Students

Rachel Painter Brightens Our Day

Welcoming us back to our series on the fabulous students at the University of Edinburgh we have Rachel Painter (she actually does paint!). Rachel warned us that she wore primarily dark colors, so Beth and Rachel met up in the Grassmarket to use the colorful doors as backdrops (and take advantage of the cute coffeeshops to change and buy tea, because gosh was it cold!).

Tell us a little about you.

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Hey, I’m Rachel. I’m a second year student at University of Edinburgh studying computer science and I’m from America (small town in eastern Massachusetts specifically). I do art, play videogames, enjoy fashion, and am slightly obsessed with my cats (and cats in general).

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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As a plus sized person, especially shopping in female oriented lines, there aren’t a ton of options compared to straight sizing so about half my wardrobe is from Asos’s Curve line which I really adore. It is modern and interesting and my cropped top, jeans, and long cardigan are from this line (not currently available).

I also really love Loft’s Lou & Grey line although I’m not wearing any of their pieces in the photos. I do shop a bit in the men’s section – my favorite is H&M, specifically their “divided” line where my hat is from.

For shoes I particularly gravitate towards the brand Vagabond which in terms of quality have been outstanding to me, and I really abuse my shoes. I like that they offer a range of very pristine menswear inspired shoes to punk type flatforms to high top sneakers. My chelsea boots are from them and the loafers I’m wearing is the modern loafer from Everlane. Everlane is also the makers of my backpack (their classic modern snap backpack in reverse denim). For makeup I tend to fill in my brows, put on an interesting lip color, and sometimes I do some foundation/concealer/blush. Most of my lip products, and the ones I use the most, are from MAC (my orange-red lipstick is So Chaud by MAC). (How great is it that Rachel changed not just outfits but also lipsticks for us? *swoon*).

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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Oh god, my style used to be all over the place. I’d like interesting “edgy” items but then flip back to super feminine dresses and cardigans to jeans and tops. Teenage years were an odd slightly embarrassing mix of hot topic and the local department store.

When I was seventeen I started really getting into online fashion communities (specifically the subreddit /r/femalefashionadvice) and trying to narrow down what I really wanted in my wardrobe. I decided I didn’t like traditional feminine silhouettes, that I love high waisted things, and trying to step away from black was a huge misstep. Now my wardrobe is about 75% grey. I love grey. A lot. I find it has the nice neutral tonality of black without the harshness and the lighter nature of it really allows for textures to pop.

Lately I’ve been re-incorporating some more feminine elements into my style but I try to avoid anything twee, cutesy, or retro. I’ve particularly been taken with body con dresses, especially midi length ones.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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Don’t be intimidated. This is obviously easier said than done but there is a huge misconception that STEM is only for geniuses who know exactly what they’re doing and what they want to pursue. All throughout my childhood and high school I had an affinity for the humanities but it was certain aspects of science and math that really interested me and with my love for computers I decided to challenge myself and major in a subject that I’m passionate about, even if it doesn’t come naturally to me.

I came into this major with no real background in programming, just a vague idea of how computers worked from my personal usage particularly from gaming. It isn’t easy, of course, but I’m doing it and I’m no super genius.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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No specific large project stands out in my mind but I get a lot of satisfaction and pride out of the art I create. I rarely share it, and if I do it is usually with a couple close friends, so it is purely just for my benefit. I love being able to create and express myself and I find it a more unlimited and personal expression than fashion.

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I’m mostly self taught when it comes to art and have about zero experience drawing people and so I’m largely intimidated by it. This  piece started as an easy way to dip my toe into drawing a person without crashing into the uncanny valley, by using a self-portrait as reference. I didn’t want to get caught up on all the nuance of color that people have in their skin and eyes so I just picked some colors that were vibrant and I liked and mixed and matched. I actually tend to shy away from mixing in so many different hues but I felt like it worked in this loose and quick self portrait. Fun fact, in the reference image I took I am wearing the same dress as in my first outfit (photo above. I think this took me roughly 3 hours to complete.

Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?

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To be honest I think most of the stereotypes associated with computer science have a basis in reality but it isn’t nearly as overwhelming as portrayed; You won’t be the only not white/cis/straight/dude, you won’t be the only one who isn’t consumed by the newest technology or nerd culture, and you won’t be the only one who does or doesn’t like video games.

Anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

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Don’t take yourself too seriously with clothes, or in general really. Have fun, experiment, try really hard or don’t try at all. Clothes are like fun playgrounds that you get to show off to everyone so wear what you want unapologetically.

We love when people share their art with us, and it’s so perfect that this piece of Rachel’s features the dress she wore on our shoot! Traipsing around Edinburgh with Rachel (and hiking up those crazy steps she sat on to see the upper street layer) was so much fun, and her elegant but playful style is everything we love.

Keep creating,

Dona & Beth

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