Podcast Host Avery Trufelman Explores “Everyday Performance” at Colgate University

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Colgate University recently hosted a lecture by Avery Trufelman, host of the fashion podcast Articles of Interest. Trufelman’s talk, titled “Everyday Performance: How History, Politics, and Culture Shape What We Wear and How We Wear It,” delved into the intimate relationship among fashion, societal norms, and personal expression.

Associate Professor of Educational Studies Mark Stern introduced Trufelman’s lecture, highlighting the significance of her work in understanding contemporary societal dynamics. Stern, who currently teaches a class on the history of home economics, expressed how Trufelman’s exploration of the domestic sphere resonates with his coursework. 

“Trufelman’s insights into the dynamics of contemporary American culture, particularly regarding clothing as a tangible manifestation of the boundaries that separate individuals from one another, has been invaluable to my class,” said Stern.

Trufelman’s expertise stems from her extensive background in podcasting and journalism. Before diving into fashion, she covered architecture as a producer for the design podcast 99% Invisible and hosted podcasts for publications like New York Magazine. Her fashion podcast, Articles of Interest, which Stern used in his course, was recognized as one of the best podcasts of 2024 by The New Yorker and earned her a spot among the 500 most important people in fashion according to The Business of Fashion.

During her lecture, Trufelman engaged the audience in a lively discussion, weighing in on topics such as the ongoing rivalry between Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, fast fashion, thrifting, and the nuances of everyday performance. In the most interactive portion of her presentation, Trufelman challenged conventional notions of “classic” or “style-less” dressing, illustrating how historical, political, and cultural factors shape trends and influence individual choices. 

Projecting various black-and-white images on the screen, Trufelman challenged the audience to guess the era of the images presented. After several guesses, Trufelman would reveal the true era, often several decades off from the most popular guesses. This simple exercise revealed the ever-evolving and ever-repeating nature of fashion.

“Clothing is the way of situating yourself in your time but it’s more complicated than that,” explained Trufelman. “It’s how we wear outside culture on our skin. Clothes serve as more than mere coverings; they encode information about one’s profession, the weather, and cultural affiliations.”

The discussion then extended to whether one can opt out of fashion’s influence. Trufelman pondered, “Can you opt out of fashion or are we prisoners of sartorial circumstance?” In investigating this question, Trufelman delved into fashion archetypes and icons throughout history. From Madonna to Patty Smith, David Bowie to Bruce Springsteen, Trufelman explored how individuals navigate the ever-changing landscape of fashion, either embracing current trends or maintaining a so-called “timeless aesthetic.”

One such timeless aesthetic Trufelman touched upon was that of “preppy” or “ivy” clothing. Referencing the book Take Ivy, which surveyed Ivy League college campuses in 1965 and has been dubbed “the bible of preppy style,” Trufelman noted the enduring appeal of this aesthetic. Despite evolving definitions and new takes on preppy style through platforms like TikTok, the elegance and sophistication of this aesthetic continue to resonate with consumers to this day. 

Circling back to her original question on opting out, Trufelman concluded, “When it comes to fashion, you can never truly opt out. Every fashion reflects its time and the larger elements of its culture. Ultimately, the only way to remain comfortably trapped in your person, in your time, in your skin, and in your clothes is to just enjoy the tango and see it less as a matter of choice and more as something that simply is.” 

This lecture, part of Colgate University’s Arts, Creativity, and Innovation series, received support from various academic departments and organizations, including the Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research, the Colgate Arts Council, and the Department of Educational Studies.