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Image / Agenda / Image Writes

IMAGEWrites: Turns out we weren’t really ‘dressing for ourselves’ all along


by Lucy White
03rd Aug 2020
IMAGEWrites: Turns out we weren’t really ‘dressing for ourselves’ all along

If you’re plucking three-day clothes off the bedroom chair, you’re not alone. Sartorial standards are slipping – and thank god for that


All dressed up and nowhere to go, right? Me too. And I’m not talking about the nowhere to go bit, since the local grocery and park are now regular stomping grounds. No, it’s the all dressed up bit. “Making an effort” nowadays means either slipping into a clean pair of pyjamas or, for the sole purposes of video conferencing, the clothing equivalent of a mullet, ie business at the top, guttersnipe at the bottom.

We’d like to think that the Stepford Wives approach to self-grooming is thankfully a relic of a more patriarchal time. But is it?

Twenty-first century women frequently say they dress only for themselves. They say they don’t dress for men, nor for their friends (though secretly admit that nothing is more validating than a compliment from a figurative sister). We’d like to think that the Stepford Wives approach to self-grooming is thankfully a relic of a more patriarchal time. But is it? 

All along we’ve been kidding ourselves that we’re really waxing, threading, plucking, tweezing, self-tanning, contouring, hair-straightening and glueing for our own so-called dignity. But then if that’s true, why are we experiencing the lockdown in increasingly eccentric ensembles that even Helena Bonham Carter (at best) and Waynetta Slob (at worst) wouldn’t touch with a barge pole? 

So if not dressing for ourselves, men, women, animals, vegetables or minerals, who are we trying to impress? In an intriguing turn of events, it has taken a global public health crisis to hold up a mirror to our elemental selves and demonstrate that we are, in fact, fundamentally slovens, constantly surprised at the bag-lady regalia now taking us from the domestic space to the corner shop to buy milk. And we’re totally fine with that. Because socially unacceptable dressing is perfectly acceptable when you’re not socialising.

Living la vida lockdown

For me, there’s a preconception that when I’m not in the office I’m wafting around in silk pyjamas and kimonos, such is my penchant for 1920s and 19230s things. And while I undoubtedly take pleasure in these occasionally, I’m largely living la vida lockdown in shapeless jumpers over baggy leggings. I’ll more likely expire in a onesie than a cocktail frock and have ‘Loved to Lounge’ as my coronavirus epitaph, in a nod to Penneys’ finest slackerwear.

in these challenging times, it’s less about slobbery and more about self-acceptance.

On days when I don’t have a video meeting I find myself literally plucking yesterday’s clothes off the back of a chair and sticking a hat over my feral hair before heading out to buy the Sunday papers. I didn’t even do that as a sloppy student, the idea of leaving the house before having a shower and putting on clean clothes an abomination.

But the tide has turned and in these challenging times, it’s less about slobbery and more about self-acceptance. We are all in the same frowzy boat and have more important things to think about than what to wear and how to wear it. Like, what time is Homes Under the Hammer  on and which virtual PT mail-shot shall I unsubscribe from today?

Instagram posts have changed accordingly. There are less wannabes posing with pieces of dental floss separating their surgically mutilated, sorry, enhanced, buttocks, less trowel-fulls of contouring that make women look more like tween avatars than red-blooded females. Self-tanning has turned down a shade or seven. Hallelujah. Women have enough socially constructed, unattainable ideals to conform to at the best of times, without additional pressure at the worst of times. And, frankly, you need every last cent, what with all the flour and vanilla essence you’re stockpiling right now.

Loafing around in sweatpants, bra-free, has a whiff of illness or hangover about it, which can’t help but create a feeling of malaise

My last bastion of pretension is having yet to reveal my bare-naked face to my colleagues on Zoom. Vanity is a sign of insecurity and we all have our limits. All the while, staff at the local Centra frequently see my visage in a crinkly state of undress topping the most peculiar of outfits, from ‘rhubarb and custard’ colourways to lamé turbans accenting polka dot dungarees that might be best left to children’s TV presenters. 

Vestiges of a former life

Battered, 12-year-old Ugg boots, woollen socks with Birkenstocks – even with knee-length ski socks, if I’m feeling especially festive… At this stage of the lockdown, I’ve been there, done that, not so much bought the T-shirt but peeled it out the laundry bin.

I would agree that the ritual of an early morning shower, blow-dry, clean clothes and warpaint provides the best game face for a day of working from home. Loafing around in sweatpants, bra-free, has a whiff of illness or hangover about it, which can’t help but create a feeling of malaise so, to differentiate weekends from weekdays and therefore muster some sense of occasion, I’ve taken to wearing makeup, Instagram-appropriate clothing and even a bra (albeit a can’t-be-arsed soft cup one. I’m not ready for underwire). Not coincidentally, I’m having more frequent pangs of painting the town red, to match the Ruby Woo lipstick I used to wear. These itchy feet are inching me towards the vestiges of my former life – but I’m in no rush.

Let’s treasure this unique time, to make friends with our blasé lockdown selves and see what she can teach us. Maybe that silvery regrowth isn’t so bad after all, that your eyelashes look cuter without five layers of falsies on them, or that your natural nails don’t actually deserve destroying with overlays.

With all this time on your unembellished hands, maybe try experimenting with the colours in that makeup palette that you never, ever use. In clothing, clash colours and prints for the sheer heck of it. Nail that feline liquid eye liner once and for all, or those “beachy waves”. Or none of the above. Just be whoever you want to be today. Whether that’s something indeterminable that might have crawled out of a skip, a Su Pollard tribute act or Audrey feckin Hepburn, you, my dear, are acing the lockdown.


Read more: IMAGEWrites: Lucy White has the quarantine birthday we all deserve: safe, sound & unremarkable

Read more: Sipping a cocktail in a dressing gown during lockdown? Let’s all be more like Meryl Streep

Read more: How to perfect minimal make-up for Zoom calls

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