Fashion, like any art form, functions as a vehicle of personal expression. Its objective is to publicly present the psyche/identity of the individual for others to observe. In this sense, the body represents a canvas, and the fabric, paint. Visually adapting oneself as a projection of one’s own emotions, priorities, aesthetic preferences and morals. The explicit relationship between fashion and context is shown by the daily phenomena that factors the expression of self-appearance. In this sense, the spontaneous appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic unto the global stage, and its consequential radical effects on the daily activities of billions of people, is inarguably one of these contextual phenomena, one which has not only changed lives, but has also, if we follow this relationship between context and fashion, changed the way individuals dress and present themselves to society. Therefore, one of the big recent questions of western fashion journalism stands: “How has COVID-19 affected the way we dress?”
The imposition of a quarantine became a common phenomenon, and with it, the shift of activities such as studying, working, conferencing and socializing, went from a social environment to a private digital one. With this physical restriction of confinement and a newfound lack of dressing necessity, it has become especially common to discard aesthetics and take on a more comfortable approach. After all, why dress for class or work when you can be in pajamas? Replacing jeans for sweatpants and jackets for hoodies.
Some argue that this quarantined “rediscovery” of comfort as a fashion trend will transcend the boundaries of the household and impact the fashion zeitgeist of western countries hit with quarantine restrictions. It is a form of “post-quarantine fashion”. In an interview with The Jakarta Post, American fashion consultant Tim Gunn partially shared this sentiment. Gunn argues that, with this imposed habit of sweatpants and pajamas as quarantine workwear, the shift back to normal clothing can feel “constrained and confined”, possibly leading individuals to modify their tastes to better replicate the physical comfort experienced in quarantine.
This possible change could be further intensified by the already existing trending shift between “brand-wear” and minimalism. It is evident that the “hype” surrounding brand-culture, especially in young consumers, who are affected by trends surrounding brand image and pricing, has begun to die down. With this progression in tastes, trends surrounding vintage and oversized looks have inarguably taken the mainstream. These two major trends, relevant in youth culture, among others, place major emphasis on ideas of minimalism and comfort, factors which evidently support the idea of a post-quarantine fashion phenomenon.
Putting aside quarantine’s effects on minimalist fashion, as a small addition to this commentary, one of the most evident effects this pandemic has also had on human fashion is the use of facemasks. With this imposition as a safety measure, one extremely visual, some individuals now find themselves struggling to adapt their clothes to this new factor, while some others thrive in utilizing this piece of mask-wear. One could hypothesize that another, already existing fashion trend, tech-wear, while relatively niche, will also thrive as a post-quarantine fashion trend thanks to its adaptability to facemasks. Furthermore, the necessity to now carry not only facemasks, but hand sanitizer, among many other necessities during a pandemic, fits perfectly with the trend’s emphasis on utilitarian comfort, and carry-space.
At the end of the day all that this comes down to is skepticism. It is impossible to accurately track trends or predict fashion based upon perceived popular styles. Yet it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the way some individuals dress, and that this change in fashion will be based upon the preferences that this experience will instill. Are comfort, minimalism, and utilitarianism the preferences instilled upon by the pandemic? That is up to the individual with the closet to decide.