A mainstay of Downtown Los Altos, San Juan Dance continues to operate and bring joy to its dancers even in the pandemic.
We might all be stuck at home with only our parents, siblings and pets to judge us, but fashion is arguably just as important as ever.
It’s a chance at self expression and confidence in a time of dull routine; it’s a chance to bring a reminder of normal life to nearly a year of … not-normal life.
We spoke to and photographed three high schoolers whose fashion sense we admire, and hope that seeing their takes on style, clothing and self-expression can be a fun read or even a much-needed reminder that, as aptly put by our (long quarantined) videographer after the photoshoots: “OTHER PEOPLE EXIST!”
A good outfit gives Elana Eisenberg confidence, and Elana’s a confident person.
“Dressing in clothes that make me feel confident and a little powerful makes it easier to get through the day,” the Los Altos senior said. “I feel like I’m always a little more dressed up than I should be and my friends make fun of me for that.”
(She made clear that the teasing is in a “loving” way.)
Funnily enough, the Los Altos senior said she doesn’t necessarily consider herself that into fashion, also noting that her fashion choices aren’t influenced by any particular “style icon” or celebrity; she dresses how she likes, and it’s always been that way.
“That’s always been an element of my personality — my personal preferences have changed, but purely based off of me,” she said. “So you know, when I was in sixth grade I’d wear capri leggings and knee high socks over the leggings because that’s what I liked and I didn’t care what anyone else thought. In middle school I’d wear the new shirt I got that was probably too fancy to wear to school and I didn’t care.”
According to Elana, her personal style is probably more “socially accepted” now that she’s in high school and about to go off to college, and she’s definitely grown and matured into her style since the sixth grade.
Elana also has a little sister who’s in eighth grade, and said that the two of them like talking about fashion with each other.
“It’s funny to watch her go through the same kind of stages that I did,” she said. “I can look back and be like ‘Oh that’s what I looked like four and a half years ago.’ I think she’s definitely found her style a little earlier than I did — I’d like to take credit for some of that.”
And generally, Elana has two things that help inform her fashion choices that really anybody interested in fashion could use.
“I try to wear stuff that I don’t think I’ll look back on in 10 years and be embarrassed of,” she said. “And then I look at what I wore in grades four to seven and just do the opposite.”
Elana described her first outfit as something casual that she might wear to school on a relaxed day, pairing a thick gray crewneck sweater with a pair of light-wash ripped jeans.
“The sweater’s my mom’s from law school,” Elana said. “I don’t have an older sister, but I have a mom who used to be the same size; I fit a ton of her old stuff so a good percentage of my closet is my mom’s clothes.”
Elana’s went fancier with her second outfit, a blazer and a snazzy dress she said she would’ve loved to wear to senior homecoming, canceled because of the pandemic.
“To be clear: I don’t wear blazers that often, it’s not a staple in my closet,” she said. “But I mixed it with that little dress because I was cold and I kind of like that oversized big blazer look.”
For Dana Huch, fashion is a wearable art.
“I think it’s sort of a cool way to communicate,” the Los Altos junior said. “I find that if you connect with somebody’s style, there’s often an artistic and even ‘energetic’ connection. … If somebody tells me they love my fashion sense, especially a stranger, I just think that’s a cool way to connect with someone.”
Dana said that it’s not often that she’ll get a new piece of clothing — she has everything she needs — but when she does, it’s because she’s really drawn to it; fashion for her is less about putting things together than it is about finding “treasures.”
As for fashion influences, Dana cited one name, Shayna Klee, but also said that a lot of her inspiration comes from strangers; there’s one woman who opens a store every morning in Carpinteria — apparently, Dana doesn’t even know her name, but she’s an inspiration.
And while Dana’s little sister is into fashion (Dana gets “hand-me-ups” from her occasionally), Dana’s style is also influenced by her mom, whom she often borrows clothes from.
“She used to shop for me, and even looking back I’ll be like, ‘Wow that’s stylish I wonder if that still fits, and it’ll be a photo where I’m like two years old,” Dana joked.
When asked if she ever feels insecure about her clothing (the stuff she wears is just so different), she said it certainly happens, even citing a specific incident.
“There was this pair of pants in middle school and people were like ‘Oh you horseback ride?’ and I was like ‘No this is just how the pants look,’” she said. “So those pants were very lightly worn.”
But at the end of the day, while a large part of fashion for her is about connecting with other people, Dana dresses for herself.
“It can be sort of liberating to just be brave in little ways that don’t really matter but are just for yourself,” she said. “I definitely find fashion is — this sounds so pretentious — but it can feel dramatic in a fun way to do something that’s maybe unexpected.”
Sticking true to her style, Dana’s first outfit pairs a yellow shirt with white pants, plus some really cool socks.
“It started with the yellow shirt,” she said. “It was my statement — sometimes I start by picking out the thing I want to focus on and just pick out anything that goes with that. Which can be hard with that shirt.”
Dana’s second outfit sees a pair of bell-bottomed printed pants (the flares on which she very excitedly showed off during the photoshoot), and an oversized white shirt.
“One way I find inspiration is I sort of like to maybe channel a character or certain facet of my personality in the style,” she said. “So that painter shirt I wore — or I don’t know if that looks more like a lab coat — you can fit like four books in the pockets, it makes me feel so academic and scholarly.”
Alex Machado is, like, really into fashion.
“I’m constantly thinking about clothes,” the Mountain View senior said, sheepishly. “If I have an excuse to just dress up, I will. I don’t know, I love the feeling of confidence, and that’s kind of what I get whenever I put on clothes that I really like.”
She described her style as a mix of trendy items paired with clothing reminiscent of the early 2000s — one of her style inspirations is Zendaya in HBO’s “Euphoria.” She also said that she gets most of her clothing secondhand from stores like Goodwill and Depop, after learning about the environmental benefits of doing so; half the pieces seen in her two outfits were thrifted.
But the pandemic may have taken a toll on the confident dresser.
“With COVID I actually don’t totally think too much about what I’m going to wear,” she said. “Sometimes I end up wearing the same clothes for the whole week. It’s disgusting.”
(She did make it very clear that she showers every day.)
Interestingly, Alex’s personal style has evolved through high school — obviously because all of the typical reasons — but also a move from Georgia to California in the middle of her sophomore year; her dad serves in the Army, and was moved from a base in Georgia to Moffett Field.
And while she was quick to bemoan the humid Georgian summers, the weather actually wasn’t the reason for that style evolution.
“My fashion changed because California is more open-minded,” Alex said. “I have these tights and they have a bunch of holes in them; I wore them one time in Georgia and I got really weird looks, so I never wore them again.”
But now, two years later, Alex can dress confidently. In fact, she had a pretty funny response when asked if she’s ever insecure about her outfits.
“No, because I make sure I leave the house satisfied,” she said. “If I ever do feel insecure about anything I’m wearing it’s probably like ‘Are these clothes dirty?’ — if I get a stain on my shirt, maybe. But yeah I don’t leave the house until I’m satisfied.”
Alex dressed up for her first outfit, layering two jackets over a graphic tee, paired with some flared pants and Doc Martens. And those sick sunglasses.
“It’s funny because [the Doc Martens] were the first purchase I made when I moved to California,” Alex said. “We went to San Francisco to the Doc Martens store and got the full experience. My mom had some when she was younger and she said that they were really durable. They’re actually pretty comfy, and I really like the style.”
For her second outfit, Alex said she wanted to be realistic about what she’s been wearing lately. But come on, those slippers are pretty fire.
“My mom ordered the slippers for me when I was in seventh grade,” she said. “They were for a Halloween costume — I was Mermaid Man.”
If you know somebody we should feature in a future fashion article, please don’t hesitate to reach out to email@example.com or DM us @midpenpost on social media.
PRODUCED BY CATHRYN KRAJEWSKI, MUSIC BY TOMOKI CHIEN
For the first time in 51 years, Palo Alto’s Foothills Park is open to non-residents.