Tahimi Perez-Borroto Header Image

Stories We Wear

By James Swift

In late 2015 senior English major Tahimi Perez-Borroto’s keen eye for style and skill for visual and verbal storytelling earned her an internship with College Fashionista, a New York-based web publication that profiles campus trends around the globe.

Some may look at Brenau Women’s College students and see simply an eclectic mix of fashion styles – jocks in sweats, sorority girls in pastel tees and gym shorts, gothic-styling theater majors in boots and black metal band tee shirts. Perez-Borroto looks deeper. Behind every stitch and seam, she says, there is more than just style. There’s a life story.

In her view, people tell stories not only in words they write or speak or in photographs, but also in what they wear. And Brenau Women’s College has become for her a fertile field of storytelling inspiration on all counts.

“One of the first things a person sees when you meet them is what you’re wearing,” she says. “Fashion [today] and, really, society itself have come so far that you have this freedom in expressing who you are and what your culture is. Stereotypically, people say girls dress for guys, but being at a women’s college, you don’t dress for guys. You dress for yourself.”

Tahimi Perez-Borroto
“I see more beauty in writing after taking [Brenau] classes,” Perez-Borroto says. “Just learning how to use the small details in everything, something as simple as a chair, you can create a whole world.”
Perez-Borroto says she sees many parallels between the art of writing and the art of wearing. Both require lots of creativity and entail transforming small, independent things into intricate, interwoven wholes. The same way everyday words and punctuation can be combined into beautiful poetry, she believes that tops, bottoms and accessories can also merge into a distinct expression of self.

“You have a lot of power in what you wear,” she says. “This is who you are and how you feel about yourself, and I really want to capture that [in words and pictures].”

In her dispatches thus far, she has tackled everything from emerging fashion trends and local style gurus to makeup tips and wardrobe advice.

Rocking Chair Inspiration

Perez-Borroto was born in Camajuaní, Cuba. She began assimilating her love of words and stories from her great-grandfather, who read her the poems of José Martí while rocking her in his arms. At 5 years old, she moved with her parents to Miami, where she subsequently won a lottery to attend the Archimedean Conservatory, a Miami-Dade County public charter school built around mathematics and classical Greek language. Inspired by the works of Esther Forbes, William Golding and Scott O’Dell, Perez-Borroto experienced her creative epiphany during a writing class in her senior year.

“Before, I wrote just to write,” she says, “but then I really began to focus on storytelling.”

She came to Brenau, however, sort of through the fashion portal. After a time at Florida International University, she accompanied her cousin, Valerie Rodriguez, now a fashion merchandising major, to a Brenau preview orientation. She found Gainesville a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of Miami and saw in Brenau a close-knit, intimate and caring community. The 2014 transfer student immersed herself into the Brenau culture. She became editor of Elixir, the literary magazine, and president of the English honor society. She took advantage of the small classes in poetry, short fiction and nonfiction writing to learn from passionate professors like Women’s College Dean Debra Dobkins, who is Perez-Borroto’s adviser; Sandra Brim; and Kathryn Locey. All of that helped her evolution into a fluid, lyrical writer and detail-oriented storyteller.

Honing Skills

Perez-Borroto, who is also honing photography skills, enlisted senior fashion design student Caylene Ingram to to model for her in downtown Gainesville for her first College Fashionista blog post. Perez-Borroto snapped portraits in the alleyways and parking lots abutting the town’s historic square. She carefully positioned her subject against a brick wall background and rearranged the fall of the model’s hair. She zeroed in on specific features, like Ingram’s watch and bright pink shoes.

It’s a technique she drew from her coursework at Brenau. “Just learning how to use the small details in everything, something as simple as a chair,” she says, “you can create a whole world.”

Ironically, Perez-Borroto says her own style sense of style revolves around the basics, like simple, neutral tones. “If I could wear black and white all the time,” she says, “I probably would.”

Although she wants to pursue a master’s degree at some point, she plans on taking a break after graduation. She has dreamed of visiting Europe since the sixth grade; an avid Harry Potter fan, she especially wants to see England. As far as a dream job, Perez-Borroto says she would love to develop a project like the acclaimed photo blog Humans of New York.

“We’re here for such a short amount of time, and I think there is a beauty in the combination of taking a picture of someone and writing about them,” she says. “You don’t have to create this whole other universe and characters, because there’s someone right next to you who has a really cool story.”

Tahimi Perez-Borroto
The blogger photographs classmate Caylene Ingram, a senior fashion design and studio arts major from Brooks, Georgia,  in downtown Gainesville for College Fashionista article.

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