“This has been the biggest year of style development for me ever,” says Emma Chamberlain. “I've always loved clothes, but my life before [the pandemic] was so on the move that I didn't have time to put together thoughtful outfits.” Now, like many of us, she has nothing but time.
Since 2017, the Gen Z star — who boasts 12.2 million followers on Instagram, 9.9 million on TikTok, and 9.9 million subscribers on YouTube — has been known for her unfiltered, authentic approach to social media and fashion, whether she’s sharing a vintage haul or taking her followers on a trip to Target. It was that authenticity that soon caught the eye of the fashion industry, leading to fashion partnerships with brands ranging from Calvin Klein to Louis Vuitton, which saw her in editorial campaigns and at runway shows during Paris Fashion Week. On Tuesday, Chamberlain debuted a new campaign, with Pacsun, a brand she calls her “go-to spot” growing up.
Despite the fact that fashion shows in Paris have been put on the back burner because of travel restrictions, and lockdown has made it harder to shop in stores in L.A., where she has been living alone during the pandemic, Chamberlain says that it was during this time that she started to discover her style. “I ended up having a lot more fun putting together outfits for Instagram, just even to look in the mirror,” she says, adding that for a lot of the first quarantine, she “played with outfits that nobody would ever see.” Along the way, it became a mode of self-discovery: “I think I've not only found more of my own personal style but also learned more about it."
This experimentation resulted in Instagram posts that display an amalgamation of vintage sportswear, denim, and loafers from the ‘90s and early ‘00s, head-to-toe Louis Vuitton, and looks from popular IG brands like Dyspnea and House of Sunny. “These days, there's nowhere to go when you're dressed up. So I've definitely been dressing up on Instagram,” she says. These looks are elevated, yet still relatable — a combination that helped Chamberlain’s find such success on the internet. “I will buy anything that speaks to me no matter where it's from, I don't care. I can literally see something in a gift store on Hollywood Boulevard, and be like, I like that, and I'll buy it. It doesn't matter.” All to say: Chamberlain being Chamberlain, she’ll still show up on the feed wearing pajamas — “if the post feels right.”
Her day-to-day style lives primarily on YouTube and TikTok. “I'm a lot more lazy [there],” she says. “Probably four to five days a week, I'm wearing the same Pacsun sweat shorts and my random red fleece jacket,” she says, adding that, once she finds pieces that she feels comfortable in, she’ll wear them to death — which, a year into the pandemic, I can absolutely relate to. “I just feel casual there,” she says. “Whatever form I'm in at that moment, that's what you're getting.”
According to Chamberlain, she shopped a lot over the pandemic, with jeans being her most frequently bought item: “I wear jeans probably 75% of the time, so that's always what I'm looking for.” Given that many are swearing off denim for good, it might seem unexpected. “I'm somebody that won't wear jeans unless they're comfortable jeans,” she says. (I am guessing skinny jeans are out then.) As such, vintage jeans are her favorite because “it feels like you're wearing sweatpants because they're soft and loose.”
Also among her recent purchases are maximalist accessories, from retro sunglasses to “crazy, colorful, and chunky jewelry, like charm necklaces and big earrings.” Those, and all things knit — specifically pants, vests, and tops. “I love anything knit, as long as it's not itchy, which is hard [to know] when you're ordering online.”
While shopping during the pandemic, her closet has grown “out of control”: “I just want to start over, but I can't start over because I love everything,” she says. “I need to fly my mom down here once it's a little bit safer and be like, ‘You need to help me right now.’”
When that time does arrive, and Chamberlain is forced to finally confront her lockdown purchases, there are a few things she won’t be adding to the donation pile. In addition to the aforementioned Pacsun sweat shorts and red fleece jacket, she says she depends on cropped, graphic tees and soft cardigans. And of course, there are yoga pants, the ‘00s trend that Chamberlain is known for spearheading on TikTok and isn’t ready to give up. Her defense? “It’s almost like a corny mom going to play tennis with her friends [look], but make it a little hot,” she explains, adding that they remind her of Princess Diana’s signature crewneck-bike shorts ensemble. “I saw those photos and was like, I kind of want to do that, but with yoga pants, because, why not? I like yoga pants.”
*Adds yoga pants to shopping cart.*