The fashion continuum

Sarah James

Five years ago, Sharon Dranko, sophomore fashion merchandising major, wore tutus to school. Junior English major Erin Miller was gothic in high school.

As the two bloomed during college, their wardrobes changed, too. Fashion actively expressed or suppressed. Fashion revealed or concealed. Fashion was the symptom and the cause, one’s internal metamorphosis on display for the world to see.

From wild to trendy

When Sharon Dranko was 15 years old, her style was far different from what was considered normal.

One outfit consisted of a neon blue Lycra top and a black miniskirt with appliquéd stars overtop a purple tutu, a leftover from an old ice skating costume. She wore black tights, black knee socks and homemade sequined shoes. She used fabric glue and more sequins to create a sparkly mosaic on the side of her face. She applied a thick layer of black eyeliner and finished off her look with bright pink lipstick and giant “doorknocker” earrings.

She didn’t make it past the front lawn. Her father came running after her.

“You have to get back in the house,” he said. “You look ridiculous!”

That was five years ago, when the sophomore fashion merchandising major was a freshman in high school.

“I thought it looked good,” she said. “It set me apart. I just wanted to show my interest in fashion. I wanted people to know I was different.”

These days Dranko can be seen walking through the halls of Rockwell in pencil skirts, cardigans and flats.

“I think my style now reflects my personality,” she said. “It’s girly and still kind of quirky.”

Karen Dranko recalls her daughter’s former wardrobe less than fondly. She did not approve of Sharon’s heavy makeup or short skirts. She tried throwing away some of her daughter’s tutus, but Sharon just ordered more from dance supply catalogs.

“She’s gotten much better,” Karen said. “She still comes out with some crazy outfits, but amazingly, I will see them in a magazine a month later. I guess she knows what’s in style.”

From goth to classic

Erin Miller used her clothing as a way to rebel against what she called “the mainstream.” When Miller was 16, she wore black from head to toe.

When Miller was a freshman in high school, her family moved to Georgia. Miller and her sisters hated it there, and all three of them began dressing in bondage pants, corsets and fishnet stockings.

“That’s when I started getting depressed and wearing all black,” she said. “It was a way to be invisible. I was trying to stick out at the same time.”

Although she’d been depressed before moving to Georgia, the move did not help her cope.

“I couldn’t really relate to many people,” Miller said. “Even though I had a lot of great things in my life, I still thought negatively about everything.”

The next year, the family moved back to Ohio, and Miller’s classmates were shocked by her transition. The high school principal pegged her as a troublemaker despite her quiet nature and good grades.

“Everyone was kind of shocked that I changed so abruptly,” she said. “I got judged a lot based on how I dressed.”

Miller began changing her style during her freshman year at Kent State. She’d broken up with her high school boyfriend and wanted her appearance to reflect her shifting attitudes. As a result, Miller chopped 11 inches of her hair off and let it grow back to her natural brown.

“I felt like I needed a drastic change in my life,” she said. “I was pretty depressed in high school. I’m a much happier person now.”

Now, Miller embraces color. She can be seen wearing long, brightly colored floral print dresses.

Although Miller’s mother did not approve of her daughter’s clothing, she never placed any restrictions upon it. She said she understood her daughter was going through a phase she was likely to grow out of.

“I think she was trying to convey that she was unique,” Cindy Miller said. “Because of her being a triplet, she was afraid she blended in.”

Cindy is relieved her daughter now embraces color and likes the way she dresses.

“She definitely still has her own mind about things,” she said. “I like the way she dresses now.”

Contact features correspondent Sarah James at [email protected].