all of the selves we Have ever been
For me, the COVID years were a fall from grace. There was the forced social isolation and the unplanned early retirement. Those seemed like momentous changes at the time, but I adjusted. Turns out, the long-term damage was to my wardrobe. While I never caught the virus or lost my sense of smell, I did suffer a complete loss of taste. Now, I am trying to come to my fashion senses.
With minimal social contact during the pandemic, I cared little about my style or about the frequency with which I did the wash. Laundry happened whenever the fabric freshener ran out and my clothes marched themselves to the washing machine and pounded on the lid. My COVID wardrobe consisted of six pairs of sweat pants, an equal number of oversized t-shirts, and a pair of walking shoes. My back-up system for improvising consisted of an emergency body bag in basic black and a stash of single-ply toilet paper stockpiled when the good stuff disappeared from the shelves.
Now, nearly four years out, the body bag and the single-ply toilet paper are in pristine condition, but I notice that some of my clothes are becoming see-through in should-not-be-seen places. “It’s time,” I tell myself, “time to put COVID behind me and get a real life and put on some real grown-up clothes. I officially declare the pandemic over and myself in recovery.” I dig deep into the closet in the spare bedroom to see what survived my bouts of clean-it-out-and-give-it-away during the heat of the pandemic. I try on some of my pre-COVID wardrobe, some of my old office styles. The look staring back at me in the mirror says “stuffed sausage.” Not a good look on a vegan.
Because I haven’t shopped in more than four years, I have no idea what is in style. My COVID fashion statement read “survivor.” Now, in the fall of 2023, Vogue tells me that it’s all about “monochromatic tailoring,” and “the sultry return of lingerie-inspired looks.” What? Tailoring?! I haven’t worn a fitted waistband in 15 years, and I am guessing they haven’t seen my lingerie. It pre-dates COVID and is sturdier than a suit of armor. I am hoping that’s what the editors mean when they report that metallics are in style this season. Reading further down the list, somewhere between cinched blazers and kitten heels, I see that “90s nostalgia” is in as well, and I think, “Good Lord! I was pregnant for most of the 90s.” When I get to “denim-on-denim” I look over my shoulder and check my privacy settings.
Appalled and thinking it’s not too late to become a cloistered nun, I see some terms I can reckon with: “oversized clothing” and “relaxed effortless style.” Well, well, well, it’s true: everything old is new again! I repeat the magic words: oversized, relaxed, effortless, and presto chango, I’m back in the game. It appears the key to fashion is patience.
I am reinforcing my well-worn sweatpants with all that toilet paper, and just in case I am invited to a more elegant event requiring a runway look, I am holding onto the black body bag with the metallic zipper. I’ll dress it up by wearing a pineapple on my head. As they say at Vogue, “there are so many way to sprinkle a bit of magic into our seasonal wardrobes…and turn heads.”
Oh, yes, there is…oh, yes, I will!