The classroom may not be New York Fashion Week, but it’s long been a place for students to express themselves and dress to impress whenever they choose. With the transition from in-person to Zoom classes, students are no longer able to show out in their finest outfits, thereby shifting the classroom experience.
Senior Elizabeth Saucedo, a Spanish major, said that how a student shows up to class is a window into their identity.
“What you decide to wear reflects a bit of who you are as a person,” Saucedo, 21, said. “You can infer things on a person based on what they wear or how they present themselves.”
That seems to be truer than ever at Loyola. Junior Maura Graham, a creative advertising major, finds Loyola’s fashion standards to be higher than the average college campus, especially at Water Tower Campus, which she attributes to the smaller size, meaning a higher likelihood of running into someone she knows.
“Loyola’s not really a wear-pajamas-to-class campus,” Graham, 20, said. “I definitely feel more pressure … to just look presentable.”
Now that the only glimpse of an outfit people see is above a person’s shoulders, students have noticed a change in their own appearance. Graham once had a Zoom mishap when the server skipped the crucial step of asking if she wanted her camera on and went straight ahead, leading to her briefly arriving to class in her bra.
Since then, Graham has made sure to come dressed for class but she keeps the bar for effort low. Sophomore business major Andrea Azzi shares a similar sentiment, having allowed herself to stay comfortable in her Zoom class attire. She described a typical outfit as wearing pajama shorts or “sleep sweatpants.”
“Everyone is on the same level of ‘We all look bad and we all just rolled out of bed, and we’re all just in our apartments or whatever, so there’s a general understanding of no one really needs to be looking their best right now,’” Azzi, 18, said. “Everyone can just chill out.”
As the loungewear industry booms, Azzi said she thinks these types of outfits will be normalized post-pandemic in the classroom, even though she has yet to buy any.
“With the pandemic came a lot of cool, elevated loungewear,” Azzi said. “They made it so that you can wear it in public. … It’s become a trend to be in loungewear.”
While loungewear seems to hold the largest market share of current student attire, not all students are so keen to show up in ragamuffin-chic sweats.
Saucedo said that, with Zoom, there’s less pressure to look good. Although she has stopped picking out her outfits a night in advance (and opts for fuzzy socks over shoes), she prefers to maintain a similar wardrobe from her days of in-person classes for her own wellbeing.
“I still like to dress up, put on jeans and a simpler t-shirt, just to feel like I’m doing my normal routine,” Saucedo said. “I feel like that really helps.”
As people don’t typically bring their A-game on a Target run, the pandemic has brought less reason than ever to dress up. Due to this, Graham said her Zoom wardrobe is “lacking.” Still, Graham said that she enjoys the rare times where she can dress up.
“I definitely put in a lot less effort and a lot less often,” Graham said. “But then when I do have an event, I’m dressed to the nines because I never go out anymore, so I can put a lot of thought into planning my outfit.”
Whereas Saucedo finds it benefits her to dress well, Azzi feels discouraged to dress up for class. While she typically would have made an effort for the first day of class, Azzi opted instead for more of a low-key look.
“I almost put on mascara and then I was like, ‘I think this would be weird,’” Azzi said. “I think I just need to show up as I am because I don’t think anyone is expecting anything.”
In-person, students’ outfits often help them find common ground with classmates. With interpersonal communication already at a low thanks to the nature of Zoom, fashion expression is no longer the conversation starter it used to be, both Saucedo and Graham have noticed.
“In class, if someone was wearing a cool outfit, you would compliment them and maybe start a conversation,” Saucedo said. “But [on Zoom], some people don’t even show their shoulders; they’ll just have their face on the camera. So, it’s definitely harder to get to know someone.”
Azzi said she tends to not even notice her peers at all anymore. She said the only way to grab her attention is to wear bright colors and talk too much.
“The odds of someone seeing you or even paying attention to you are very slim to none,” Azzi said. “It would be a fun social experiment to wear the same sweatshirt for two weeks and see if literally anyone picks it out — because I don’t think they would.”
Now that students each have their own unique background, their Zoom screen has become its own accessory. While only a fraction of a student’s outfit makes the cut, their backgrounds help fill in the blanks. Some have their cameras placed with a reality TV confessional-ready background and others roll up with as little effort as they put into their virtual learning wardrobe.
While Azzi is averse to noticing her peers at all, Graham’s experience differs. Even though Graham can no longer “get a vibe” of a student through their outfits, she has analyzed their Zoom backgrounds to fill in some of those blanks.
“When I’m bored in class, I’m imagining where people are and like, ‘Oh, it looks like she’s in her kitchen,’” Graham said. “Sometimes a dog will pass by in the background and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, they have a dog! Crazy.’”
With the inevitable return of in-person classes, Saucedo says she doesn’t see herself returning to pre-planning outfits. However, Azzi said that the excitement for a return to normalcy might lead her to put more effort into dressing for class.