Retailers Want My Dollar—Even in a Pandemic

I cannot go on Instagram without comparing my closet to the people I follow. Whether it’s an influencer garnering thousands of likes on a picture of them dressed in expensive loungewear on their morning coffee run, or friends from high school posting a selfie from a dinner with friends, I can’t help but replay what they’re wearing in my head on loop—even if their styles differ from my own.


I need those plush sweatpants. And those light wash jeans. Also should think about investing in another pair of black boots. But I also need a new wool coat… Where would I even wear these things in the age of coronavirus?


My fellow HCTNS writer Sabrina penned a wonderful piece about how our styles have changed since the start of the pandemic, wherein she asked other New School students to share how clothing functions in their lives today. Comfort still plays a key role in putting an outfit together, which makes sense since most of us are bound to one room all day for online classes. Many of them miss putting together an exciting outfit to wear to class or to run errands, and I couldn’t agree more. In the colder months of the school year, I used to wear long dresses over layers of thermal tights and turtlenecks to class. When it was warm out I usually wore sundresses or a denim skirt with white sneakers and accessories. But, when the pandemic started my daily uniform was a pair of jeans paired with a large sweatshirt. Once summer rolled around, I wore only leggings or large t-shirt dresses to fight off the heat. With school back in session, I’m usually in a sweater and jeans to feel a little more put together. But I can’t help but dream about dresses, boots and accessories.


The world of fast fashion is constantly trying to get us to make a purchase—even in the midst of a pandemic. With no one to impress, I know that the smart decision is to save my money for the days when we’ll be putting on eye-catching outfits once again.


Influencer Vanessa Hong posted an IGTV in early March before the pandemic started about struggles she’s faced personally in her field of work. An influencer’s job is to encourage their followers to purchase something they promote on their social media platforms. In many cases, influencers only wear an outfit once or twice before throwing it out of their cycle—creating so much waste. This type of culture makes us feel like we, too, need an endless supply of on-trend clothes—even during this pandemic.


“Can I stay in fashion and maintain some semblance of integrity, and feel aligned with what I do?” Hong asked in the video. “Knowing better, we should do better and I feel like I’m not.”


The fashion industry wants consumers to believe that they’re tackling environmental issues created by the industry each day—like overproduction of garments, water pollution and the production of greenhouse emissions (just to name a few). If the industry spends money on marketing campaigns and limited edition sustainable collections, then why are they profiting off of us during a time where there’s no practical need to buy a new wardrobe each season?


Every time I open my Instagram app, I’m bombarded with ads from influencers inviting their followers to shop at a fast fashion retailer with an exclusive discount code. Let’s be real: who wouldn’t want to use that 40% off code? But, the sad reality is that most times, influencers are given clothes for free in exchange for tagging the brand on their story. So, how am I supposed to be a conscious consumer when I’m always being swayed into making another purchase by someone who didn’t even have to pay full price for the clothes?


Hong’s realization holds a lot of weight since she herself is part of the problem—she even admits it. The fashion industry has made an effort to minimize its carbon footprint in recent years. Then, they turn the other cheek and convince us that we need to buy into every new trend. There’s no happy medium. As consumers, it’s our job to show these retailers that we just aren’t in the market for a new wardrobe during this pandemic.