By Grace Fernicola (III)

Let me take you to a simpler time. Your alarm clock rings, you drag yourself out of bed, and the daily ritual of getting dressed commences. Students might have designed their outfit for that day around an event at Pingry, plans after school, or even something as cavalier as their mood that particular morning. But now, after almost a year of living with COVID-19, morning routines have dwindled down to throwing a sweatshirt over a pajama top, sliding our feet into the fluffy slippers next to the bed, and, if there is time, a quick comb through the hair—comfort we never could have imagined before the dress code was relaxed.

This style is neither limited to Pingry students or 2020. For years, American fashion has been trending towards more comfortable, casual clothes. Pre-pandemic sales of “leisure wear” had already been increasing due to people of all ages becoming more interested in comfortable workout clothes, rather than stuffy business clothes. As such, with the onset of the pandemic, sales of “leisure wear” at companies like Lululemon and Nike have skyrocketed.

Fashion forecasters are now saying that comfortable clothes may be here to stay post-pandemic. So don’t fret. We will most likely not have to throw our sweats to the back of our closets as the world slowly returns to normal. Pingry may even make the current relaxed dress code permanent, so we can all enjoy our day in pajama pants and hoodies for school years to come. Great news, right? Well, maybe not.  

Despite the benefits of our current quick and low-maintenance dress routines, wearing sweats all day might have some unforeseen negative consequences. Psychologist Carolyn Mair stresses that wearing certain clothes can affect people’s moods and confidence. Mair stated that “clothing is fundamental in how we are perceived. In turn, this affects our sense of self-worth and ultimately, how we see ourselves compared with others, our self-esteem.” A prime example of this is the effect of wearing baggy clothes. Baggy clothes are often associated with sadness or depression, and dressing the same way every day for months on end can make you feel bored and unmotivated. By continuously making the same dreary, drab clothing choices, the days become indistinguishable, especially in the already blurred time of remote learning. 

As we start to move forward this year, I would suggest getting out of bed and dressing in something different than what you wore the day before, as even doing something this small and simple can actually help break the monotonous routine of our days, even going so far as to make us feel more put-together and productive. Psychologist De’Von Patterson said, “Some people may have an easier time being productive if they recreate the cues associated with their productivity. If they’re getting dressed, that puts them in the mindset to work or study.” Brightly colored clothes or a pre-pandemic outfit choice once in a while might lift our moods and help us focus as we sit down and prepare ourselves for online classes.

How we dress is a form of self-expression, and it is a way to present ourselves to the world in our own unique way. Many people think of clothing as an important part of their individuality, especially with there being multiple style variations in society today. “We live in a very visual world,” says Susan Swimmer, Creative Director of Evie Marques jewelry and a former fashion editor and TV commentator. “Clothes are your instant messaging system. They reflect how you feel and how you project that to the world.” The common leisure-wear outfits we now see so often in our school halls have become an unofficial uniform, leaving little room for individuality. Some students may be missing the opportunity for the creativity that we had each morning before the pandemic. The loss of the opportunity to control the way we present ourselves to others at a time when we cannot control so much of what is happening in the world around us can cause more stress and sadness, whether we realize it or not.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, do not be afraid to switch up your clothing choices for the day. Small steps like these might be the first steps in returning to the normalcy that we all crave, even behind your mask and plexiglass.