Understated, Not Underrated

Text by Mia Zarrella
Photos by Lauren Cabanas

Models: Carson Brakke and Aiza Kahn
Styled by Cherotich Chemweno, Courtney Kaner, Rina Deguchi, Blythe Bruwer & Andrea Fernandez

Gap released their “Dress Normal” campaign in fall 2014 appealing to people to “dress like no one’s watching.” Gap states, “Let your actions speak louder than your clothes,” a concept paralleling a simplicity movement that has blossomed recently. 

This ambiguous trend, dubbed by NY Mag as “normcore,” is composed of relatively minimalist clothing—ordinary cuts, plain patterns, and comfortable fabrics and shapes. 

Gap is downplaying their line as garments for people who don’t need statement pieces to make a statement. Gap wants people to dress like themselves, for themselves. 

“I think sometimes in the media we see brands trying to do the opposite thing where they're sort of tempting to mold their clients into who they want them to be rather letting them base their fashion decisions off their internal desires,” said Emerson freshman Gina Brazão, a fan of Gap’s campaign. 

Reminiscent of ‘90s fashion because of the high-waisted jeans and grunge layering of flannels and turtlenecks, this modesty movement can be credited to our parents. I’ve inherited my mother’s high-waisted shorts, turtleneck tops, and maxis.


These understated articles are the most practical for my day-to-day activities. It is retro, drab fashion gone vogue. “Especially with what American Apparel is doing, I have a denim jacket that literally my mom has, like it’s from the ‘90s.” said Emerson junior, Conner Dial, an American Apparel employee. 

For me, it has become critical to have staples that I can rely on. Owning a dependable white crewneck T-shirt, a quality pair of blue jeans, a sturdy leather jacket, and a comfortable pair of flats is necessary. 

Brazão said, “Now, in the media, you see celebrities being photographed in their normal settings. More people are seeing celebrities in their normal clothing which is like black jeans and a leather jacket.” 

Gap captures this concept in their campaign, featuring actors Bobby Cannavale, Michael K. Williams, Elisabeth Moss, and Angelica Huston. In two specific ads, actresses Zosia Mamet and Olivia Thirbly are in black denim and leather with the captions, “A simple jacket for you to complicate,” and “Get caught wearing the same thing.” 

Dial said, “American Apparel kind of goes along with [Gap’s campaign]. There’s a lot of basic clothes. But the amount of things you can combine from just that set is pretty incredible even though there’s a finite number of items. It’s come to the point where I’m buying the same item but different colors of it.” 

The idea behind Gap’s advertisements is to be carefree with fashion. Why spend money and time trying to wear something new, different, or elaborate every day? The trend revamps simplicity and practicality into vogue wear. High-waisted flared jeans and turtlenecks are back. Nude lips, thicker eyebrows, and subtle, neutral eye makeup have also been revitalized. 

The comeback of the turtleneck is telling that a modesty movement is underway. Turtlenecks, often associated with the elderly or Steve Jobs, have recently become a staple. I’ve literally warmed up to the neck-confining, or neck-embracing, top. Reigning fashion icon, Audrey Hepburn, proves the timelessness of the LBD, turtleneck, loafers, and straight-leg trouser. She is the archetype for fashionable modest wear, never sacrificing style for simplicity. Similar to Hepburn is James Dean. Blue jeans, white shirt, leather jacket. What else did he need? He is iconic and his most remembered outfit consists of three basic articles. 

Relatively drab pieces, such as a plain shirt or crewneck sweatshirt are morphing into chic normal wear for all genders. Oversized flannels and T-shirts, long overcoats, and blankety, knit cardigans are exhibiting that form-fitting and ostentatious are not so important. 

“It’s like “French wardrobe”—the idea of having a really minimalist wardrobe, but the things that you do have you can wear in really different forms,” Dial said. 

This trend embraces the everyday person, encouraging normality as a form of individuality. Straying from mainstream trends, people are looking into themselves for their own fashion muse. The trend isn’t easily spotted and it can’t be labeled—nor should it be. It is an outfit choice based purely on personal preference. Dressing for your own comfort, not for other people, not to fit in, not to stand out, and not to mimic. 

Dressing for your own day. Dressing to live your own life.