Updated: Mar 3
Weekly Covid tests offer a sanitized runway for Morningside haute couture.
By Becky Miller
One public event defines this academic year. An affair that matches the celebrity of the Met Gala, the drama of the Oscars, and the historic fashion statements of both. Lerner Hall and the Diana Center, Columbia University’s Covid-19 testing sites, roll out the blue carpet for the up-and-coming architects of the new vogue to make themselves known at this bi-weekly mandatory function. Registered attendees push past the turnstiles dressed as boujee as their closets (and wallets) can possibly manage.
Students venture from far and wide to engage with their college community through ritual nasal swabs. Shivering, scantily-clad girls wait in line outside and show their CoVerified or ReopenCU ID to the bouncers. Only those with names on the list escape being turned away mercilessly into the cold. The exclusivity of the establishment and fierce competition to book one’s test slot only drive up the standard of outfit excellence from students desperate for some real-life face-time and the opportunity to show off their Christmas drip. The coveted early morning slots go fast, and often the most fashionable attendees show up well before sunrise.
At 6:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, an overeager first-year trailblazed the day of testing. Sporting an oversized faux fur coat with green velvet trousers, she flashed her Green Pass with the confidence of a Hadid. Her seasonally-inspired menorah-patterned knit socks peeked out from her high-heeled leather boots. The greeter in the lobby of Lerner, undoubtedly feeling underdressed in his grey sports coat, shot her an impressed look. He had been bested.
On the west side of Broadway, a student strutted into the Diana basement testing room like a runway model, dramatically shedding several layers of scarves after her brisk walk from Plimpton. Cheeks rosy, eyes smizing, she hoped to share a moment with one of this test site’s hottest celebrities: double-earring Will (two piercings, one lobe). Only the cosmically blessed are sorted into his check-out line. Many flaunt statement pieces in the vain hopes of capturing his attention. One student sported a brightly-colored Canada Goose. Another opted for a Herschel beanie, bravely subverting the Carhartt norm. One student donned a new pair of vibrant Golden Gooses—the ones you buy pre-scuffed up, for the same price. For the aesthetic, of course.
A student in a red beret admitted to the flamboyance of her testing couture: “No one gets to see my cute outfits anymore. I want to show them off somehow.” She smiled softly as she handed over her ziploc bag of sinus-scraped DNA, whipping her Keratin-straight blonde hair over her shoulder as she sashayed toward the exit.
Similar to New York Fashion Week, the most tasteless ensembles generate the most attention. To everyone’s dismay, the Covid testee in a thrifted hoodie, flannel pajama pants, and ripped high tops stole the show last week. Due to her perceived authenticity, classmates and testing staff alike threw an unrivaled number of glances her way. As she shuffled toward the door, she tripped over an untied shoelace and, as only a true icon does, barely batted an eye. There was only one lesson to take away from her reception: At Covid testing, confidence is key.