girls definitely pay more attention to clothing and the way they look than guys.

About the Estonian style, from what I’ve seen, it is in many ways more creative. Since there is only a limited number of stores with more or less very similar merchandise, second-hand stores seem to be much more popular. That’s really cool because you can find a lot of unique clothes from different times and genres and mix them together for a more one-of-a-kind look. Also, I much prefer winter fashion, so of course I love all the knits, scarves, coats, and mittens that Estonians have for these long northern European winters!”

Julia from Russia: “If the style is your own style, maybe, it doesn’t make you more beautiful, but it should give you this feeling for sure. Though nowadays, being stylish means being accurately and easily dressed (how can you think about clothes while, for instance, global warming is coming?), so this style is worthwhile.

Things like gold, high-heels, leather and fur are all still in use in Russia, but it is better to skip that while you are a student. Just wait until your 40s and until then try to stand out but inside your own social “class”. In general, Russian style has plenty of imagination, mixing elements from Europe, Asia and charisma, and strange interpretations of being fashionably dressed result. Men in Russia are ashamed to be ‘metrosexual’, so paying attention to style is the fate of women.

Estonians also live in a cold country, but they don’t want to be frozen. They should be thermo wear fans and they should love knitted clothes with a national pattern, I’m sure.”

Joshua from Canada: “For me looking good equals feeling good, and you should take pride in how you present yourself. In general, it depends on the individual and his priorities, but if you’re buying anything from Ed Hardy you are definitely wasting money.

About the Canadian style, as the long, bleak winter months fall upon us, fashion as we know it takes on a whole new orientation – whatever is warm now becomes fashionable. If you fail to dress appropriately for the weather, Canadians will take no mercy on your stupidity. In my home country, women pay more attention to style, but it is nothing to boast about. Canadian men have an unfortunate affliction for hockey jerseys and clothing with beer company logos. Canada isn’t really known for its fashion and this is with good reason. In general, Canadian style is based on practicality. This being said, we have 2 notable fashion labels: D Squared and the more simple and affordable Club Monaco. Moreover, Montreal has a vivid fashion culture of its own, which incorporates an interesting blend of styles from Paris and New York.

When it comes to Estonian style, it’s hard to say. Like Canada, I wouldn’t describe Estonia as an especially fashionable place, and also as in Canada there is a vast contrast between those who are interested in fashion or creating a personal style and those who don’t. In general, I’d say the style in Estonia is very conservative. By this I mean people rarely dress to stand out, wear very little colour, etc.”

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