Welcome back to Fashion on Fifth, a beloved Free Press series showcasing New School students’ unique and wide-ranging style. After seeing how this creative community translated their personal looks to Zoom, our reporters are taking to the streets of Greenwich Village once again. This semester we are bringing you more in-depth profiles and thoughts from your peers about their style evolution throughout the pandemic and since being back in New York City.
Jo Gutierrez talks about self-expression and the stark contrast between the fashion culture in her hometown of Mexico City and the acceptance she finds on the streets of NYC.
She is a third-year Fashion Design student, who is eager to be back on campus where she feels free to have fun with her style. On a recent fall morning, she is outfitted in a boldly patterned pajama set from Lisa Says Gah. She also wore the colorful set to her high school graduation. Today she paired it with a white tank top from the children’s section at Walmart. Gutierrez is sporting “basic Nike blazers like everyone is wearing,” she said. She completed the look with rings and earrings acquired over time from various places, including her mom, airport vendors, and findings off the street floor. Most of her necklaces were gifts from her mom.
Photographs by Alexandra Nava-Baltimore
As a child, Gutierrez attended a private school in Mexico City with a strict dress code, and she often broke the rules. “I always wanted to wear whatever I wanted,” she said,” Even if it was not good with the dress code in my school. I didn’t really care,”. Gutierrez dresses for comfort. “Even if it was ugly, I [thought], ‘well, it’s ugly. But I like that it’s ugly,’” she said. Throughout her youth, Gutierrez struggled with being bullied for what she wore to school. As she grew up, her boldly different style made her a trendsetter to her peers. Gutierrez realized she was someone her classmates looked to for style inspiration when they began asking her where she bought her clothing and accessories from.
While attending her college classes virtually last year, Gutierrez worked in-person at LaNoa, an art gallery in New Mexico, so she would get dressed for work each day and join her Zoom classes in these clothes. Gutierrez believes in “comfort over everything,” and her style became even more relaxed during the pandemic, but she still wants to look put together in what she wears. Gutierrez is excited to be back in NYC. Partly because she loves when people stop her in the street and tell her they like her outfit, no one ever does that back home in Mexico, “it’s very rewarding,” she said. “I might be dressed like a crazy person, but people like it.”
Gutierrez’s wardrobe is a mix of thrifted pieces, local brands, and independent companies; she stays away from shopping fast fashion. To come to class this fall Gutierrez has been “pull[ing] a Lorelai Gilmore,” wearing teenie shorts and a variety of “cute” tops with an oversized coat. She is typically cold in class, so she is always layering.
Gutierrez takes fascination in the way different areas of New York City seem to affect a person’s style. She points out that her friends choose different outfits when going uptown versus downtown. While changing looks often might seem overwhelming to some, it has a freeing effect on Gutierrez, who often takes advantage of this wealth of opportunity when going out. She appreciates the freedom she feels to express herself through fashion in the States. “Mexico is a very conservative country. So even wearing flashy colors will get you in trouble there. So I think it’s really fun, each place in the city gets you to show off a different thing that you like,” she said.
After a year of Zoom class confinement, Eliana Shoffer reintroduces her sharp fashion identity with statement loafers and layering different textures.
Shoffner, a third-year BA/MA student with self-designed Liberal Arts major at Lang and Fashion Studies at Parsons, layered a thrifted, patterned knit vest from Zara over a white casual tee paired with sage green utility pants she found at Goodwill and beige loafers from a thrift store in Bushwick. She carries a plaid tote bag she uses every day for school. Shoffner said the vest is a bit of a “texture change” for her. She loves incorporating vintage fashion, contrasting textures, and colorful patterns into her ensemble. She chose silver and resin rings to compliment her outfit and topped it off with “dangly” pearl earrings.
Shoffner’s style before the pandemic was much more responsive to social media trends. The last time Shoffner was on campus she was just finishing up her first year. She described the feeling of obligation to buy “something that a lot of people were wearing [on] Tiktok, Instagram and even [at] school.” The pressure of the fashion landscape at The New School was overwhelming at times, and the pandemic stopped Shoffner’s process of distinguishing inspiration from media trends. Shooffner felt she had only just begun to take in the creative energy on campus and tease out her unique style.
Shoffner told the New School Free Press how deeply inspired she is by the people of New York City, even guests who walk into her job at Sephora, wearing glamorous, eye-catching outfits. “I’m always walking by people and where I work, people that come into the store,” Shoffner said, “I’m very inspired by their outfits…it’s inspiring seeing how many people are coming with different takes.” New York City has been Shoffner’s muse, motivating her to combine vintage fashion trends with streetwear styles.
During Zoom classes, she focused on accessories and the way she styled her hair. “That’s all you saw, just the top square,” she said. Every day Shoffner made sure to switch it up, always creating different styles and looks because she didn’t want to appear as simple over Zoom class. What students could see of each other in a digital setting was limited, and Shoffner was looking for ways to supplement what her peers could not see of each other’s complete fashion sense or personality.
Now that classes are back in person, Shoffner said that she is “really interested in pulling it together from head to toe… I think I have a fresh slate.”After a year of not being able to showcase her style, she said that she wants “to use my style as a way to express myself and my personality.” Shoffner describes school as a runway, and she’s been mindful of the statement pieces she’s choosing and trying to stay away from pieces that are popular and well saturated. “I feel like it tells a lot about the person,” Shoffner said of personal clothing styles. “[It’s] how I’m able to tell people about me.” She has been focusing on a statement shoe lately, experimenting with different loafers that really pop. She said, “I haven’t really seen people’s shoes since we’ve been on Zoom for a long time!” Through the tiny boxes on her screen, students’ shoes or pants were a complete mystery to her. She was curious to know how students completed their outfits from the comfort of their home.
Students are adjusting to “the new normal”: — in-person classes, dressing up every day, and getting to see each other’s contributions to campus fashion. Shoffner said it’s fun picking out outfits for her classes, but she also finds it stressful. “I want to be functional, but also stylish. I find it very amusing and exciting to pick out how I’m going to tell my story.” Shoffner thinks of how many classes she has in a day when planning her outfits: “Like Tuesdays are going to be my sneaker day, and maybe Monday, when I have one class I can show up in something less comfy.”
Shoffner’s staple outfit for class always involves layering, often a well-fitted tee or turtleneck under a lot of her colorful pieces. She also gravitates towards statement pants paired with a muted top, to emphasize the pants’ unique silhouette.
Sheenam Das shared their renewed sense of freedom since returning to New York City and how that freedom has impacted the way they express themselves through fashion after completing classes at home in Bangalore, India.
They are a third-year Illustration student at Parsons, and said their style changes day to day, depending on how they are feeling. Feminine silhouettes sometimes characterize their style while others resonate with a more masculine aesthetic. In any case, they like to incorporate elements of their Indian heritage into their looks, often wearing clothing and accessories from their hometown of Bangalore, India.
After a long day of classes, Das wore a Kurta, a simple patterned tank top from Bangalore with grey, straight-leg denim, a well-worn pair of Adidas sneakers with mismatched laces, and a black, multi-pocket jacket layered over top. Many of their jewelry pieces, like the one they are wearing today, come from family, festivals, and markets in India. The choker, bracelets, hairclip, and earrings showcase Indian motifs and heritage such as elephants, flowers, and a variety of patterns allowing them to share their appreciation for home. “It’s fun, because it’s usually handmade with very different designs, and you won’t find it anywhere else,” Das said.
Photographs by Alexandra Nava-Baltimore
Das did not put much effort or thought into what they wore to class while they were doing classes over Zoom. Typically they’d opt for pajamas or an oversized t-shirt. Now being back in person, they are embracing wearing whatever they want. “I don’t know if it’s a personal growth or because I spent so long [during the pandemic] alone, [but] maybe I’m more comfortable now,” they said.
While Das’ pandemic style was largely shaped by comfort including baggy t-shirts and pajamas the cultural landscape back home in India impacted their choices as they described it to be less accepting of self-expression. An extreme difference exists between what is acceptable for Das to wear in India and how they would prefer to present themselves. “I can’t wear sleeveless [tops] outside and it is uncomfortable to wear Western clothes or short clothes in general because most girls wear traditional [garments] or they’re covered,” Das said. “Even if I wear a couple of pieces [in India] that I wear in New York, I always wear a jacket over it.”
Das is excited to be reconnecting with their style now that class is back on campus, though they said that they do feel pressure at Parsons to wear “cool things” and “expensive brands.”
Gabrielle Tiongco shared the joy she found in being her own seamstress, thrift-flipping, and curating unique items for a new and improved post-pandemic personal “dress code.”
She is a third-year Fashion Studies major at Parsons finds solace in a minimalist aesthetic. She wore a light brown, casual shirt-dress that she altered, adding hand-sewn pockets. She layered a white linen robe that she thrifted in Brooklyn, which she also refashioned to her liking, over the dress. She also thrifted her Steve Madden boots, and color-coordinated hair clip found at a small shop in Queens. She accessorized with a set of treasured leather bracelets, dangly pearl hoop earrings, and a leather tote.
Her current job experience as a florist influences her style palette. “I feel like every single day being surrounded by beautiful nature and colors, inspired me to dress better”, she said. “My favorite piece right now is my sage-green jumpsuit, and it’s my favorite thing ever.” These clothing pieces are inspired by botany and the beauty she is surrounded by every day at the floral shop.
Tiongco calls her personal “dress code,” “basic, simple, and minimalist.” She appreciates each clothing piece in her closet and avoids stockpiling random things that would end up as trash someday. Tiongco is mindful of her clothing’s material and the level of comfort, her favorite material right now is cotton. Tiongco described her style before the pandemic as “super alternative, wearing chain and leather all the time.” She was into wearing eccentric clothing pieces and brightly colored hair. She recalled her online shopping journey during the pandemic when she did a lot of buying from fast fashion sites like Shein and YesStyle. “I was buying things that I liked,” she said, “but didn’t keep them in the end, because of the material.”
When Zoom classes began, Tiongco got used to wearing comfortable clothes at home, which even started translating to her style whenever she could leave the house. “I would just wear whatever I was wearing at home,” Tiongco said, “And now I’m used to that… I’m wearing whatever makes me feel comfortable!” Tiongco avoids tight clothing or tough material and feels relaxed in flowy pieces like flared pants and billowy sleeves. “Everything I wear now is flowy because it’s comfortable,” she said.
Now that in-person classes have resumed, people around her age influenced Tiongco’s fashion sense. “I was super intimidated… but at the same time, nobody cares about what you wear anyway, so I’m super excited [to] be super creative.”
Tiongco also spoke about curating a closet that easily creates polished, ready-to-go outfits. “I feel like I could just pick out two things, a top, and a bottom, and roll with it,” she said. Tiongco has assembled her wardrobe so she doesn’t think terribly hard about planning outfits for class. Tiongco treasures her accessories, especially purses and jewelry, but even then she sticks to what works and nothing more. “I don’t change up my earrings that often, I wear them like everyday hoops,” she said.
Tiongco makes sure to support small local businesses and especially loves that they offer unique pieces. She expressed a preference for shopping second-hand, noting that it helps her with styling and is more rewarding than buying something made en masse. She is into thrift-flipping her secondhand clothes, often reworking pieces by sewing it into a precious fashion commodity. Tiongco’s sewing machine is her best friend whenever she reinforces hems to her pants or adds pockets to her dresses.
Constanza Orlowski’s evolving fashion represents her true identity as she has found inspiration from those around her while living in New York City.
She is a third-year Fashion Design student at Parsons, who described her college style as “eclectic, experimental, and comfortable.” Today she is wearing a kufi, a popular Islamic style east African hat that she purchased from the Malcolm Harlem Shabazz Market with an early 2000s graphic t-shirt that she bought on a family vacation to Brazil. “[This t-shirt] is just so old. It’s almost as old as I am, and I am 19.” She paired it with her mom’s old denim vest and a skirt from a 2015 H&M & Kenzo collaboration collection. The skirt is reversible and matches her black high-top Converse. Orlowski donned a pair of silver earrings that depict the Egyptian goddess, Isis, which she purchased from WAGA African & Ethnic to finish off the look.
Thrift stores, specifically Goodwill, are Orlowski’s go-to when hunting for expressive pieces. Her personal style is not dictated by the latest trends or viral garments. “I want to be like me,” she said. “If I’m going to be creating, I need to feel like myself.” Orlowski began her degree in Jan. of 2020 and had only been in New York City for three months when COVID-19 hit. She was forced to move back to Argentina, where she took her classes over Zoom. Orlowski’s said her style changed drastically after starting college. She attended a Catholic high school in Buenos Aires that required her to wear a uniform for most of her young life. When she first moved to NYC, Orlowski was a bit insecure and unsure of how she wanted to express herself. As she adjusted to college life, the diversity of clothing she saw around her catalyzed the growth of her unique look. Orlowski said that starting at Parsons pushed her to be more “fearless and try different styles.”
Studying fashion means long studio hours, something that is always in the back of Orlowski’s mind when she picks out her clothes. “So I stick with my Converse sneakers, [and] fabrics, skirts, dresses, things that I can be flexible [in],” she said. “I have to carry a lot. So nothing too heavy or too flamboyant.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified one of our interview subjects. They are Eliana Shoffner, not Eliana Hoffner.