The Way Fashion Has Always Been a “Good” Selfish: Before, After, and During a Pandemic World: Katalina de Leon

2020. The Roaring Twenties. Turn of the decade. 

Right from New Year’s Eve into the New Year, everyone was filled with excitement and anticipation of what was to come. It was a new beginning, a time where people could start over, filled with endless possibilities. Little could anyone predict what was to come. 

When COVID-19 rocked the world, everyone was shocked into quarantine. Life was stopped for a short moment. People had a lot more time to reflect on things they wouldn’t normally think about. People used the extra time at home to maybe pick up a new hobby or catch up with family and friends. Basically, everyone was given a chance to do things that they wouldn’t normally have had time to do or said that they were too busy for, and in some ways that was comforting. Not only that, but also helped in making people more appreciative of the world and things that may have been taken for granted at a certain point, but that by itself is a whole other story.

Talking now with people about their days in quarantine, I find that sometimes they find themselves reminiscing back to that time or even “missing their quarantine selves.” Some even say that they came out more grounded in their individuality more than they were before.  Now what does that really mean and how could that possibly tie into fashion?

Even before quarantine, fashion was a way that people connected. It was a way that people were able to show a part of them that was inside and communicate it with others in ways beyond words. And although how hard we try at the end of the day we are only human. How we appear to others is often the first thing that registers in a person’s mind, a powerful impression of unspoken words. Our bodies are blank canvases with endless possibilities. From the clothes we choose to wear in the morning, to the tattoos and piercings that cover our bodies, to the makeup or lack of makeup thereof, to the way we paint and treat our bodies, the color or way we choose to style are hair, all play into telling an even larger story to who we are, as a person and as an individual. Sometimes, that might not even be as clear to us and as we grow our look changes with us as we discover the person we want to be. 

Before quarantine, it was easy. Getting ready was just part of our routine and was instinct to many. For example, some didn’t even think twice about setting up an appointment at the nail salon to change their acrylics into another new funky style they saw online. Or even, all of the hair and eyelash extension appointments, what happens when everything is closed and you no longer have access to these things?

But in quarantine, especially in the beginning, some people lost inspiration to do all of this. What was the point in getting up and putting on a whole face of makeup and changing through countless garments of wardrobe just to sit at a desk in your room? Especially accompanied with all of the other eye-opening events that rippled across the globe, it was hard to find true meaning behind anything. Out were the ties, dresses, and suits, and in were the sweatpants, sweatshirts, and pajama pants. After all, if your workday started at 9 AM, who would really want to wake up before dawn just to make yourself as presentable as possible when the only physical companion you’ll be talking to is your computer. 

But as time went on, people got out of the slump and began to dress up for the day, even if they had no plans to go anywhere. According to an article written by Kalhan Rosenblatt on NBC News, Amanda Brennan said, “I felt like… I was losing this piece of myself and it was really hard to look in the mirror. I do my makeup to express my identity. If I could open up my soul to you, it would be hot pink glitter… it’s been a struggle.” People began to realize that fashion was more than just the clothes you chose to wear, but an example of how you see yourself and want others to see you. It is hard to even comprehend how individualistic fashion really is, and in some ways, it can be selfish, but not necessarily in a bad way. Especially during quarantine, through endless days with only their minds to give them comfort, some people had a lot more time to focus on themselves. Some who didn’t necessarily have time to put on a full face of makeup when trying to get a decent amount of sleep before a long day at work began to experiment. Others learned of the dangers of fast fashion and looked into new ways of upcycling or thrifting, which was even more intimate in terms of self-expression. Fashion is selfish in the way that we are who we are, and at the end of the day, nobody can tell you what to like or what to wear or how to present yourself. Ultimately that is up to you. The uniqueness in the art is a beauty in itself and is often one that goes unnoticed or unappreciated. 

Furthermore, fashion helped to ground some others during these uncertain times. Many still woke up and did their morning routines, even if they had nowhere to go, for the sake of normalcy. Moods and productivity tend to rise when you feel prepared for the day and sometimes this just starts with putting on an outfit that you love. So, in a way, even though much of what we would consider “normal” was taken, getting dressed in the morning was not one of those things. The endless possibilities of the art in ourselves was not one of those things.

The only question left is what is going to happen post-quarantine? Personally, I think people are going to just have a deeper appreciation for themselves than they had before. And that will naturally come out in how they choose to present themselves as it has always been beautiful in that way. But even pre-quarantine, many were already rocking their looks in every possible way, so I think that after all of this it can only be even more so from here. Like how we grow as people and as a society, fashion will grow with us. While some may think that fashion should be the last thing on your mind in this new world, it has always been one of the most defining and integral ways that people connect with each other, in centuries of past lifetimes and the years to come.