On a beautiful spring day, I found Montclair State University’s stunning Erica Stolte looking at the Manhattan skyline behind the Center for Environmental and Life Science building on campus.
The 22-year-old has always had a fascination with fashion and beauty.
“I remember spending the summers at my grandparents’ house because they used to babysit me while my mom worked,” Stolte said. “My older cousin, Jamie, would come over a couple times a week to hang out with me. We used to come up with fashion designs in notebooks and have my grandparents vote on which design was best.”
Stolte explained that she has wanted to be a fashion designer since she was a little girl. She recalled being given a headless mannequin from a store that was closing down.
“I used to save my allowance money to buy fabric from Joanne’s,” said Stolte. “Unfortunately, that dream ended when my parents got me a sewing machine for Christmas one year and we couldn’t figure out how to put the bobbin on the machine. It was actually really funny. I stuck to hand-sewing small outfits for my dolls.”
The senior who is majoring in studio art with a concentration in painting believes her field of study connects to the fashion and beauty industry.
“It allows you to express yourself in so many different ways,” said Stolte. “Fashion and beauty are displayed on the person rather than the ‘canvas’ and everyone has their own unique style and so do visual artists.”
During her first semester at Montclair State, Stolte participated in the Giving Goes Glam Fashion Show, a fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The show raised over $3,000 that year.
As a sister of Montclair State’s chapter of Theta Kappa Chi, Stolte helps with their annual fundraising event, “Theta Sweetheart,” which is a male beauty pageant which donates all the proceeds to charity.
“I was able to be an escort for a contestant, and they had to do an impersonation of me which was really entertaining,” Stolte said.
For the past two years, Theta Kappa Chi has donated to The Ashley Lauren Foundation, which is dedicated to helping fund treatment for children diagnosed with cancer.
Aside from being an avid member of the Montclair State community, Stolte participates in fashion and beauty events off campus.
In 2015, Stolte won her first state title, Miss New Jersey USA Ambassador. She also won Miss New Jersey East Coast USA that same year.
“Currently, I hold the title of Miss Garden State American Coed 2016 (Collegiate),” said Stolte.
“Pageants and modeling have been my hobby for the past few years and I absolutely fell in love with the gowns, dresses, makeup, hair—just everything about it,” said Stolte. “I held my first title when I was sixteen representing my hometown of Sayreville, and from then on, I continued to compete in the sport. I’ve always been someone who loves to get dressed up and have reasons to wear fancy gowns.”
Stolte explained that pageantry has opened many doors for her modeling career.
“This past fall I was able to walk for multiple designers during New York Fashion Week, and it was such an amazing experience,” she said. “I am so thankful for the connections I’ve made in the industry so far.
“It hasn’t been an easy journey because I’m not very tall, but for being petite, I think I’ve made moves in the industry so far. I recently signed with a talent agency in New York and I’m excited to see what the future holds for me.”
Stolte believes that fashion is a fundamental part of life.
“I always believed how you present yourself to others shows that you care about your appearance and makes all the difference,” she said. “It affects how another person treats you.”
She credits the fashion industry for shaping who she is. “Caring about what I wear and how I look gives me confidence, and it just makes me feel better when I’m having a bad day or if I’m stressed about school,” Stolte said. “I have it in my head that I need to look ‘photo-ready’ all the time, and as silly as that sounds, you never know when your friend wants to take Snapchats of you when you’re not paying attention in the Student Center just to mess with you—trust me it happens. Since I discovered eyeliner freshman year of high school, there has not been a day I’ve left the house without it.”
With style icons like Taylor Swift and Kate Middleton, Stolte said, “My style is super girly. It consists of many colors, floral patterns, sparkly apparel and basically cute sundresses that I wear whenever it’s warm enough to wear it.”
She added, “Sundresses [are] a must-have. I probably have over twenty sundresses and at least one in every color and pattern. Whenever I go shopping with my friends and I try on dresses, they are always like, ‘I’m pretty sure you have that dress in another color,’ and they are usually correct.”
Stolte’s love for sundresses extends to rompers, but a trend she hates is, “duck nails” or acrylic tips. “I don’t really think it’s a popular trend anymore, thank goodness,” she said.
After successfully being a part of a multitude of fashion and beauty projects, Stolte said, “If I could make it as a model or win a prestigious national title in pageantry it would be such a blessing.”
Stolte is graduating in the fall, and her style advice to share with Montclair State students is this: “Don’t be afraid to express your creativity. I know we are in the NYC area and monochrome colors are the style here, but don’t be afraid to throw in a splash of color.”
She urged her peers, even though they are college students, not to be “lazy” and, above all, not to go to class in their pajamas.