fashion insiders pandemic wardrobe

Who Do We Actually Get Dressed For?

6 fashion insiders share their thoughts—and the pieces that still made it into their wardrobes.

By: Lauren Caruso

“I think we’re going through a collective identity crisis. If this year hasn’t driven you to question who you are, what you stand for, what you give importance to—what will?” says Neada Deters, founder and CEO of Lesse, who, on August 22nd, posted a single Story frame on Instagram saying that she makes an effort to get dressed every day since entering quarantine. For many of those whose identity is tied to what they wear—whether as a form of self-expression or the way they make money—the disentanglement between the self and the sartorial can feel foreign. Scary, even.

Six months into quarantine, this raises the question: Who, exactly, are we dressing for? Are we wearing coordinating tees with joggers, or oversize blazers with rigid jeans and a flowy top to feel like ourselves? Is everyone walking around their house in the heels they pre-ordered in January for some semblance of familiarity? Is a bright yellow tulle dress the only thing that gets creative juices flowing? Are we all just putting on the damn dress to document it?

Writer and brand consultant Harling Ross admits that, despite a distinctive personal style (she’s behind the overwhelmingly popular outfit hashtag #stickofbutter), she’s not sure she ever got dressed for herself. “I’m not sure if it’s embarrassing or healthy, but I’ve never considered myself someone who...would make the same style choices independent of whether or not other people saw them.”

Blogger Kellie Brown adds that a lack of in-person events leaves her more room for experimentation: “I think not actually having to go anywhere has opened me up to playing around with styles that I see as more of a character versus the person I know I’d want to be at, say, an event in New York.”

While the notion of dressing for yourself was once considered one of fashion’s highest virtues, it seems the opposite may be true now—exploring the ways in which your style has changed within the confines of a pandemic is the move du jour.

We asked six women who work within the fashion industry—editors, influencers, and designers alike—“What’s your impetus for getting dressed during quarantine?” Here’s what they said.

 

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Neada Deters

Founder & CEO of LESSE

 

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“My quarantine experience has been defined by uncertainty and despair, and also hope. Sometimes these emotions express themselves sartorially. The new thrill of getting dressed for a trip to Trader Joe’s. The impossibility of getting dressed when the weight of the world knocks on your door. At the beginning of quarantine, I was wearing workout clothing every day to encourage myself to ‘do the most’ even at home—and I was following a rigorous schedule of working around the clock, working out, and Zoom hangouts. Then it spiralled quickly to oscillating between a few different sets of pajamas, which I would only reluctantly change out of for an essential errand.

“More recently, I started getting dressed every morning in the same way that I did pre-quarantine. I follow the same schedule I would if I were leaving home to go to work: wake up, coffee, shower, get dressed. It helps to delineate between work and rest—which in turn has created better balance in my life, allowing me to feel more inspired and productive.

“When you’re getting dressed only for yourself, you’re more open to trying something new—you’re not just turning to the same silhouettes and tones that you know are infallible. I have been trying to be more expressive and just see where it lands and how I feel wearing it. In my early twenties, when I was first getting into fashion, I was always trying strange combinations using vintage clothing. Over the years I developed a kind of uniform. But the fun was gone. I think now, living in Los Angeles and working in skin care—a completely different industry—I’m beginning to reclaim some creativity and feel no one’s response but my own.”

 

Kellie Brown

Blogger and Founder of And I Get Dressed

 

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“I feel like I’m always in a sartorial identity crisis. But it’s certainly heightened. I think not actually having to go anywhere has opened me up to playing around with styles that I see as more of a character versus the person I know I’d want to be at, say, an event in New York. [Looking at] old photos of Ralph Lauren, coupled with bingeing ’90s TV, has resulted in ‘Preppy Kellie.’ Essentially, bullying myself in the 1990 high school hallway.

“Without the intention of documenting, the influencer does not compute. Kidding. If no one is going to see me and I’m alone, I might toss on a cute dress, but it’s disjointed: My hair and makeup are a disaster, but my dress is popping. Nothing all at once for zero reason. I definitely get dressed when I’m feeling most creative because my job does require some fairly large doses of inspiration. But I also will do my makeup to prompt my brain to care about making content that day. It’s all function and comfort—even when it’s cute.”

 

Harling Ross

 Writer & Brand Consultant

 

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“I’m not sure if it’s embarrassing or healthy to admit this, but I’ve never considered myself someone who gets dressed for myself (aka someone who would make the same style choices independent of whether or not other people saw them). For me, style has always felt like a language I use to say things about who I am, and in that sense it’s just not as satisfying if there’s no one around to listen. This sentiment has certainly held true in quarantine—I’ve pretty much worn a rotation of the same track shorts and t-shirts all summer—but it hasn’t provoked an identity crisis because it didn’t come as a surprise. That’s not to say I don’t miss putting thought into what I’m wearing, because I do, but what I really miss is having a reason to in the first place.

“It’s been interesting to find myself leaning more fully into alternative modes of self-expression over the last few months as a result; I don’t feel like I’m lacking a creative outlet so much as I feel like my creative outlets have diversified to fill the void. That said, it’s a privilege to have the time and space to be creative in any respect right now, so I think about that a lot, too, and want to be sure I’m using it in really intentional ways.

“I’m hugely inspired by people who have created meaningful things during a time when meaning can feel scarce—Aurora JamesSomething Special’ launch, Quil Lemons’ FaceTime shoots for Cultured mag, my friend Emily Sundberg’s newsletter Feed Me,’ et cetera. And despite everything I’ve just confessed, my Instagram bookmarks folder is still full of outfit ideas I want to replicate whenever the urge returns. For a steady drip of sartorial magic that has mercifully continued over the last few months, look no further than the accounts of Lydia Okello, Crystal Anderson, Michelle Li, Amanda Murray, Laura Kim, Fanny Ekstrand, and Minami Gessel.”

 

Tyler McCall

Editor-in-Chief, Fashionista

 

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“I’ve been surprised by how much I miss getting dressed. For the first month or so, it was nice to hang around in sweats and not worry about putting together outfits, especially coming straight off of fashion month. Now, though, I miss the daily ritual of picking out what I wanted to wear based on who I wanted to be that day. And with the weather change coming, I especially miss the excitement of seasonal wardrobe changes!

“Now I will get capital-D Dressed just to meet up with friends in the park, where before I might have just thrown on shorts. Even going bike riding, I make an effort to match everything up with my workout gear. Completely normal. My boyfriend makes fun of me because I’ll also get head-to-toe dressed for Zooms, complete with heels. The one advantage of working from home? Not having to walk around and commute means even my most impractical heels are getting worn. But I will still document it for Instagram, just to prove I still exist outside of my Girlfriend Collective sets.

“Once I rounded into my 30s, I felt pretty comfortable with my own sense of personal style, and I think quarantine has only strengthened that. I’ve found myself maniacally reorganizing and redecorating my apartment, and I am sure that is leftover creative energy I’d otherwise be spending on getting dressed every day. But I’m not going out of my way to get dressed just to expend that energy.

“I definitely get dressed for myself, though I’m sure I exaggerate it for an audience. It’s much more fun to put together a full look if I know I’m not the only one who’ll be seeing it!”

 

Lauren Chan

Founder of Henning

 

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“If I really think about it, I realize that I’ve been dressing the same way I did pre-quarantine. When I’m home, I don’t pay any mind to what I wear; and when I go out, I get properly dressed. What’s changed is how much I’m home versus how much I’m out.

“Because I don’t leave my home that much, having a reason to leave and get dressed is now pretty exciting to me. Whereas I used to throw a look on and run out the door on the daily, I now have more time to think about what I wear. I find myself paying more attention to the specific pieces—they’re my favorites that make me feel happy, confident, and, really, most like myself.

“My style has definitely become more refined during quarantine. In an effort to use my clothes to feel most like myself, more confident, or to put myself in a good mood, I’ve gravitated toward select pieces repeatedly. So, while my closet has its fair share of color, dresses, and frilly things, I’ve been exclusively wearing muted menswear or menswear-inspired pieces: blazers, button-downs, knee-length cut-offs, sneakers, et cetera. I also have a range of brands in my closet, from ASOS to Acne, but I’ve been wearing the special designer pieces almost exclusively. That’s how I feel most powerful—and I could use a daily dose of that feeling after a stressful few months.

“I would say that I mostly get dressed for myself—I use clothing to refute the womanly beauty ideal and the plus-size beauty ideal, which imply that I should be wearing flattering, curve-enhancing garments. That said, I document what I wear on social media, so I get dressed for others in a way, but I do it so that other plus-size women who don’t feel like themselves in typical plus-size fashion—you know, the super-colorful, semi-trendy, uber-feminine stuff—see someone that they can relate to. That mission is important to me because there’s still a lot of work to do in humanizing plus-size women—we aren’t all one type of person; we are multifaceted in a myriad of ways, just like our straight-size peers. Clothing is an integral part of that work because it’s part of how we represent who we are and it affects how others perceive us.”

 

Shelby Hyde

 Freelance Writer & Editor

 

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“I’ve flourished during quarantine. It’s forced me to really stop and put more thought into my day-to-day outfits, and in turn, my personal style has just continued to evolve. My style has always been what I like to describe as practical/sporty-chic, so when quarantined happened, I really leaned into the more laid-back side of my personality. That said, I put on what I consider to be a ‘real’ outfit every day, just because—some days it was an elevated biker short look, while others were centered around my plain white tank top and summer suiting. I plan to go into the new season with a similar approach.

“Like the rest of the world, I spent the first month of quarantine in my pajamas and sweats. But I started to feel like I was missing something, creatively, by deciding not to put on ‘real’ clothes. So I started to slowly ease myself back into more polished looks by exploring new ways to marry comfort with style, and I started to feel really inspired again. Quarantine made me see the importance of capsule wardrobing and investing in styles that can be mixed and matched with ease—while of course incorporating more trendy styles sparingly. It also gave me the nudge I needed to rid my closet of fast fashion and replace it with more sustainable options, like secondhand designer and vintage.

“If I had any doubt before, the pandemic just proved that I get dressed for myself. Having the willpower to put on full-fledged outfits when I don’t necessarily have to was confirmation that I express myself through getting dressed, even if it’s just to stay at home.”

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