Playing Dress Up: How Staying at Home Has Changed How We Wear Clothes

As seen in Issue 4, available now!

A few months into quarantine in 2020, the platform heels I splurged on but never got to wear out were calling my name from the back of my closet. So were my nice jeans, mini skirts, and dresses that hadn’t been able to see the light of day because they had been replaced with matching sweatsuit sets.

For many people, quarantine killed fashion. With work and school being entirely remote, there was little reason or opportunity to get dressed up every day. In the first few months of lockdown, there were “quarantine mental health tips” going around suggesting that we all get dressed up in our regular business casual attire even when working remotely. Maybe some of us did that, but the longer it went on the more ridiculous the idea seemed, so we reverted to just wearing our sweats and slippers on our bottom half for Zoom meetings.

For some other people like myself, we just couldn’t bear to dress casually for too long. I missed the days where I would get dressed up to go out to dinner or drinks, class, work, or really any excuse to have my outfit seen by a lot of people. In college, I would go to the dining hall not because the food was good but because I wanted to show off my outfit that day and work the salad bar line like my runway. When we were forced to go into lockdown and were told to literally be seen by as few people as possible, I felt like I lost the joy of fashion for a while.

I’m sure that many people who are either in the fashion industry or simply enjoy dressing up have felt the same way as me. However, many influencers, models, and celebrities were already oddly adapted to this lifestyle change. They were already posting all of their outfits online anyways, often putting outfits on specifically just to take photos in it. To them, it didn’t matter so much if they were being seen out in public in clothes since they had up to hundreds of thousands of people across the world seeing them in it on their Instagram.

So, how did many “regular” but still fashion-interested people like myself find a way to express their fashion sense when they couldn’t go outside anymore? Social media of course. TikTok became a popular platform since lockdowns began in early 2020. What we learned about TikTok is that anyone, literally anyone, has the ability to blow-up on it.

This is very clear for fashion people. Suddenly, people realized they could try on clothes in their bedroom, film themselves posing in it, and have thousands of people see their outfits and admire their fashion sense. An uber-successful example is Widsom Kaye, a previously “average” 19-year-old from Texas with immaculate style who was suddenly launched into fame by showing off his daily outfits at the beginning of quarantine. Now he has two million TikTok followers, has been signed to IMG Models, and has been featured in publications such as Vogue.

Wisdom may have been especially successful in posting his outfits on social media, but so many others have also found it as a new way to express their style through the internet without ever being influencers previously. For many, like myself, social media gave us a reason to start getting dressed up again.

Now that so much of styling is for posting content on the internet, it has drastically changed the way that we look at and consume clothes. First of all, I think it has caused practicality completely out the door. Normally, we would be worried about weather conditions or dress codes when getting dressed to go out in public, now we have no restrictions. Wearing skirts with no tights in winter or little tops without a jacket is allowed even on the coldest winter day if we’re just taking Instagram pictures inside our house. It seems like this has caused many people to care less about buying seasonally.

Similarly, fit has lost a lot of importance in clothing as well. I’ve seen many influencers admit to buying clothes that don’t fit them and simply pinning it up haphazardly to make it look good from the front for a picture. They would never be able to wear that piece out in public, but that doesn’t matter because it was just to be seen on the internet.

Likewise, the comfortableness of a piece isn’t as important anymore either, since many people will put on outfits just to take them off. Lately, it has even been a trend on fashion TikTok where influencers will say, “What you think I dress like all the time” and show their Instagram photos, then “What I really dress like all the time” and it’s them in sweatpants. Even for myself, if a dress is uncomfortably tight or if a pair of shoes gives me blisters, I’m not committed to wearing it out the whole day. If I can still get a cute picture or video in it, it will get appreciated all the same.

It also feels like age limits in regards to fashion have become less important since lockdowns began. Less people are comparing their clothes to that of “peers” in their age group that they see at school, or work=now that we’re at home more often. However, they do have people on the internet of all different ages that they now look to for fashion advice. In that way, styles have become less age-specific. I’ve noticed people in their twenties seem able to get away with dressing “younger,” while school-aged kids can dress more sophisticatedly than you’d think they would. For example, a few major fashion trends right now are bright colors, fun patterns, very youthful silhouettes, and even “childish” inspired jewelry made from craft beads. These trends aren’t just being limited to kids, as I’ve seen influencers in their 20’s and 30’s wearing them happily.

It also feels like fashion has become so much less serious in the past year. Since social media can be fun and casual, it has caused fashion to become more relaxed. When people don’t have to worry about being seen or judged in public, they are able to wear whatever they want more freely without taking it too seriously. Some influencers, such as Clara Perlmutter, known as @tinyjewishgirl on Instagram and TikTok, have become popular by wearing some of the most bizarre, mismatched and campy outfits on the internet. While people who dress like this would probably get stared at in public, their outfits are adored and appreciated by so many people online. Dressing in a way that society views us as “normal” or “appropriate” in public is not necessary when you’re dressing up for the internet.

Overall, it feels like the shift to fashion being mostly viewed virtually means that clothing has no rules anymore. Nothing is too crazy, too fancy, or too colorful to be worn on your social media. You don’t have to be anyone special or famous to show off your clothes online, either. To me, it almost feels like being a kid again playing dress up, confined to the comfort of my own bedroom, and being able to strut around and wear any combination my mind can think of. How beautiful it is that we get the chance to play dress up again!

Even though living through a pandemic could have ruined fashion for everyone, instead it has opened a world for so many people to express their style and wear clothes in a way that they have never been able to before. I know that when we can finally go out again and wear our outfits to parties, restaurants, and more, there’s going to be absolutely no limits to what we can wear. It’s really going to feel like the roaring twenties, where everyone will be going out in their best, craziest, and most extra outfits. I personally can’t wait. But until then, I say go ahead and put on some fun makeup and dig out your favorite dress to take some Instagram photos in.