Distanced learning challenges self-expression through fashion

Students+and+teachers+who+traditionally+utilize+fashion+to+convey+their+personality+have+been+forced+to+adjust+according+to+the+limitations+of+online+school.+

Alina Susani

Students and teachers who traditionally utilize fashion to convey their personality have been forced to adjust according to the limitations of online school.

By Colin Leslie, University of Chicago Laboratory High School

With most people on Zoom trying to get their internet connection to work, at least one teacher is also concerned with wearing outfits that he, his students and his co-workers can thoroughly appreciate. 

“It’s trickier now because, like, colors tend to get washed out a little bit, patterns tend to get washed out a little bit, so I think you have to be a little bit more conscious of what’s gonna pop and what’s not than you would in a regular class setting,” history teacher Charles Disantis said.

While Mr. Disantis still makes an effort to express himself, students are restricted by a lack of visibility on Zoom and a diminished motivation to think about fashion.

Mr. Disantis views fashion as a confidence-booster and a much-needed controllable factor when many things are uncontrollable. He said his change in style since transitioning to distance learning has reflected the fact that he spends more time with students now than he does with other faculty members.

“I would dress in a way that I hoped was professional to co-workers, and now I hardly ever see them,” Mr. Disantis said. “The people I’m seeing are by and large the students at a much higher proportion of my day than it used to be, so I think that plays a role as well in becoming a touch more casual.”

Sophomore Amelie Liu, who said her sense of style comes from her mom and sister, said putting thought into her clothing helps her stay productive during otherwise monotonous days.

“The motivation to do school and to dress well is just not there,” Amelie said, “but every day I’ve been pushing myself to wear a cute outfit.”

According to Amelie, feeling less pressure to dress well for distance learning has enabled her to try new outfits that she otherwise would not have worn to school.

I get to kind of wear cooler outfits and I feel more confident than I would wearing those outfits at school.”

— Amelie Liu

“I welcome this change because wearing fun outfits and getting to kind of experiment makes quarantine a lot more fun for me,” Amelie said. “I get to kind of wear cooler outfits and I feel more confident than I would wearing those outfits at school.”

While there are fewer chances to wear an expressive outfit on Zoom — since only the top half of a student’s body can be seen — Amelie said she puts a lot of thought into the clothes she wears outside her home. 

“I make sure to at least wear a cute top [during Zoom classes], but I find myself dressing up to, like, go pick up dinner more often than I dress up for Zoom,” Amelie said.

Senior Danny Han echoed Amelie’s feelings, saying he puts more effort into his outfit when he leaves his house than when he is in class on Zoom.

“I feel like whenever I go out of the house, I do like dressing up more instead of, you know, just wearing sweatpants and a hoodie,” Danny said.

Even with schedules chock-full of classes, meetings, work and everything else a life on Zoom requires, students and teachers alike have found ways to make their own colors pop, whether that be on Zoom or in public.

This story was originally published on U-High Midway on November 11, 2020.