Indy Q + A: How COVID Changed Fashion
As more people were stuck inside because of the pandemic, many traded in their suits and ties, high heels and blazers, for yoga pants, slippers and high school reunion t-shirts. with mustard spots. And if you had a Zoom reunion, say hello to boxers at the bottom and a button-down shirt at the top.
Suffice it to say wardrobes have changed over the past couple of years, and not in the way fashion trends normally change. The pandemic has changed the way people approach clothing.
Deirdre Clemente is director of the public history program at UNLV, where she specializes in fashion history. The Independent of Nevada spoke with her about how fashion trends have changed since COVID-19 hit the United States.
This interview is shortened for clarity and length. You can find a version of this interview on our podcast, IndyMatters.
How has COVID affected fashion trends and how people approach fashion?
What we wear has always been linked to a representation of our social and socio-economic identities. So what we’re doing right now with the current American fashion buzz is a direct result of the social and cultural change that has diminished over the past two years of this pandemic.
Because we don’t see people as often as before due to working from home and social distancing, are we less concerned with what we wear?
I think one of the most important things that we need to recognize as we move forward culturally with the American wardrobe is to understand what is going on right now with the customization of the dress as an outgrowth of the past 10 years … This happened during WWII. This happened after World War I. The things we think of as these changes in dress and fashion don’t come out of nowhere – they’re actually hanging behind the scenes, but social upheaval gives them the chance to take center stage.
I think this rise of casual attire to the level that it’s in American culture right now is really the natural version of chain speed of where we were going.
These shifts towards casualization and this idea of “No, I’m not going to wear a button-down shirt and khaki to work anymore” – those kinds of rules just carry less weight amid the cultural and workplace changes… modern worker just doesn’t live by, “Where’s the dress code manual?” ” more. It’s laughable. So it killed a lot of those vestiges of the company’s control over its employees.
So we go from the tie and the sports coat at the office to a more casual trend? Do you like to wear jeans or yoga pants to the office?
Oh yes. He was [shifting] for a while. The only thing about dress codes is whether they’re enforced by the human resources department or by co-workers, and it’s frowned upon if you wear [for example] a spaghetti strap tank top at the office. The problem with dress codes is that they only work as long as people follow them.
Because of social media, things seem to be happening at an accelerated pace. Are we seeing fashion trends come and go at a faster rate?
Well, it’s the rise of American consumerism. This idea of ”next, next, next” was a post-war consumer trend. So it goes faster. Social networks make it faster.
It will be interesting to see if there is a cultural retreat on some of these elements. Many other consumer experts would say that a lot of people are starting to consume less, in fact, because they have clothes that can suit many uses. So you don’t need a wardrobe for work, a wardrobe for your date… The versatility of the American dress is in a way killing many sectors of sectors in the past. strengths in the clothing industry.
What is athleisure? It is not sportswear, but it is not casual clothing.
Athleisure is not a sportswear, it is [both] sportswear and casual wear with elements of more formal attire. For example, it’s not just yoga pants. Rather, it would be yoga pants with a false zipper.
What’s interesting about athleisure is that it tries to be both a nicer fabric and the details of a more classic garment like a sports coat… It really takes these elements from previous versions. of sportswear and puts them in stretch fabrics that are super washable. [with] cool color combinations. So that’s really what I think athleisure is.
What is the future of denim in the American locker room?
Many analysts are looking at what will happen to the jeans market. [The market] was not great. It hasn’t been a booming market in the US, it’s still a booming global market, but I think what you’ll see is the denim blend fabrics are really going to play a part in this super casual, but you can have a formality advantage in it. Darker jeans with spandex or some other type of synthetic fiber woven into the denim.
If denim is to thrive and live, it has to have a way to get modern. People will wear the denim they have in their closet for as long. So I don’t think denim is going anywhere, but I think we’re going to see some new modern adaptations of it,
Are we seeing a change in footwear the same way we are seeing a change in pants and shirts? Like, ditching a high heel for running shoes?
I think some of the more formal items in our wardrobe, like heels, are actually going to stay in the wardrobe as expressions of personal individuality. But I think the functional shoes that have been slowly defining the market for a long time are now going to be the fundamental way we wear shoes. And I think people will keep all their shoes more formal, [like] specific things to the occasion.
Are the trends as powerful as they once were or are people looking to keep pace with their own drum and not follow popular trends?
Just before the pandemic, Americans were spending less money on clothes. So per person, people were spending less money on clothes than they were on, say, 2000. Now it has to do with the fact that clothes have become cheaper. When it comes to the buying stats of the average person, [it] would be a bit fuzzy, but [it] leans so that people buy less clothes.
The defining facet of the last 50 years is the rise of sartorial individualism. We can TikTok whatever we want, and [say] let’s get all those weird leggings that make your butt look bigger … then there are those things [that] gradual entry and exit, but the fundamental ethic of the American wardrobe has been individual expression. This is why the pandemic has erased all those social norms of “you can’t wear this to the office” [is] so important because those things that were less important even before the pandemic are now becoming obsolete.
Is 90s fashion back?
If middle school kids are any indication, and they usually are, then yes.
Have masks changed fashion?
One thing I really like to see is some of the masks that say what you mean like some political statements… I’m a big political T-shirt wearer so I guess the masks are like my new version of this. But absolutely. And of course, again, an expression of individuality. You can’t smile on people anymore. So let your mask say something.
What is unique about Nevada fashion?
One of the things I admire the most… about Nevada fashion… is the creative interpretation of cowboy clothing in everyday life. I saw a guy with a denim jacket the other day at Smith’s; it was like taking small pieces of western clothes and dropping them here and there.
And the way people do that here is very cool. I would definitely say it’s quite unique in Nevada.
What should we pay attention to in fashion right now?
I think one of the most important things when you talk about not only the impact of the pandemic on American fashion, but also the future of American fashion, is the role of man-made fibers in our wardrobes. .
I think it’s going to be really interesting… Synthetic fibers introduced in the 1950s, on a mass commercial level… have slowly but surely taken over such huge swathes of the textile world, and how we dress and why we can go home. H&M it’s because we have all these synthetic fibers.
One of the key aspects of American fashion is what role will man-made fibers play in the next form of American wardrobe? And it looks like they’re just going to be the dominant force.
Do these synthetic fibers have an environmental impact?
Sure. Yeah, there is. I mean, this is the huge thing. The reason we’re in the fast fashion is that we can throw all of these chemicals in another bath of other chemicals and turn them into fiber. And every time you wash them they remove a bunch of plastic pieces [and] put it in the water source. This is all so that we can have more clothes. It really is a huge problem. How much do we want to buy? And in what context do we want to buy these things?