Name: Lauren Padilla
Year: Class of 2019
Hometown: Longmeadow, MA
Intended Path of Study: International Studies
The Devil Wears Hopkins
Yesterday, my mom and I got into a fight. The catalyst, as usual, was my excessive packing habits. Staring at the heaps of boxes destined for Hopkins, my mom informed me not so subtly that I needed to leave some belongings behind. She gestured at the stack of sketchbooks piled on top of a suitcase. I resisted. She pointed to the box of vintage dresses I had stacked in the corner. I protested. Finally, she waved an arm at my sewing machine. I informed her it was essential to my existence. She then gave up and left my room.
Okay, deep (deep) down inside I’ll admit that my mom was right and that my reaction was a bit dramatic. With a full course load, I’m sure I won’t have much free time for sketching. While attending college I know I won’t have much occasion to wear a cocktail dress, let alone a 1950s taffeta gown. And, honestly, even though I tell myself I will, I probably won’t have the energy to create a collection of clothes in my spare time. Still, I can’t imagine making my journey without any of those items; it would be like leaving part of me behind. After all, it is essentially because of them that I’m attending Johns Hopkins this fall.
I know what you’re thinking. Fashion and Hopkins? But, just keep reading and I promise you, it will make sense eventually.
Since as long as I can remember, style has been an integral part of my life. To give you a better understanding of the extent of my fashion obsession, here’s a little anecdote. You know how most children have a comfort object? A blanket or teddy bear or stuffed unicorn (bonus points for those who understood my Despicable Me reference)? Well, my item of choice was a velvet jumper. Yes, my comfort object was an article of clothing.
I spent the first part of my childhood in Oahu. Although it’s not exactly the style capitol of the world, growing up in Hawaii did nurture my love of fashion; the diverse atmosphere truly helped foster my personal interests and identity. Unfortunately, after moving to my current hometown of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, I discovered the environment was entirely different. In Longmeadow, the vast majority of my new peers were the children of traditional, white, two-parent families; almost all were interested in either sports or music. As the adopted daughter of a multicultural single mother, I immediately felt myself an oddity; my interest in fashion only heightened my sense of isolation. So, for a while I pushed fashion aside where it remained, more or less, a hobby.
Then, in 2006, a wonderful thing happened: The Devil Wear Prada came to the silver screen. For months, I begged my mom to let me see the film. One fateful night, she gave in. From the first moment I saw Meryl Streep sauntering past those immaculate, never-ending closets in her oversize sunglasses and Chanel dresses, I was smitten. Immediately after the ending credits appeared, I turned to my mother and announced that I was going to become a fashion editor.
It sounds ridiculous, but after that moment, something clicked. Seeing that movie made me realize that creative, unconventional jobs existed, and that, despite what other Longmeadow people said, working in the fashion industry could be a serious career. I finally recognized that if I was going to pursue fashion, I would have to make my own opportunities. I taught myself to sketch and sew and design; I traveled into the city and took summer classes in fashion. Eventually, I began writing my own fashion column and creating my own fabric prints and pieces. Through all of it, I looked forward to the day when I could leave my homogenous town and live somewhere diverse and interesting, surrounded by other aspiring fashion gurus. When it came time for me to start selecting colleges, I had all sights set on New York City.
Much to my dismay, five NYC college tours later, I found myself more confused than ever—none of the schools had “clicked”. For the past decade, I had imagined myself spending the next four years of my life in the Big Apple. The following Saturday, disheartened and more perplexed than ever, I dragged myself back to Massachusetts.
Whenever I’m feeling terrible, I find the best solution is to slip into a new outfit. I may feel awful on the inside, but at least I can look quasi pulled-together from the outside. So, the next morning, I woke up early, channeled my inner Edna Mode, and designed myself a new dress. Little did I know that said dress would ultimately lead me to Hopkins.
On Monday, I sported my finished creation to school. Usually, when I whip up a new garment, I feel immediately refreshed. That morning, however, something was different. I was still distressed. Had my method finally failed? What was happening to the world? At the end of the day, I felt even more anxious; I wanted to crawl into a hole. Not only was my life plan crumbling to pieces, but my foolproof method of uplifting myself was flawed. Apparently, I was so deep in reflection that I didn’t hear the clicking of high heels behind me. All of a sudden, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Ms. K. For those of you (most of you) who never attended Longmeadow High School, Ms. K is a sort of urban legend. She’s absolutely crazy (her personality matches that of High School Musical’s Ms. Darbus perfectly), but regardless, everyone loves her.
With her signature smile and theatrical laugh, Ms. K proceeded to compliment my design. She then looked me up and down once and asserted without any semblance of hesitation that she knew exactly who I wanted to be (I had never interacted with her up until this point). Ms. K proclaimed that she knew a woman in the fashion industry who had gone to school with her daughter. Like a crazed squirrel, she then darted across the hall, scribbled the name “Eva Chen” onto a piece of paper, and told me to google her when I got home.
Flattered (and slightly concerned), I did as I was told. After seeing her picture online, I immediately recognized Eva Chen; I had read several of her articles in Teen Vogue years ago. Now, however, she was serving as the Editor-in-Chief of Lucky Magazine. Intrigued, I decided to read further. A few minutes later, I stumbled upon one of her recent interviews and began reading. About midway through, the interviewer asked the editor to elaborate on her educational background. FIT. Maybe NYU. Every editor goes to one of the two. Both my guesses were wrong. Eva Chen had attended Johns Hopkins University. And, according to the interview, she had loved every second of it. Hmmm…..Johns Hopkins? But, that’s a med school…isn’t it? One google led to another, and pretty soon I had discovered that Johns Hopkins had far more to offer than just its medical programs. Writing Seminars? Creative Marketing? Internships at Vogue and The New York Times?
That night, I “temporarily” added Hopkins to my list of potential schools. I never took it off.
About a week before the release of JHU decisions, I had attended a conference called Teen Vogue Fashion University at the Condé Nast Headquarters in New York City. The entire experience was surreal—I had the chance to breathe and walk and talk in the building that I had dreamed about my whole life. At the end of one of the seminars, I had the opportunity to speak with one of Teen Vogue’s senior editors. I explained my predicament. Fashion school or traditional school? Understandingly, he told me to choose whichever option was better for me, assuring that either background could make a great editor.
“Everything will fall into place,” he stated. I tried to suppress my laughter. Okay, I know it sounds awful—one of my heroes is trying to give me a piece of heartfelt advice, and I’m standing there laughing. But, I promise that it’s not as bad as it seems. It’s just that his words really reminded me a Carrie Bradshaw quote I had seen a few weeks ago….
Before I knew it, March 27 had arrived. Anxiously, I sat at my computer, Hopkins decision site up and ready, waiting for the clock to strike three. As I sat there, I repeated the editor’s words to myself. Everything will fall into place. Despite my attempt to pacify my nerves, thoughts continued to race through my mind. The preceding weeks had held nothing but increasing disappointment; internally I was preparing myself for yet another. Will Hopkins, out of all schools, really accept some girl who wrote an admissions essay comparing her life to her closet? Your scores aren’t nearly as good as they should be. You have B’s on your transcript. Suddenly, I looked down. It was three o’clock. Hesitantly, I logged into the portal, shut my eyes, and held my breath. YES! What?! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Immediately, I jumped out of my seat.
One month later, I found myself on campus for an admitted students day. I was in absolute awe—the campus was beautiful, the other students were fantastic, and the educational opportunities were amazing. At the end of the day, I was ready to commit to life as a Blue Jay. And that, my friends, is how fashion met the Hopkins.