Don’t Break a Sweat over Wearing Sweats

Students explore how their senses of style have changed over remote learning and consider the fashion struggles they’ve faced as they head back into the school building.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Sasha Burshteyn

At a school like Stuyvesant, students are generally too focused on getting to class on time to notice the outfits of the people they speed-walk past. However, the recent transition back to in-person learning has placed an unexpected emphasis on fashion: in our non-virtual world, people have to find clothes to wear all five days of the week.

While school was held remotely, many students took advantage of the fact that no one could see what they wore to class. “I wore literally whatever I wore to sleep, so sweatpants, t-shirts that I wouldn’t wear in public, just old stuff that's really comfortable now,” sophomore Eshaal Ubaid explained. Anna Jea, a sophomore who spent much of the remote school year in Korea, also prioritized comfort over style. “I had to do school from 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., so I would just wear pajamas,” Jea said.

Although dressing in the way that was most comfortable certainly worked for many students, other students like senior Nour Kastoun found merit in picking out a new outfit each morning. “I found that when I started dressing up [for remote class], even if no one could actually see what I was wearing, it made me more motivated to actually pay attention,” Kastoun said. “I didn’t feel like I was wearing pajamas and falling asleep all the time.” Kastoun also realized that remote learning offered her the opportunity to develop a new sense of style while maintaining her confidence. “[Online learning] gave me the chance to experiment and see what I felt good wearing, what I liked wearing, and what outfits looked good or did not look good, without fear of judgement,” she elaborated.

Even those who may have not put as much effort into what they wore for online school have experienced drastic changes in their senses of fashion. “It’s been interesting, because somehow despite not wearing anything outside for 18 months, my fashion sense still changed,” Ubaid said. “I think most of that is due to social media.”

Students who experienced new changes in their style might struggle to put together outfits that they actually want to wear. For example, Kastoun found that the clothes she wore before the pandemic were much easier to pick out than the clothes she wears now. “[I used to be] like, ‘Okay, I have a pile of leggings, I have a pile of hoodies, and then I have a pile of random shirts,’ so I just picked first off the pile, first off the pile, first off the pile… now it’s a little harder.” Ubaid discovered that her change in style warranted a whole new evaluation of her closet. “Before COVID, I would sometimes have trouble experimenting [with clothes], but I always had go-to outfits to fall back on. Now I don’t know what my go-to outfits are,” she said.

Unlike Ubaid and Kastoun, Jea previously never had to spend any time picking out something to wear for school. “Before the pandemic, I went to a private school, so we wore uniforms and it was really easy to get ready every day, because I just wore the same thing. Now that I have to pick out an outfit every day, it's more difficult,” she explained.

Sophomore Henry Ji has a bit of a different perspective. Ji didn’t experience any changes in his style over quarantine, and he doesn’t feel pressure to put a certain level of effort into his outfits. “I wore a random shirt and random pants to [online class], and I dress the same way for in-person school. I don’t really care that much about what I wear,” he said.

Perhaps those who are struggling to put together new outfits five days a week should take a leaf out of Ji’s book. At the end of the day, finding clothes to wear to school should be an enjoyable activity, not a stressful one. As Ubaid points out: “People need to take a step back and think, ‘Am I dressing for myself and my own comfort and my own needs, or am I dressing because I feel like everyone is staring at me?’ I think we’re a very visual society…but you don’t really need to stress over what you wear.”