Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Fashion helped ease my homesickness

Avery Thorpe

My grandmother loves to decorate. From her couch covers to the jewelry on her temple, ornamenting the world around her is tradition. Every month, she gifts my family with jewelry from India, arriving in giant cardboard boxes. When I go home, I am reminded of the rush I felt when my mother would rip open the box, revealing layers of gold sandwiched between bubble wrap. 

Every time I visited my mother, we went through the same motions: ripping apart the cardboard box, debating who gets what jewelry and stealing tassel earrings from each other. The allocation of jewelry between family members has become a tradition, resulting in my extraordinary collection.

In college, I struggled to connect with my culture, turning to fashion as a beneficial way to embrace my culture in a new community like UT.

In India, fashion is integral to the fabric of culture, with every piece able to be traced back to a specific village or city. That is why I choose to wear my grandmother’s jewelry: because of its specific ties to my ancestral land. Even specific fabrics or patterns can be traced back to their original village, highlighting the rich and distinct nature of the South Asian landscape. 

As I entered high school, the parts of my culture I once embraced, slowly started to fade away, replaced by American brands in an attempt to fit in. The Nikes on my feet were a harsh reminder that no matter how hard I tried, I might never feel comfortable in my own shoes. I struggled with embracing my culture while trying to fit in.

How do I form my own relationship with my culture, without ever experiencing it in the environment it was cultivated? This dichotomy is something most immigrants can relate to. Trying to embrace my own culture whilst balancing a new one is a daunting task, resulting in me spending most of my youth attempting to cover up the marks of my heritage. 

In college, I was finally surrounded by those who embraced their culture, encouraging me to look for a vessel I felt comfortable enough to embody. 

Looking in the mirror every morning to see a piece of my heritage, my grandmother and my ancestral beauty reflected grounds me, deepening my sense of self that constantly gets lost. 

Being an immigrant in college can be hard. We don’t have the traditions we grew up with on campus. But turning to fashion can be a way of taking a little piece of home with you. 

For me, I turned to my grandmother’s jewelry, pairing her tassel earrings with my Urban Outfitters jeans. 

Jewelry reminded me that I must connect with my culture, not participate in its erasure.

College is a time of self-discovery and self-reflection. Since fashion can be worn everywhere, I encourage everyone to find a piece of fashion to help connect them to their culture. When I look in the mirror or glance at my hands, the jewelry ornamenting my body reminds me of who I am and where I came from. I found home within myself, easing the pain of missing out on traditions like seeing a cardboard box on my mother’s doorstep.

I encourage everyone to find something to remind them of who they are and where they came from — even if it’s just a pair of tassel earrings. 

Kondaveeti is an English junior from Austin, Texas.

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