COVID Couture

How Stuyvesant students’ styles have changed over the course of quarantine.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Yaqi Zeng

Fashion is a mode of nonverbal communication to transmit our dispositions in the blink of an eye. Throughout history and in the modern world, clothing has evolved from a basic necessity into an art form. The psychology behind making a fashion statement is to establish an identity, boost confidence, or find a clique. One might think, therefore, that quarantine has prevented students from developing their fashion sense. And, yes, while many of us have been wearing our pajamas on the daily, quarantine has also opened up a new door for students to experiment with their tastes.

Sophomore Julia Williams, for example, has seen a drastic shift in her fashion from pre-quarantine. Her pre-pandemic style involved plain clothes and virtually no makeup. “I just think I was kind of insecure. I didn’t feel like I wanted to experiment,” she commented.

Now, on the other hand, Williams describes her style as full “goth with punk influences,” which she incorporates with the low-rise silhouettes characteristic of the Y2K era. Williams attributes this transformation to increased free time and inspiration from social media. “It definitely started out as more of just your basic TikTok indie style,” Williams recalled. “But then I started to thrift a lot more, which I think definitely helped me develop my own personal style.” Williams also names music as a huge fashion influence, as well as new friends who are also interested in experimenting with their looks.

Most importantly, dressing herself the way she does makes her happy. “Like this eyeliner took me like 20 minutes to do, and it's crazy, all over my face, but it’s really cool,” she commented.

Freshman Dinah-Luba Beylison has seen a similarly drastic transformation in her fashion choices. Limited to a simple T-shirt and jeans by her middle school dress code, Beylison could not truly express herself. During quarantine, though, her family encouraged her to experiment with new styles. “Because of quarantine, both of us [my brother and I] were home for a while together for about five months. I would also absorb his style. He was also not basic, so I absorbed that,” she explained.

Sophomore Kevin Xiao’s style has taken a different route. He reported not particularly caring about clothes back in March, before the pandemic. “I pretty much just wore a hoodie and some sweatpants I guess, or jeans to school, really casual.” Since then, Xiao’s clothing choices have taken a complete 180. “I really like button-up shirts, I like formal pants, and I like dress shoes as well […] I just really like stuff that you would usually wear to debate tournaments,” he said.

Xiao’s transformation was a product of his new free time. “Over quarantine, I really had nothing to do. I was like, ‘Oh, let’s just go online and look for some new clothes.’ […] I suddenly found this treasure trove of [all] sorts of button-up shirts, and I really liked every single one of them,” he said.

Sophomore Kate Alvarez also attributes her fashion change to the Internet and social media. “Before the pandemic, I was just starting to discover fashion and began to branch out into my own style as I became more independent as a freshman,” she explained in an e-mail interview. But her growth has continued during quarantine as she draws fashion inspiration from social media and streaming platforms. “Apps like Pinterest and TikTok let me know what might look good on my specific body type, and TV shows give a contextualized version of fashion as well,” she said.

Senior Aki Yamaguchi echoed this statement. “I often found myself on Pinterest or on TikTok, and my feed is full of outfits [and] jewelry suggestions,” she explained. “That [inspiration]’s added on to my newfound interest in improving my style.”

Aside from the social media influence, another major reason for this shift in Yamaguchi’s style is her attempts to maximize each outing. “I feel like, now that you’re not going out as much, you feel the need to dress a little nicer than before,” she explained. For students, simply leaving the house is a special occasion, though this activity was once routine.

Junior Ashley Tian’s experience in early quarantine is very different than Yamaguchi’s: rather than feeling the need to dress-up, she found herself dressing down quite frequently. “I was just wearing what I had at home, like sweats, sweatshirts, you know, baggy clothes, and then I just started going out in those clothes because I was too lazy to get dressed,” Tian said.

Despite this difference, Tian and Yamaguchi experienced similar increases in makeup usage; both Tian and Yamaguchi lightly dabbled in makeup prior to quarantine, wearing the bare minimum of concealer and mascara. With quarantine providing more time at their disposal, both were able to experiment and learn to do makeup that best suits them and their style.

Yamaguchi, for one, loves a natural everyday look, but when it comes to going out with her friends, she puts in a little more effort. Tian, on the other hand, uses her downtime to further her usual makeup look by accentuating her lashes. “Now [that] I have more time, I [find] myself investing time into makeup, and I really like it. Now, I still don't wear foundation or anything. I just use concealer and then I contour. I do my brows, eyeliner, and lashes. Lashes make such a big difference, like, I can’t go out without lashes,” Tian described.

Ultimately, fashion is a powerful force that can instill confidence in individuals. Whether it is pajamas 24/7, streetwear, cutting-edge, or commando, the home is your runway. Williams hopes to inspire others to embark on their own fashion journeys. She said, “I’d encourage anyone else to really start experimenting with their style since it’s how people view you. It's the first thing they see when they meet you in person. It’s a really good way to give off an impression of who you want to be or how you want other people to view you.”