During Covid, fashion matters and that's not something to be ashamed of, as this writer is learning.
When I last left Dublin to stay with my boyfriend in Galway, it was for the weekend. It was mid-March and a tepid 7ºC so I packed my long wool coat, a long-sleeved top, two jumpers and two pairs of high-waisted jeans.
As you might imagine, the jeans have remained folded in my suitcase and I have been exclusively wearing my boyfriend's t-shirts, sweats and shorts ever since. It makes sense, we're a similar size, I don't need my wardrobe and there's no point buying things I already own for the sake of a few months.
At first, there was a snug novelty to it all. Not having to hit the office, I could slob around on the couch to write, horsing down bowl of cereal after bowl of cereal. However, the feeling quickly wore off and, with my productivity and confidence dwindling, I've been forced to reassess my feelings toward fashion.
Prior to Covid-19, I would have described this relationship as disinterested. I enjoy clothes but working in the IMAGE office with some beautifully dressed women, I must confess I never made much of an effort. Yes, I love a beautiful print or tailored cut as much as the next gal, but my daily wardrobe is a variety of t-shirts and jeans.
But now as we crawl towards the July 20 deadline when I might get back to my apartment and my summer wardrobe, I’ve been thinking about how important fashion and clothes are to my sense of self.
Stripped of friends, family and routines during this period, many of us have confessed to feeling out of sorts and listless. Suddenly that Zoom call with your bestie seems like a huge effort. It takes a few days to gather the energy for the food shop, and good luck if you think you’re sitting through a new movie and its unpredictable emotional rollercoaster. Reruns of The Office is about all I can manage.
But without the banter of the office, the evening walks with housemates and the weekends spent around the table with family, what makes you feel like you? My treatment of fashion can be flippant – it’s a frivolous, expendable, ego-centric industry whose aim is to divide us. By size, by cut and colour, by logo.
And this all remains true. But looking at it on an individual level, fashion is also a way to define ourselves, yes to the world, but more importantly, to ourselves. A way to tell yourself who you are going to be today.
Some days that might be a comfy person in her boyfriend’s sweats. But other days it might be a floaty dress to match a freshly washed head of hair, or a fitted blazer to get you in the headspace for a video presentation.
When all the major elements that make up our day-to-day lives are gone and we become lethargic in a lockdown rut, clothes offer us a reminder of our normality and who we are outside of this experience. Like putting on a bra when you’re working from home, clothes help us to set boundaries beyond the one outlining our households and these divisions help us to both feel and be productive.
When we are at our most confident is not when we think we look our best but is when we feel our superficial appearance most clearly reflects our interior selves.
I suppose I’m realising that clothes are important to me, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make me vain or self-absorbed. It makes me human and anything we need to get through this period with some sense of identity is something to be embraced.
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