Quad Style: Isabella Martin

Quad Style: Isabella Martin

My name is Isabella, and I’m a 4th year majoring in Biological Sciences (Ecology and Evolution) and History. I love music — especially folk music — and help organize the annual 2-day U of C Folk Festival as president of the Folklore Society. I also love to sing, and perform with Men in Drag a cappella. I’m also a big fan of global health and medicine in general, so I’m a crew chief on the University of Chicago Emergency Medical Services unit as well. After all that, in my free time I like to dance at Zumba, bake (I like to pretend I’m on the Bake-Off), and binge TV (I’ve seen RuPaul’s Drag Race season 5 about 8 times).


How would you describe your personal style?

In my mind, my style’s a combination of vintage and bohemian. In reality, it’s more like ‘business professional with a cool necklace and booties, a crop top when it’s not hypothermically cold outside, and a jean jacket.’ I don’t have a lot of clothing, which apparently is called a ‘capsule wardrobe.’ I’m interested in environmental sustainability and sustainable fashion; however, because I don’t necessarily have the funds to buy sustainably yet, I try to shop very little, put a lot of consideration into purchasing accent pieces, focus on thrifting, and incorporating familial and ‘borrowed’ pieces - like jewelry - into my wardrobe.


For my first outfit, I’m wearing my ‘business casual’ pants from Ann Taylor, Steve Madden booties, and a shirt I had sewn for me while working in Kumasi, Ghana this summer. I spent way to much time picking out fabric, and had initially planned to sew something myself, but when I actually bought the fabric I was like ‘nah I’m too afraid I’ll screw this up,’ and ended up going to a tailor — I think that’s the first time I’ve ever spent money on wanting something to fit well! I’m also wearing earrings from the 2017 Metropolitan Museum of Art jewelry catalogue and a necklace and bracelet I stole from my classy mother.

Where do you find style inspiration?

Because my style often incorporates opposing elements — i.e. a pearl necklace with trousers and a jean jacket — my inspiration comes from how my clothes make me feel, rather than literal inspiration. Recently, I’ve been dressing to feel powerful. I also take a lot of inspiration for these ‘feelings’ from the music I listen to — whether that be folk music like First Aid Kit, Red Tail Ring, or Emmylou Harris or pop like Lana Del Rey, RuPaul and Lizzo.

Where do you like to shop?

I don’t shop much, but I mainly stick to thrift stores or cheaper local stores, and Nordstrom Rack if I’m feeling fancy.

My inspiration comes from how my clothes make me feel, rather than literal inspiration

For my second outfit, my shirt-dress is actually from H&M. My necklace and bracelet are, again, stolen from my mother, and my jean jacket is from a Goodwill in Paramus, NJ. Boots and earrings are the same as before.

Do you have any fashion regrets?


When I was younger, I hated my body and myself. I wore a lot of scarves, sweaters, and layers to draw attention away from my body, and wore necklaces to draw attention away from my face. Because of this, fashion and shopping were points of anxiety, not self-expression. At the end of my senior year of high school, I asked some advice from a teacher about an upcoming audition. The first thing she had me to do was take off my scarf and sweater. She told me ’you can’t really live if you’re always trying to hide.’ I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life trying to hide, and I wish I hadn’t used fashion as a tool to do that. Now, I try to use fashion to help me like my body, not hide it. Fashion — and especially fashion’s relationship to the body positivity movement — is important to me because it helps me feel accepted and helps me accept myself.

I try to use fashion to help me like my body, not hide it

All photos courtesy of Rebecca Cho. See more of her work here!

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