Bare necessities: Am I the only one liberated from jewellery?

Working from home, many of us have reassessed our office wardrobes. This writer has gone further and unconsciously uncoupled with her accessories


“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”

Coco Chanel’s quote is legendary, a mantra for those sartorially predisposed for over-egging the pudding. But when it’s a pandemic and we’re rarely leaving the house, is it obsolete? 

For me, before I leave my bedroom, I look in the mirror and there’s literally not one extraneous thing to take off. I’ve become so monastically unadorned during the lockdown, I’m as good as naked.

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It wasn’t always so. From neon Swatch watches and coral necklaces in the 1980s to friendship bracelets and ribbon chokers in the 1990s, I’ve always loved accessories, developing a later penchant for vintage, and vintage-style, jewellery: twinkling bug brooches, citrine rings and laser cut acrylic necklaces. And then lockdown happened and they’re gathering Miss Havisham layers of dust. It’s not to say I no longer love them as objects of beauty or sentimentality. I just don’t want to wear them anymore.

It turns out that my love of jewellery is entirely performative

I’ve written previously about how our relationship with clothing has changed seismically during the pandemic, that our BC (Before Coronavirus) wardrobe was merely armour and ultimately had little to do with pleasing oneself. For those of us still working remotely and whose social life consists of saying hi to the guy behind the counter at the local corner shop, accessories have taken a similarly antiquated turn. It turns out that my love of jewellery is entirely performative.

“Statement” jewellery, along with high heels, clutch bags, lipstick and dresses (remember them?), feel as anachronistic as snogging a stranger in a mosh pit; something at once quaint and daring. BC, I always removed my baubles, wristwatch – and bra – as soon as I got home from work, a gesture of release/relief. But now that my work is at home, they just don’t even make it on to my body in the first place. My watch, just as my underwired underwear, has been in a drawer since March. 

I want to feel as free as possible: bare wrists, ears and neckline, against this interminable backdrop of travel and social restrictions. Fortunately, I’m probably an anomaly, and jewellers won’t go out of business any time soon. However I can confidently predict that shoe retailers will be sourcing considerably more flats than heels this so-called festive season. Twenty-twenty will be remembered for many things and hobbling around at the office Christmas party won’t be one of them.

On the other side of this hideous global event, I’ll want to pogo and skip and leap, and maybe even do the conga, and there’s no stiletto or even Mary Jane in the world that will enable that

When we eventually meet and dance again, I want to be as unencumbered as can be, not garrotted by my own neckpiece, or having to sit down midway through Uptown Funk because my (slab-flat) feet hurt. Yes, heeled shoes make legs look longer, leaner and more muscular. But after so many months of wafting around the home “office”, ie kitchen table, wearing flappy pyjama trousers and hideous slippers, will the gain ever be worth the pain? On the other side of this hideous global event, I’ll want to pogo and skip and leap, and maybe even do the conga, and there’s no stiletto or even Mary Jane in the world that will enable that.

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For me, jewellery has come to represent a more carefree time, of getting dressed up for a night on the tiles, of lilting laughter, music and bonhomie; the luxury of being flippant and a little bit vain

Jewellery is less physically constrictive, obviously, but its psychological shadow looms large. The rings on my fingers, the proverbial bells on my toes… for me, they represent a more carefree time, of getting dressed up for a night on the tiles, of lilting laughter, music and bonhomie; the luxury of being flippant and a little bit vain. They’re reminders, too, of the mundane but psychologically necessary rituals of going to work – physical manifestations of putting on your game face.

Perhaps the only accessory I should be wearing is a black armband, to mourn all that we’ve lost in 2020. The craic we never had, the loved ones we never got to embrace in real life. If that sounds melodramatic, so be it. My trinkets are a Pandora’s box I’ll open when I’m good and ready. In the meantime, I’ll take comfort in my own uninterrupted skin, devoid of clasps, chains and bindings, grasping every tiny glimmer of freedom I can get my naked hands on.


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