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Image / Style / Fashion / Off The Cuff

‘The pandemic killed my fashion sense but one dress brought it back to life’


By Shayna Sappington
28th Aug 2021

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‘The pandemic killed my fashion sense but one dress brought it back to life’

“During lockdown, I felt like I lost my sense of self and my confidence plummeted. I had to figure out how to get back to where I was, and it all started with a dress.”

I was 13 years old when I started caring about what clothes I wore and, like many can relate to, I turned to my big sister for guidance. She was the bravest person I knew, sporting blonde streaks and plastic chokers before they were cool (it was the early 2000s), while everyone else traipsed around in Hollister and MTV t-shirts. 

And, eventually (after a cringey emo stage), I found my style somewhere in the cracks of what was trendy and what was ‘me’. I knew I had accomplished this when my friends started picking things off the rack, saying “This is SO you!” and I found myself agreeing with them. I had found my place and was comfortable in my own skin.

Burn all the bras

But when the pandemic hit last year, everything changed. I switched out my girly blouses and colourful dresses for PJs and loungewear. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying this was a bad thing. In fact, it was great at the start. At one point, I even considered burning all my bras. 

What I hadn’t noticed was the link that had formed between my surrendered fashion sense and the decrease in self-confidence that had crept in over the past year.

I went through a period where I wore no make-up, threw my hair in a bun and dressed in an oversized tee and tracksuit bottoms every day. I started to avoid the mirrors in my apartment because when I did catch a glimpse of myself, I became hypercritical. Pointing out the flaws in my skin, the frumpiness of my clothes and the pounds I’d accumulated during lockdown.

The dress that changed everything

It wasn’t until I made a spur of the moment purchase that things changed and my confidence returned. Everyone has something that makes them feel like a star, whether it’s hanging out with your best friends, helping someone in need, indulging in your favourite meal, putting on a fresh face of make-up or, in my case, finding the perfect outfit.

I’m aware that this may seem shallow, and of course, I know that you shouldn’t attribute your self-worth to anything external. We’re all boss bitches just as we are, but I desperately needed to be reminded of that at the time, and that reminder appeared in the form of a bright and colourful midi dress.

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I had met a friend for lunch and decided to walk back on account of the gorgeous, sunny weather when I stumbled upon a small boutique. In the window display was an eye-catching, mauve dress with blocks of different coloured squares scattered across its floaty fabric. It was the strangest thing – I walked in and bought it without a second thought (and I hadn’t bought any new clothes in months).

The next day, I woke up more excited than I had been in a long time, slipped on the dress, dug out some old purple pumps from my wardrobe and even delved into my ‘special occasion’ make-up bag for my summery eyeshadow palette. I flew through the work day with a renewed sense of self-confidence, bashfully shrugged off compliments during Zoom meetings and later met up with some girl friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. 

Finding my confidence

I couldn’t believe how much that one dress had changed my outlook that day. I realised that it wasn’t the lack of dressing up that made me feel low. It was that I didn’t feel like myself in the baggy, grey clothes I kept wearing every day. And how can you feel confident when you don’t feel like yourself?

So, after a complete overhaul of my wardrobe, I ordered some new clothes and pulled all my favourite, bold pieces to the forefront of my closet – bright colours, swishy skirts, puffy sleeves, and heels too. (I’m 5’2” and feel like a million bucks with a little lift). I started picking out my outfit the night before, and it actually makes me excited to get up the following morning.

The pandemic may have killed my fashion sense, but it’s come back to life with a vengeance and I have no intentions of slowing it down.