How COVID is Changing Fashion & Design For Good

With a year of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, one must acknowledge the profound effects that COVID has had on the world of design and fashion. Our sense of space has changed completely because social distancing practices need to be accounted for. The ways in which we express ourselves have changed since we’ve endured limited exposure to other people, and thus, we no longer prioritize looking put together for the people we may see. Every retail store has loungewear at the front of the store. Store design has changed and what products companies prioritize has been altered. No one wants to invest in high-priced fashion, but rather, colorful sweatpants and a matching crop-top sweater to fulfill the full-cotton ensemble that can be found anywhere now. 

I can’t lie, this makes me upset. Some people are happy hopping on their Zoom call with a button-up shirt and leggings or sweatpants on the bottom, but that does not make me feel good. I am my most productive self when I feel confident in what I am wearing. Even if I am anxious and know my day is going to be tough, I still need to dress up to pump myself up and make myself feel like I am an intelligent, put-together young woman. That is the most important thing: fashion is my mechanism of self-care. If I am not feeling well, I will not dress up because you do not have to look put-together 24/7. If I am studying in the library on a Sunday, I am wearing sweatpants. However, if I want to push myself to have a brighter day on occasions when I know my day will be stressful, I put time into choosing an outfit. Fashion is simply a reflection of my mood, and that is ok. Some people dress up every day, but I am not like that. I dress up when I am in a good headspace.

Let’s also think about how our perception of space has changed this past year. Office spaces, classrooms, retail stores, family gatherings… nothing is the same anymore. People have to shout at others through their masks during conversation and prioritize avoiding indoor spaces.“Open concept” is no longer as appealing as it was prior to the pandemic. People want their own space away from other people’s germs. The idea of collaborative workspaces in modernized, studio-esque areas is no longer desirable as well. If anything, designers will work backward and move towards more conservative design tactics, such as the appeal of a traditional, center-hall colonial home. 

As we move about our days now, is it difficult to avoid thinking that the world has changed forever. It has in a multitude of ways, but you do not need to let these changes define your lifestyle in the future. I see it rather as a blip in the fashion world. Instead, we need to work around it. Fashion and design are a constant, ever-changing mechanism of expression. Don’t let this pandemic define you. Once we start to let things define us, the things that make us unique (our style, what spaces we like to inhabit) become overshadowed and we lose touch with our inner selves. Even though the fashion markets are putting sweatpants and baggy sweatshirts in our faces, don’t fall for it. I promise you, sweatpants aren’t permanent.