Thursday, December 2, 2021

ASMSU President Georgia Frost on fashion, femininity and power

November 16, 2021

Georgia Frost — president of Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, and a fashion icon.

As a woman in a position of power and a lover of clothes, she’s changing the definition of what’s considered “professional.” 

Frost began her time at ASMSU by being elected the freshman class council president. From there, Frost fell in love with the organization.

“It became something that was pretty intrinsic, and became a part of me very quickly,” she said.

After years of working in ASMSU’s internal affairs, Frost said she knew she wanted to pursue the position of the president. 

“The work feels meaningful," Frost said. "I have a great team, and even though it’s exhausting sometimes, it’s clearly very worth it."

ASMSU as an organization has had several women leaders before, and Frost said she looked up to each of them.

“The different personalities that have made up the women presidencies at ASMSU have been tremendously inspirational in vastly different ways,” she said.

Katherine “Cookie” Rifiotis was the president of ASMSU when Frost was a freshman, and having a woman represented in that position of power helped Frost feel confident about joining the organization. 

Frost said she believes that having women predecessors is vital, but that it doesn’t diminish the obstacles that women in positions of power face. In her time as president, Frost has experienced “very specific and odd stereotypes” from colleagues or from outsiders.

“There are definitely certain expectations ... where (men) expect the kindness, the motherliness, compassion over directness,” she said.

Due to her position, Frost is experienced in navigating power and femininity. She said she was concerned about being seen as unapproachable or too serious. However, Frost doesn’t believe that she’s sacrificed anything — femininity or masculinity — to pursue leadership.

“I’ve found that I’ve had to use both of them in order to make the work effective,” she said.

Rather than masculinity or femininity, Frost said she has learned that a leader needs to be both strong and kind.

“If you lack empathy ... then people usually don’t care about what you have to say,” she said.

Frost said she's also come to realize that good power comes from embracing the person you already are. Rather than conforming to traditional ideas of gender roles, Frost believes that people can do their best work when they “lean fully into their own identity and take that into their work so that they don’t have to deny parts of themselves in order to fit a job description.”

Thus, fashion is a way that Frost has been able to express her own identity. Traditionally, fashion is seen as something feminine. It isn’t always taken seriously, and it isn’t always deemed as professional. By dressing for herself, and herself only, Frost challenges norms of professionalism and gender roles on a daily basis. Whether in red, knee-high boots, a dramatic, puffed sleeved top or leggings and a cap, Frost demands to be taken seriously. 

Frost used a necktie as a symbol for the way she used fashion to navigate leadership as a woman. A few years ago, ties were a staple in Frost’s wardrobe.

“Why does a tie have to be only a man’s article of clothing?” she said. “I think it looks powerful. I think it looks like a real dedication for what you’re doing. It’s showing up.”

However, Frost realized that the dedication and ambition that the tie symbolized was already a part of who she was.

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“That was a false symbol of something that I had inside me the whole time,” she said. “I can dress how I want and still have that part of me present.”

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After stepping into the position of president, Frost hasn’t let others define what professionalism should look like for her. While typically Frost’s predecessors have stuck to suits, Frost likes to play with colors, textures, and silhouettes. She said she doesn’t limit herself to a specific aesthetic either, wearing what suits her mood on any given day.

Business attire is typically the base for Frost’s day-to-day looks, given that she regularly attends meetings where that is expected. However, Frost still asserts her personal style through these looks. 

“It’s wrong for administrators, faculty members or other students to assume things about my job performance based on the fact that I like to have fun with my clothes,” she said.

However, Frost’s unique sense of style has been accepted and celebrated within the organization. 

“I think (the faculty) know that I can do my job, I’m there for a reason ... and that what I’m wearing doesn’t really have much to do with that,” she said.

In terms of her peers within ASMSU, other students have appreciated the fact that Frost has not conformed to the suit, but rather has set the tone for a work environment that values self-expression.

Frost said she hopes that her example will show others within the organization that they don’t need to discard their own personal sense of style in order to fit a certain position.

She also noted the ways in which professional clothing is historically defined by whiteness and masculinity, and can be inherently classist as well. Frost wants to create an environment where people feel comfortable to dress in ways that reflect their diverse identities, rather than conforming to these standards. 

“If I find something that makes me feel good ... and just lean into the fact that I like the way that I look and I don’t really care what other people think, the confidence itself is what makes the outfit something, instead of the actual articles of clothing," she said.

Pink flare jeans with red hearts, turtlenecks and blazers (worn casually or professionally) are some of Frost’s favorite pieces. Frost has two pairs of chunky white Filas, and straight-cut leather pants are a regular outfit component for her.  An all-black, monochrome look is another go-to of Frost’s, and kitten heels are a staple, as well.

For a night out, Frost said she loves a statement dress. Zara, Mango and ASOS are some of her favorite places to source clothes, and she never buys anything for full price.

“I find just wearing pants and a blazer ... to be quite boring, so I like to add fun twists on it,” she said.

While some people express themselves creatively through painting or photography, Frost’s creative expression comes through in her clothes.

“I think the fashion that I like the absolute most is when I blend conventionally professional clothes with sci-fi looking clothes,” Frost said.

Frost shared that one of her favorite outfits has been nicknamed the “Dune” fit, inspired by the new movie. Movies and television shows are a source of inspiration for Frost’s style, along with outfits she sees on Pinterest and Instagram reels (she said she was never able to get into TikTok). From these social media outlets, Frost shops her own closet, using her clothes in new ways rather than just purchasing new clothes. 

Frost is changing the ways that professionalism is viewed within her own workplace. As a woman in a position of power, she negotiates her gender identity with her job and her own self-expression on a daily basis. 

“I would say that I have a very traditional mind for very specific things, but fashion is definitely not one of them,” Frost said.

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