Professors With a Passion for Fashion

An interview with three professors about their self-expression through style on campus

Sweatpants and a button down shirt may have been your professors' pandemic outfit of choice, but with reintroduction of in-person classes, professors are once again showing off their personal style.

Kathryn Luchok: Preserving Vintage 

For UofSC Senior Instructor of Women’s and Gender Studies Kathryn Luchok, black frilly midi dresses, pearl beads feather hair pieces are not just pieces of a 1920's themed flapper costume. Her everyday classroom style incorporates different elements of vintage. 

“I like things from a large range of time periods,” Luchok says. “I don't look like I stepped out of a store. I mix things together.”

Most of her collections fall along the lines of American 1920’s and 1930’s style.

“I grew up watching old movies and a lot of them were from the 1930’s,”  Luchok says. “I was dazzled by the clothes—luxurious fabrics and clothes. When I was in high school and college, I did a lot of theatre, and we did shows that were set in the 1920’s and 1930’s (i.e., Auntie Mame, The Women, Follies). I was able to wear actual clothes from these eras. The quality of the work in making these clothes was evident, as was the quality of the materials used. I discovered that these clothes were very flattering to my figure.” 

No time machine is required to bring back the nostalgia of the 20's and 30’s. To experience the true magic of each time period, Luchok relies on original handiwork, not replications or decade inspired pieces. 

In the classroom, Luchok mixes modern and vintage. Her outfits consist of vintage jackets with a modern slack, or a tweed jacket with an antique lace pocket square or pin. 

“These days I’m most likely to find it at estate sales and thrift stores though everything isn't as good anymore,” Luchok says. “Because I am interested in 20s, 30s and even older than that, and that stuff is disintegrating, so it's hard to find.”

Luchok's words of wisdom: "I suggest going to vintage clothes stores when you find them. Unfortunately, HipWaZee closed on Harden Street. Sometimes antique malls will have vintage clothes booths or a couple of pieces of vintage among the other goods. 

Be sure to check for vintage shops when you travel. If you frequent thrift stores you might get lucky, as well as resale and consignment shops. If you run across one, befriend a dealer. I did a lot of collecting at the Raleigh Flea Market and there were a couple of dealers that were always looking out for me, and they brought me some good finds.  I have not found the flea markets around here to be great about vintage. There was someone who sold vintage at Soda City Market for a while. 

Estate sales and even yard sales can have treasures, and every once in a while, a collector will have a sale. People sometimes give me clothes when they are clearing out a house,  because they know I collect. 

There is more vintage online these days, but I personally prefer to see and touch items in real life, so I do not use that (I sometimes look to see what is out there and what the prices are). Occasionally theater costume departments will have a sale and much of what they have is genuine vintage. 

Also check within your own family—see what is packed away in trunks or is in the attic or the back of closet. I have some cherished pieces—my dad’s leather jacket from high school in the 1930’s, my mom’s prom gown, her wedding gown, her wedding/honeymoon suit (mid 1940’s).  If you are seriously invested in vintage. I suggest getting some books of fashions from previous eras, so you can date the clothes. There are also fashion plates and such reproduced from previous eras—Dover books are a good source (and affordable)."

Travis Wagner: Fiercely Showing Pride 

While tattoos can serve as a form of self expression on ones’ body, a cheaper self expression alternative is painting your nails. 

“I like the flare it gives me,” Ph.D. Candidate in the School of Information Science, Travis Wagner, says. 

Society has deemed painted nails as feminine, but there is no gender attached to nail polish.

 Anyone can paint their nails as it takes little effort. 

“I do genuinely enjoy the ability to add some color and flare to my wardrobe, but I also know that as somebody who was assigned male at birth and is often read as a male in social spaces, it can be a bit of a statement on identity as well,” Wagner sys. “My hope is that when people see my nail polish, earrings and other things that might not "match" what they assume about my gender identity, it leads to them thinking about what they do with their own gender identity, as well. I identify as gender queer, so when I dress, I try to show my students there are other gender identities outside the male or female binary.” 

Words of Wisdom: "My only advice to somebody first trying out nail polish is to give yourself a lot of room for trial and error. I remember the first time I did my own nails they came out gunky and splotchy, but I also had friends give advice on how to improve the quality over time. If you have a friend or partner with who you are comfortable asking for help that can improve your options and quality as well. Overall, though, think of it as a way to have fun and practice a new layer of fashion and expression and build from there!"

Meena Khalili: Small Business 

In this crazy time we are living in, we need to spread hope, joy, and inspiration more than ever before. 

Spreading hope and joy can be as easy as throwing on a shirt. Quite literally! Is there anything better than a comfortable and stylish shirt that also helps to spread a great, uplifting message?

“I try to wear anything that's supportive not negative. It's really important thing to support in the classroom to make sure you're developing and creating a safe space especially for creatives,” the assistant professor of Design at UofSC, Meena Khalili says. “We are constantly presenting and sharing our work and ideas, and a lot of the time folks can feel really unarmed in that situation.” 

Express your inner optimist with a motivational shirt! Khalili’s outfit of choice: a black, white and gray shirt with positive slogans. 

Beyond motivational outfits, Khalili’s style is influenced heavily by her father. Her father, a naturalized citizen from Iran, was a small business owner for over 35 years.

“Small businesses are huge to me,” Khalili said. “They supported my family. These types of things are certainly engraved into the fabric of the person who I am. Anything that is supporting small business, if it's not just a regular black tee shirt or like a jumpsuit, it's got some interesting fact on it, it's probably from a designer or group that is a small business that I want to support."

Because of this passion, Khalili frequently shops at small businesses like Jenny Lemons and District of Clothing. Jenny Lemons is a clothing company and DIY art school operated in San Francisco by artist Jennie Lennick. District of Columbia is a black woman-owned lifestyle brand encouraging progression, inspiring action, and supporting self-love. 

UofSC professors are showing their values through their everyday fashion. Whether the reason for their outfits are sustainability, pushing of gender-lines or wearing what makes them feel comfortable and confident, professors are taking one step for fashion but a giant leap for societal awareness. 

The final verdict: each professor on campus has a reason for wearing what they wear. While some professors opt for comfort others have a statement in mind. Remember, there is a story in every fabric and accessory. What’s your story?