Exploring students’ necessary clothing items and accessories during the COVID-19 pandemic
Fashion and style during the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a shift, most notably seen in stark differences in upper and lower body wear during Zoom calls. While the general population has shifted towards comfortable loungewear, these four students have found something new to add to their style, whether it is self-made clothing, a $3,000 pair of shoes, pieces from a parent’s closet or a $40 crown.
Personal Style and Comfort During Quarantine
As someone who’s been interested in fashion since a young age, senior Chloe Wu-Breshears launched her own fashion brand, Name Clothing, during quarantine. After making sales, she is currently selling and working on a new collection. She says her brand expanded her definition of fashion, as she explored concepts through multimedia and storytelling.
“I just really like the way that clothing can make someone feel,” Wu-Breshears said. “I feel like my life is all about the idea of being the main character and what that means for everybody. I just really want my clothing to make someone feel like the main character in a movie or in a book.”
While Wu-Breshears combines her designs that are more extravagant and homesewn with basic pieces in her own style — such as a jacket with poofy sleeves and a kimono — she says she has been appreciating comfort clothing during quarantine. Similarly, moving away from wearing jeans, freshman Matthew Lau says the way he dresses has deteriorated over quarantine, as he now usually dons athletic wear.
“There’s nothing else I would wear — it’s just my closet just full of Nike shorts,” Lau said. “Honestly, I don’t wear pants. The last time I wore pants was last year … [In Zoom calls,] I would be wearing my pajamas.”
At home, Lau wears a tank top and shorts. Similar to Lau, senior Yolanna Lu prioritizes comfort while spending time at home by wearing a similar outfit everyday. However, she is disappointed that her new clothes including sweater vests, skirts and animal print items are “rotting away in her wardrobe,” as she has no real reason to wear them.
“A typical quarantine outfit of mine would probably just be an oversized T-shirt and boxers,” Lu said. “They aren’t exactly boxers; they’re just oversized shorts that I stole from my dad because I really liked the pattern and the silhouette. I just throw on whatever is comfortable and oversized and that’s basically what I’ve been wearing all day, lounging in the house.”
Junior Kina Siu also finds inspiration from her mom’s wardrobe. While she enjoys wearing comfortable clothing during quarantine, she says she is ready to go out and dress up with the new clothing items she purchased online.
“I’m really into accessorizing now because I don’t think I’ve taken the time to accessorize my outfits before quarantine,” Siu said. I’m really interested in layering pieces, whether it’s new or stuff I already owned previously, or I’ll dig into my mom’s closet and find some of her old clothes and layer with some of my pieces and explore new outfit ideas. ”
While Siu has spent quarantine finding accessories online to spice up her outfits, Lau says he has been devoting more time on his sneaker collection.
“Since high school started, I’ve been putting pretty much equal time into both [my collection and schoolwork],” Lau said.
Online Shopping and Trends
Lau buys new shoes to collect rather than wear them, something he attributes to customers physically going out less. He invests in shoes and sells them to Bay Area buyers, creating a resale cycle. Some of his profit is used for his own personal shoe collection, and it can get pricey.
“Per week, I order around 10 to 20 pairs of shoes delivered to my house, and spend at least $1,000 a week, which isn’t good but I’m constantly ordering stuff on my card,” Lau said. “I don’t think there’s anybody out there who’s doing more online shopping than me.”
While Lau is constantly looking for shoes, Lu has been shopping for clothes “uncontrollably” mainly on two websites, since she recently got a new job. She is excited by the cheaper clothes she finds and the value that shopping on these websites has for the environment.
“Right now, I love to shop more sustainably by going thrifting and buying off secondhand clothing apps like Depop and Poshmark, which has definitely expanded my style and allowed it to become a lot more diverse and unique from before quarantine,” Lu said.
Wu-Breshears has also been wearing more thrifted pieces and appreciates their uniqueness. According to Wu-Breshears, loungewear and trends from the 2000s are coming back into style, especially with fashion-oriented niches emerging on social media and TikTok.
“I also think that through quarantine, a lot of people have been starting to discover their identities a bit more,” Wu-Breshears said. “[Cottagecore is] a huge niche that’s coming into the mainstream, and I find that super interesting. E-girl, cottagecore — all of these really used to be … community-based fashion trends [that] are coming back more into the mainstream.”
In addition to discovering streetwear fashion, Siu has recently started wearing boy denim shorts that cut off above the knee. She also prefers the authenticity of vintage pieces, which she says have “their own story.” Siu enjoys varying her styles day to day between dressy and urban styles, which she finds inspiration for online.
“While I’m on TikTok or on Instagram and social media, I’m able to have a little bit more time to explore and find new trends, or when I’m online shopping because now we can’t go to stores anymore,” Siu said. “I discovered new trends, [which have] inspired me to change up my style or recreate some of my own pieces.”
Lu has also completely revamped her style over quarantine. Prior to quarantine, Lu says her style was “super basic,” as she says she shopped at two stores just to have “20 different variations of a tank top and jeans.”
Designer Items and Expression
One of Lu’s recent purchases is a lace slip dress from Victoria’s Secret that she bought off Depop for $20. She is excited to wear a white cropped T-shirt underneath with Doc Martens. Her new obsession is more of an accessory, however.
“I am in love with baguette bags,” Lu said. “They’re those little shoulder bags that practically have no function but can amp up an outfit if you just carry it on your hand or your shoulder. I recently bought a Louis Vuitton one and I know that really hurt my wallet but I’m definitely loving the baguette bag trend right now.”
Lau has also spent around $500 on a designer T-shirt from Off-White that he wears when he goes somewhere nice. Another one of his largest investments was a recent addition to his shoe collection which he describes as his dream shoe, grey Nike hightops with LED lights on the bottom with auto lacing technology.
“I was really happy [with the shoes],” Lau said. “I was deciding whether or not to spend that much because obviously $3,000 [is] nothing to play around with.”
Lau’s parents were not happy with his purchase, however he didn’t allow that to bother him as it, “made [him] happy at the end of the day.” Wu-Breshears also enjoys buying extravagant pieces as she is a fan of going all out.
“I recently bought a crown, like a $40 crown,” Wu-Breshears said. “I do wear [it] sometimes because it makes me feel good. I just feel like the act of spending money is really fun.”
Wu-Breshears has experimented with embroidery, masks as accessories and dyeing her hair pink. Similarly, Siu has delved into many styles since she was younger.
“I’ve just grown up dressing up and trying out new different clothings with my sister, and definitely growing up I’ve learned a lot about it from her as an older sister, and I think just over time it’s been really fun for me to express myself in different types of clothing,” Siu said. “It’s helped me find a lot of confidence in myself too.”
Through fashion, Lu also feels empowered by her choice of clothing, whether it’s an accessory, a story behind their fashion influence or how she shows personality.
“Obviously there are different forms of expression, but I honestly consider fashion an art form because it’s how you portray yourself to others, and through the clothes you wear you show who you are to people and what you represent,” Lu said.
Junior Joseph Jeong decided that waking up early to get ready for a Zoom school day just wasn’t worth it. Convenience has, and will always be, Jeong’s preference for morning preparation — especially how he dresses.
“The normal look I have for Zoom meetings for an online school day is basically just a T-shirt and pajama pants,” Jeong said. “I wake up eight minutes before class so that’s about it. If I had more time, I probably could be perfectly comfortable with just wearing clothes I would normally wear to school.”
Senior Sravya Kari similarly stays in pajama pants while wearing a presentable shirt. Being in seven months of quarantine has given her unexpected insight into the importance of comfort, and she finds that dressing with convenience in mind has benefited her.
“If I am wearing comfortable clothes, it’ll be better for me to adjust and I’ll be able to grasp the material more in my opinion,” Kari said. “Being comfortable has improved my study habits, in a sense, and I’ve learned how I work and how I can be more productive using my sense of fashion or my sense of simplicity in remote learning.”
History teacher Bonnie Belshe sports a similar style to Jeong and Kari, calling her unique spin “mullet dressing,” referencing how the popular 80s hairstyle kept the front portion professional and the back completely free with her formal upper appearance and more relaxed pants.
“The focus on Zoom is right on the face [and] on the shoulders up, and so I just feel like if I’m going to be dealing with new tech and technology issues … I want to be as comfortable as possible for that,” Belshe said. “The top half absolutely is the same thing that I would have worn on campus. I like how [mullet dressing] gets me in that mindset of teaching in the day.”
The new dress code only states that students should dress mindfully, serving as a reminder that although education has changed to accommodate quarantine, distance learning is still school. The lax restrictions on dress codes during distance learning present an opportunity for more convenient attire.
According to Belshe, convenience has always played an important role in education, online or not. With her school preparation largely remaining the same, convenience has proven to be beneficial toward teaching online during quarantine, with previous concerns such as commute no longer being prominent priorities.
“Being comfortable factors in all the time — whether it’s online or in person, comfort [is] going to be key with that,” Belshe said. “Let’s be comfortable to where we can totally at least make one piece of remote learning a little easier for us.”
Junior Parmi Shah has been curating a Pinterest board dedicated to fashion since last December, saving almost 1,000 posts of clothing items and ideal outfits. Before quarantine began, it remained relatively untouched. However, with the free time that staying at home has granted her, she’s finally been able to do something with the inspiration she’s collected.
Over the summer and throughout distance learning, Shah cleaned out her closet and turned to clothing she deems more representative of her personality through online shopping. She chose to leave behind her more neutral colored clothes from the past, often black and white, and embrace the vibrant and varied patterns resembling the outfits she saved to her Pinterest board.
“I want a style that fits me personally,” Shah said. “I don’t want to just stick to wearing leggings every day and things like that. That’s not who I am. I don’t want to just be plain. I like having different styles and different [varieties] to my clothes.
Shah’s new choice of clothes came from a sense of confidence gained during her time in quarantine, because of the time she was given to self-reflect. While a lot of her inspiration came from Pinterest, she also noticed fashion trends on TikTok and other social media apps that piqued her interest in potential styles. But while she has made significant changes to her wardrobe, Shah doesn’t think she’ll ever really finish constructing a perfect style for herself, which is due to what she views as turbulent, ever-changing fashion trends.
“I think it’s an ongoing process,” Shah said. “I don’t think I have all the clothes I need to get my ideal style because I think I’m never actually going to obtain an ideal style.
Trends are going to be constantly changing — that’s just how consumerism works. You constantly want clothes that you don’t have, and you constantly want things that you don’t have. So I don’t think my closet’s ever going to be finished.”
Regardless, Shah says she is happy with what she’s put together. One of the challenges she faced before embarking on this style renovation was accurately labeling her clothing. According to Bloomsbury Fashion Central, people present themselves through their fashion, and similar trends and styles can be categorized in groups called aesthetics, which could include vintage clothing, grunge fashion, streetwear, and various others. However, Shah quickly learned to let go of the idea of fitting into an aesthetic after struggling to place herself in one or the other.
“Aesthetics usually end up not letting you express [yourself] because in the beginning of quarantine I was like, ‘Oh I gotta find my aesthetic,’ but I was stuck between these two things: this nature, hippy thing or a Parisian style,” Shah said. “What’s the need for these aesthetics? You’re kind of constraining yourself into this box. Whatever I see and I like, I’ll just buy it, so I don’t really have a specific aesthetic.”
Even with the amount of effort and thought Shah has put into changing her style, she doesn’t think she will hold herself to it once in-person school begins again. Her new clothing choices may represent her better as a person, but she doesn’t see how she can fit the time for curating it into her busy school day when she goes back.
“I’d rather just focus on school,” Shah said. “And once in a while, if I feel like dressing up, I’ll use my cool clothes. But most of the time I feel I’m just going to show up in pajamas and leggings and sweats — like that’s the style at school.”
Like Shah, junior Audrey Yip says she dramatically transformed her closet during quarantine to fit her clothing more to her personality. In the beginning of quarantine, however, she settled for more comfortable clothing and a relaxed style.
“During the first month [of quarantine], I was just wearing pajamas and the same thing every day,” Yip said. “I was like, ‘Why am I so disgusting?’ And then I started changing my clothes. There wasn’t really a time when I just suddenly changed. I just felt like, ‘Other people are literally dressing up to go to the grocery store.’”
Yip doesn’t think her style is fully developed. While she has changed aspects of her fashion, she still considers her clothes to be “basic” and wants to transition to louder outfits in the future.
Yip’s inspiration came from a YouTube video from creator Nuria Ma, after one of her fashion-related videos appeared on her ‘Recommended’ page. After checking where Ma bought her clothes out of curiosity, Yip started buying clothes and creating a new closet for herself.
Fashion trends on the social media platform TikTok also influenced Yip’s style. The biggest push for her were accounts that featured clothing from brands like Brandy Melville, PacSun and YesStyle. According to Yip, YesStyle was particularly intriguing because of their collection of Asian-style clothes.
While social media and videos played a big part in how Yip wanted to modify her wardrobe, her changes were mostly brought on by her desire to “glow up” during quarantine.
“Before I got new clothes, I felt like I wanted to change over quarantine when no one would see me,” Yip said. “It was a time to glow up [for] when I go back to school — so I tried a few diets [and] I lost around nine pounds. And then after that, I feel like once you lose weight or once you improve something about yourself, you’ll want to go more into it. After losing weight, I felt more confident about my body — I wanted to buy some more clothes that would suit my style and my body shape.”
However, sophomore Stephanie Xu believes that the desire for people, especially younger women, to change their physical traits is a toxic aspect of society’s modern fashion and beauty trends, including the concept of losing weight or obtaining an ideal weight. Most of her dislike towards the concept of physically glowing up comes from “how women’s bodies can be trends” online, constantly changing and determining women’s self worth, according to Xu. But when it comes to changing one’s fashion, which she considers to be completely different, Xu expresses that those types of developments to a person’s self come from creativity.
“The fashion aspect of [glowing up] is really cool because style is something that is individual to you, and it’s not conforming,” Xu said. “Style is your own curated, unique beauty.”
Xu believes that as long as the changes people make to themselves don’t come from a place of self-hatred or a pressure of having to conform to a beauty standard, glowing up can be a creative outlet. She also admires the impact that social media and influencers have on people’s fashion choices.
“I think a lot of people get tired of how they look and want to switch things up, and that’s OK, because that comes from a place of boredom,” Xu said. “Or a lot of times, people are inspired by people — I think that’s awesome. If you look at somebody online who has really, really cool fashion sense, you’re like, ‘Wow ... that’s cool and I like that.’”
In terms of drawing inspiration by other people, Shah’s style has also been influenced by big names in the fashion industry, such as the brand Jacquemas, and styles of high fashion models like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. But most of Shah’s drive to dress differently came from an inner realization of confidence and self worth.
“People say ‘You don’t just wake up one day and get all this [confidence],’ but for me it was kind of like that,” Shah said. “It was like one day, I just woke up and I’m like, ‘What’s the point of not thinking you’re pretty?’… Those are all these things that are holding you back. Instead, if you just say that you’re pretty and do those daily affirmations, you start believing it. So why would you want to hold yourself back? There isn’t any reason to. You should just live up to your potential – this is your potential, so just believe what you want to believe.”
During quarantine, junior Auria Polefka has now dyed her hair three times and plans for a fourth. She has tried out many new styles she found on TikTok, changing her hairstyle twice in the past few months. For Polefka, dyeing hair is very simple and does not take much time, as she only dyes two front sections of hair.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many local salons and barber shops closed due to safety concerns. As a result, students were forced to either cut their hair or adopt new hairstyles. For Polefka, the hardest part about maintaining her hairstyle is keeping the color.
“It’s kind of hard for me to maintain [the hairstyle] because the hair dye is semi-permanent,” Polefka said. “[The dye] kind of just goes out of your hair — it goes back to your natural color. To maintain it, I just have to re-dye [every] couple of months.”
Sophomore Miransh Das was not initially concerned about getting a haircut, not realizing how much he would need it as the months passed. As a result, he struggled later on with cutting his hair altogether. Das found that the tools he used were the biggest challenge for him.
“I didn’t have a very professional hair cutting kit,” Das said. “So I just had to use those arts and crafts scissors. But they aren’t very sharp at all, so I have to cut each chunk of hair four or five times before it actually falls off, which is very annoying.”
Das’s method of getting his hair cut prior to quarantine was to cut all of his hair short to prolong the time between visits to the barber.
“I would understand the sentiment to get a different haircut to make you look different,” Das said. “But for me, it was just because my hair was super long and super annoying. I was running through hair ties. I’m wearing hair bands and then one falls off. My hair kept getting in my face.”
Rarely getting her hair cut professionally, Polefka prefers asking one of her friends to cut her hair. Although Polefka changed her hair color, she argues that possibly cutting it incorrectly doesn’t matter very much.
“It didn’t really matter what [happens] to my hair because no one is gonna see it,” Polefka said. “And all you have to do for my hair is to cut it straight across.”
Sophomore Anna Pullara also experienced hairstyle changes. In the beginning of quarantine, Pullara relied on her sister to cut her hair the first time. According to Pullara, after obtaining an electric razor, she now does all of her haircuts solo. She has been continuing this weekly process to this day.
“I always hated having long hair at all times,” Pullara said. “And I wanted to get a trim but that seemed like a lot of hassle. But I didn’t want [salons] to open ... It’s not necessary to get a haircut every few months, so I wasn’t panicking or anything. And my sister is very adaptable and can use scissors, so I just enlisted her help instead of needing to go to a barber.”
Over the past three months, she shaved off all the sides of her hair, leaving only the top long. She repeated this process every week. According to Pullara, she was initially nervous about cutting it, fearing that it was a big change she may not like. However, after she cut her hair, she was satisfied.
“I felt great afterwards,” Pullara said. “It was the best decision I made over quarantine. I feel a lot more productive after getting it. I feel like it looks better on me personally. I’m having a good time.”
Pullara states that she is comfortable enough with her tools to cut other people’s hair as well. Learning through weekly haircuts, Pullara finds that she can keep cutting her hair without going to get it cut.
“Now I shave it by myself in the mirror,” Pullara said. “And honestly, it’s less time than it takes to go to the barber. It’s less effort and less money. So I think that even after barber shops open up, I’m still gonna continue cutting it myself because it’s just a lot more efficient.”
Pullara believes it takes a bit of practice as well as some tutorials to properly understand hair cutting. According to Polefka, changing your hairstyle is a form of self expression.
“I think anyone can enjoy it,” Polefka said. “When you get a lot of people that just dye their hair because they get super impulsive and if anyone gets that burst of impulsivity, they should totally dye their hair. It gives you a lot of confidence. It’s really fun to change it because it’s just like wearing different outfits, like expressing yourself — just expressing yourself through your hair.”
Rainbow colored eyeshadow, flame-winged eyeliners and big eyelashes. Whether it be testing out new facial glitter sticks or recreating trendy TikTok looks, some students have spent the extra time in quarantine trying out new makeup looks or refining their current style.
According to senior Sachi Roy, her makeup routine and stylistic preferences haven’t dramatically differed in quarantine, which is a “little bit strange” because of how fast Roy’s tastes used to change. In the past, Roy underwent an “emo phase” utilizing darker and heavier eye makeup, and later transitioned to experimenting with “soft girl” looks. Roy attributes her stagnant style due to a lack of face-to-face socialization and event gatherings, since she draws makeup inspiration from the people around her.
“One of my friends has probably the best style I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Roy said. “I would see the way that she would do her eyeshadow … so then I would try to replicate that. Or she’d come to school with really, really heavy blush, [and] that’s where I picked that part up … It’s like stealing different things from other people to create something that I think suits myself.”
Contrary to Roy, sophomore Sonia Jain’s makeup has drastically changed since quarantine. Before, Jain preferred natural facial makeup and rarely wore fake eyelashes. However in quarantine, Jain had more free time to dabble in other realms of makeup, and now considers big eyelashes and heavy contour essentials to complete a dramatic, bold look.
“Some people like to do their makeup where it looks natural, and I feel like I don’t care about it looking natural — I want it to look like I have makeup on,” Jain said. “The reason I do such heavy makeup is because I like to take pictures for Instagram so it just looks better in pictures too.”
At the beginning of quarantine, Jain would apply a full face of makeup and put on fake eyelashes every day as a happiness booster, since an absence of in person socialization affected her day-to-day moods. Regardless of staying inside due to distanced learning or going out, makeup has always been a comforting outlet for Jain when she doesn’t feel her best.
“Even if I’m dressed up nicely, if I don’t have makeup on [then] I feel less confident,” Jain said. “When people look me in the eye and when I go out with makeup on, I just feel so much better. I know I look good and I can smile at people.”
Roy echoes with this sentiment, as she matches her makeup style to her current mood to uplift her emotions and empower herself.
In eighth grade, Roy used to be very insecure about her under-eye bags, acne and other facial blemishes. During the mornings when Roy was in a sour mood, she would “accidentally press [her] eyeliner a little bit too hard” on her eyelid and create a thicker line. Roy realized throughout the year that her peers would “expect less energy” from her whenever she wore darker eye makeup.
“It made my life a little bit easier because I didn’t have to pretend to be extremely happy that day or extremely energetic — it became this thing that I did on purpose,” Roy said.
As Roy became more comfortable in her own skin, she began sporting no makeup looks. For Roy, makeup isn’t about feeling confident in the presence of others — it’s about feeling confident in herself both in and out of quarantine, regardless of who’s watching.
“I like to dress up; I like to look my best,” Roy said. “And wearing makeup just helps with that — it ties a look together. Even though I’m in quarantine right now, I still am wearing makeup just to make me feel a little bit more productive … like I’m actually trying that day, and I am dedicated to getting things done.”
Similarly, freshman Neil Mhamunkar feels confident in himself when wearing “glam” makeup styles: multicolored shimmers, pressed glitters and gloss. For Mhamunkar, makeup is an art form analogous to animation and drawing — a space for people to admire his handiwork, not how it beautifies his facial features.
“I use [makeup] so that way when people see me, they think, ‘Wow, his makeup is good,’ not ‘Wow, his makeup makes him look good,’” Mhamunkar said. “I don’t really do very heavy contour to alter the real shape of my face. I like the way my face looks, and I’m trying to embrace the shape instead of trying to hide it with makeup, which is why I specialize the most in eyes.”
Throughout quarantine, Mhamunkar’s favorite creation was a “bright and glam” makeup look. To create it, Mhamunkar applied a blush shade and glitter over his entire eyelid and drew an eyeliner wing on the upper and lower crease of his eye. In the process, Mhamunkar accidently applied his glitter eyeshadow stick on the wrong area, but ultimately decided to replicate it on the other half of his face as well.
“When I was wearing [the makeup] it made me feel really happy that I, instead of removing the mistake, embraced it,” Mhamunkar said.
In quarantine, Mhamunkar has experimented with drawing flowers on his cheekbones with face paint, as well as trends like the floating eyeliner and heart-shaped blush. Besides doing TikTok trends, Roy has been drawing “elaborate artwork” makeup on her eyes, such as a sunset, a flamed wing, a rainbow eyeshadow and a Slytherin Harry Potter themed look.
Roy believes that her opinion on the usage of makeup has changed in quarantine, as makeup isn’t “something that you have to use.” She has realized that applying a full face of makeup isn’t limited to social gatherings and can be used in very casual ways — getting ready to go to Starbucks, making a trip to the library or staying at home. To Roy, makeup is now just a “fun way to decorate your face,” and individuals should not be ridiculed for wearing heavy makeup.
“It seems like wearing so much makeup is deemed a negative thing, [but] I don’t think it is,” Roy said. “I think [that] no matter who you are, if you wear a lot of makeup, I think it’s beautiful. If you wear no makeup, I think it’s beautiful.”