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Through My Eyes: A love letter to the hallway fashion show

By Mariyah Salhia

It is pre-pandemic in November 2019; just before panic toilet paper-purchasing started, and COVID-19 was far, far away. 

I exit Dundas station through the H&M on the corner of Yonge and Dundas streets in an attempt to avoid the sharp breeze of winter’s beginning. 

I cross the street as quickly as I can in my creased Air Force 1s. I run up the steps of the Sheldon and Tracy Levy Student Learning Centre (SLC) and hold my breath as a group of smokers share their 10 a.m. cigarettes. 

As I plop my Tommy Hilfiger duffel bag down on a seat at an empty table at Starbucks and open my laptop with the intention of doing work, my favourite part of the day starts. 

Up and down the stairs at the SLC, through the hallways all the way to Kerr Hall, the hallway fashion show is on its 24-hour loop and I’m here for the morning viewing.

Burberry skirts, Roots sweats, school-branded hoodies, patchwork denim, blouses that might’ve belonged to somebody’s mom and t-shirts ranging from Off-White to bottom of the Value Village “last chance” bin. You name it, it’s here. 

Some people are wearing tweed and some people are wearing jerseys. Some are carrying side bags and some are lugging time-stained backpacks. Some are in shoes that click and some are in shoes that squeak. 

Every morning I watched the show unfold. Some might call it people-watching, but I call it outfit-watching. 

Through the hallways all the way to Kerr Hall, the fashion show is on its 24-hour loop and I’m here for the morning view

Through the stretch of hallway from the elevators to the Rogers Communications Centre (RCC) tunnel, it’s my turn to walk the runway, whether I’m ready or not. 

Sometimes, I felt like I was ready to take on the world with perfectly-blended concealer and my favourite pair of jeans. Other days I pretended to be invisible in my gym clothes.

Regardless, the hallway fashion show was a part of my day, whether I liked it or not. Out of all the mundane things the pandemic took away from me, it’s the thing I miss the most. 

So, to you, my dearest, beloved, painfully missed hallway fashion show, this story is just for you. Just to show you how much I missed the simplicity of walking past others, thinking “Ou! Cute shoes!” and waking up, excited to pick out what look I’d bring to the runway, just for you. 

For you, hallway fashion show and all the times that we fought because I wished you didn’t take up space in my head, even when you helped me get out of bed. 

Because of you, we all had to walk the runway and choosing to do so was enough on its own.

I don’t think anyone deserves to be judged for what they’re wearing. I didn’t always have time to curate the perfect outfit every day and sometimes I just wanted to be in my coziest sweatpants. 

But as told to The New York Times by Dawnn Karen, a pioneer of fashion psychology and instructor at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, our outfit choices allow us a sense of control that impacts our individual identities.

I didn’t have to channel my “ideal outfits for being a cool girl” Pinterest board every day to look my sharpest, but I did have to get out of my pyjama pants—and that meant that I was preparing myself for a new day. It was the only part of my routine that was dedicated just to myself and it was the only thing I knew was going to go exactly the way I’d planned it.

Our outfit choices allow us a sense of control that impacts our individual identities

Some days I had to stay in bed a little longer or pull on the same clothes I’d worn the day before. But I still got to pick out my outfit for the day and it was the one thing I knew I could control.

According to research done by Carolyn Mair, a behavioural psychologist and former professor of psychology for fashion at the London College of Fashion, the clothes we wear have the ability to determine our mood.

The outfit that I wear on any given day is a direct extension of how I’m feeling. Whether it was exhaustion, excitement, disappointment or dull, quiet contentment, my outfit always said it before I did.

I didn’t always get to meet everyone, but at least I got to meet their outfits and they got to meet mine. On my quieter days, that was enough for me. I wasn’t afraid that anyone was going to judge me because of what I was wearing, but I thought they might at least be able to see how I was feeling.

It doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but those outfits weren’t just about the clothes I was wearing. It was about deciding what ensemble I wanted everyone to meet me in and accepting that I had to take on the day.

No, I don’t think that the most important part of a person is what they’re wearing, by any means. No matter the weather, or day of the week, I always found comfort in the fact that everyone got out of bed and (eventually) got dressed.

No, I don’t think putting on my favourite jeans is going to cure my pandemic-heightened anxiety that seems to loom over each day, but I think it’s going to be a start.

So, to my dearest, beloved, painfully missed hallway fashion show, I miss you and cannot wait to see whose outfit I get to meet next. 

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