Impressions: Vintage Fashion, Jazz Music and “Dad Rock” with Lana R. Wagner ’25 | Arts
Join Crimson Arts staff writers Rhea L. Acharya ’25 and Karen Z. Song ’25 as they talk to Harvard students about how art affects their daily lives.
This week we spoke to Lana R. Wagner ’25, a jazz enthusiast and mechanical engineering hub. Our conversation ranged from her love of music and her role as WHRB Jazz Comp Director to how her passion for tailoring intersects with her concentration in Mechanical Engineering. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I come from New York. I am a freshman intending to major in mechanical engineering. On campus, my main artistic passion is WHRB, radio. I participated last semester and really enjoyed my time doing it because I got to be exposed to this group of very passionate people who really care about music and the arts. With my background in mechanical engineering, I have interests in the audio and technical department and the jazz department. I loved listening to jazz as a kid, and went back to it maybe as my sophomore year of high school. So when I saw that the radio had its own jazz department, I thought, “That suits me perfectly.”
Now I’m a model director, and I have my own show every Monday from 5 to 7. I really enjoyed going to WHRB’s jazz lounge and randomly choosing vinyl. I find it very satisfying to take this physical medium and this representation of art and put all this care into spooling up the vinyl, making sure the audio sounds good, and then releasing it to the ‘antenna.
How does art fit into your daily life?
With engineering, I think there’s a bit of art in what I do. During the lab sessions last semester, I took ES 50, which is the introductory course in mechanical engineering. And in addition to the hardware that you learn in lectures… we were building these little 12-by-12-inch robots. There is a creative aspect to this, marrying functional and prettiest design elements. Art impacts the lens I bring to my engineering classes. And then also, in general, music occupies such an important place in my life. I studied piano and cello as a child and have always had a great appreciation for music. When I’m not in class, I spend a lot of my time discovering new music and perfecting my Spotify playlists.
Are there any particular artists you have listened to recently?
As far as jazz goes, I’ve been on a Bill Evans kick lately. I love his work. He’s a fantastic pianist and he went to music school where I spent my weekends growing up. I’ve always been a bit of a fan of 60s and 70s music, and recently expanded that taste to be a bit more international. So I got into Japanese city pop. It’s really fantastic because it combines the 70s soft rock elements that I really like with more jazz inspired solos. It’s a very good genre that somehow combines all my interests.
Some of my favorite artists that I still love and always come back to are Todd Rundgren, who’s this fantastic producer and artist, who mostly made music in the 70s but is still doing a lot now, and Steely Dan – an absolute classic.
Can you tell us a bit more about the role fashion plays in your life?
I always had an interest in sewing but developed my interest in fashion throughout high school. With sewing, I got into it maybe around the age of 10. I tried hand sewing clothes for my dolls because I didn’t really like the clothes they had and I had extra scraps of fabric lying around the house. So I found an interest in designing small scale clothes for my dolls. Eventually I got a sewing machine and learned how to use it. It’s like the whole hands-on engineering design process. I’ve always been interested in making things and building things and just tinkering. It’s very cool to be involved in creating a garment from scratch and to have this garment fit me the way I want it to.
I had taken a break from sewing all through high school, but during my pandemic last spring, I did a little project with a friend where we bought some vintage patterns on eBay to work with. And it reignited my obsession with sewing. When I sew, I have the impression that time passes very quickly. I can just sit and sew for about 10 hours straight.
My love for fashion also goes hand in hand with music. Entering the era of 60s and 70s music also introduced me to vintage fashion. These days, there has generally been a trend towards sustainable, second-hand fashion. So in sophomore and junior high school, I became very interested in Depop and online savings, and it made me appreciate clothes more and the work it takes to make one, which helped at my sewing.
What particularly draws you to 60s and 70s fashion and music?
It was experimental for the time, or at least the music I choose to consume at that time was. It was like pushing the limits. Todd Rundgren is an absolute genius. Two of his best albums from the 70s are titled “Something/Anything?” and “A wizard, a real star”. These kinds of albums really pushed the boundaries of modern music and the idea of a concept album. I appreciate the avant-garde spirit of the 60s and 70s. And it’s just pleasant to listen to.
What has inspired you lately?
For sewing, the main source of inspiration is on Depop. There are many different sellers who love and appreciate these vintage clothes.
Last year I got really into 70s prairie dresses. Seeing all the lace and handwork details inspires me. I will take details from this and use it later. And then also on YouTube there is a small subsection of historical fashion YouTubers, like Bernadette Banner. It’s fantastic, and it’s very focused on the Edwardian era, before[-]1900. Learning about dress construction and other period stuff is very interesting and inspires me to do more sewing.
What do you consider to be your greatest artistic take?
The Beatles are in the middle. I just think The Beatles is something I would play my toddler. But I wouldn’t really sit down and listen to the Beatles and have an intellectual experience. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up listening to the Beatles — my parents are both into classical music. I didn’t have the typical “Listen dad rock with your dad” childhood.
—Columnists Rhea L. Acharya ’25 and Karen Z. Song ’25 “Impressions” explore what it means for life to imitate art, or for art to imitate life. How does a seemingly superficial aesthetic define the human experience? Join them in conversation with Harvard students as they talk about the impressions art leaves on them and those they hope to leave on the world.