Three students reflect on intersection of fashion and self-expression

Jexa Edinburg 

Being a freshman certainly isn’t easy, especially after COVID. The uncertainty around being in a new school doesn’t seem compatible with the level of confidence it takes to wear clothes that differ from the norm, but Jexa Edinburg is an exception to this rule. Their distinctive style—which mixes historic, artistic, trendy and a plethora of other aesthetics—has already helped them create a niche within the ETHS ecosystem. 

“[My favorite item of clothing] right now would have to be one of my pirate shirts—really, they’re 18th century men’s shirts,” Edinburg says. “Walking through the halls of ETHS, I’m really recognizable, because nobody else is going to be wearing a pirate shirt.” 

Edinburg’s clothes don’t just look unique; they actually are one of a kind pieces. For the past five years, Edinburg has been sewing their own clothes. 

“Five years ago, [when] I was nine or ten, my grandma gave me a sewing machine. I kind of figured out a lot of stuff on my own. I’ve never actually taken a formal sewing class or anything,” Edinburg says. “There’s something to be said about how empowering it is to say ‘Thanks, I made it!’ whenever someone compliments your outfit.”

Edinburg also believes that fashion is a statement, in multiple ways. The most obvious is as an art form, a work that can convey meaning and beauty all while being worn on the body. But the other is more subtle. By being mindful of what you wear, you can also make a political statement about what brands and methods of production you chose to support. 

“I try to source [fabric] second hand as much as possible, because of [the] environment,” Edinburg says. “Also, I don’t want to support fast fashion. I like to get stuff second hand and make stuff.”

Fashion is also a way for Edinburg to break barriers. As a nonbinary teen, they explain that it can often be difficult to find clothing that doesn’t attempt to confine them to a certain gender. 

“A lot of places that sell clothes sell them as ‘women’s wear’ or ‘men’s wear,’ and as a non-binary person, I’d rather just ignore that and make it myself, to kind of go beyond that,” Edinburg says. “This is a part of me; it’s a part of my identity. It’s just an external way of showing who I am inside.”

Ellery Grezenbach 

Ellery Grenzebach is a senior at ETHS. Throughout her years here, and even before she attended ETHS, her style has been ever changing. Grezenbach feels that this is an essential part of fashion, especially when you’re growing up. 

“When I was younger, I had very elaborate outfits, and I think that has changed. I don’t dress in hot pink anymore—or like in grade school when I dressed in all black. [My style] definitely switches, but it’s always been a way to express my personality, and that has stayed constant in my life.”

For Grenzebach, similarly to Edinburg, sustainability is an important part of fashion. Rather than make her own clothes though, Grenzebach focuses on thrifting, which is also a much more economically viable option for high school students.

“My family is really big on resale and not buying new clothes,” Grezenbach says, “I think it’s really cool to be able to go to a store—and it’s all old stuff—and find things that you think represent yourself.”

Evanston has an abundance of thrift stores to choose from, including larger places like Goodwill and Salvation Army, locally run businesses such as Classy Closet Consignment and more expensive spots like Crossroads Trading Co. Grenzebach also recommends ‘Green Element’ and ‘Brown Elephant’ in Rogers Park. 

Thrifting isn’t always a natural skill though. Grenzebach shares a couple of her tips for people who are just beginning to explore the world of second hand clothes.

“Go into it with an open mind,” Grenzebach says. “I’m a person who’s good at visualizing it on myself, so a tip would be to visualize [an article of clothing] with other things that are already in your closet.” 

But no matter how you get your clothes, fashion for Grenzebach is about the way it makes you feel. 

“It’s just a way to feel more confident in myself, and more confident in the image I’m presenting to the world.” 

Louis Ford 

At 6’3”, junior Louis Ford stands out in an ETHS halfway. On top of that, his preppy and unique style draws even more attention. But, despite all of this, Ford still describes feeling confined by the opinions and judgements of his peers.

“I feel that pressure from other people with in-person school. I dress pretty normally and already get stared at. I feel like if I wore what I really wanted every day, it would be a lot more out of the ordinary. More feminine clothes like skirts, and certain shoes I probably wouldn’t wear to school, but I want to.”

For Ford, this isn’t actually about other people’s judgements. Instead, it’s simply about their presence. This is something that many people, especially teenagers, feel; an imaginary pressure stemming from the idea of people rather than people’s actual beliefs.

“It doesn’t really matter who’s there. If there’s anyone [near me] I won’t wear [dresses or skirts].” He says. 

This isn’t the only way that other people influence Ford’s fashion. He’s also able to take inspiration from what other people are wearing, which is heavily aided by social media.

“I have a personal style, but it’s mainly influenced by social media and what my friends are wearing. But I always like to put a little spin on it and do my own thing.” Ford says. “I use Pinterest and TikTok and Instagram just to see what people are wearing at the moment.”

But despite all of the influences around him, Ford uses fashion to express uniqueness. 

“[What I’m wearing] is different from what my peers are wearing, and I do get compliments on it. So it makes me feel like what I’m wearing is different and I think I can express myself through that.” Ford says.