"For now, I’ll stick to what I call ‘shapeless-chic’, emphasis on the ‘shapeless’"twitter / libertylondon

Yesterday, I went to the shops. Not a single piece of clothing I wore was less than two sizes too big for me. With a hairband conveniently obscuring the oil spill in my scalp, and a face mask (an agreeable lilac, mind you) concealing my identity, I sheepishly ambled in.

Since March 2020, I cannot help but feel as though we have profiled ourselves into one of two groups with regards to the way we dress. The former faction is led by those who claim that ‘getting ready’ signals the start of their day. They favour restrictive denim over comforting cotton. They have maintained a morning skincare routine. They might still even wing their eyeliner. The latter faction both looks, and feels, as though it is a world apart. They roll out of bed ten minutes before an online class. There is a tendency to wear anything elasticated. Hair-brushing is non-essential, and thus saved for special occasions. I don’t think I need to clarify which group I identify with.

Had you shown me pre-pandemic what outfits I’d be rotating through now, I’d have laughed you away. If I was wearing trackies, I’d probably say that I needed to ‘get dressed’ before I went out. The same goes for those who ‘want to put their face on’ to go somewhere. Why is it that a pair of loose-fitting trousers were enough to make me feel ‘undressed’, and that a face bare of product can be made to feel inadequate beyond the safety of your own home?

“Athleisure and loungewear sales have rocketed.”

Naturally, this third lockdown has once more highlighted the performative nature of appearance to me. I’m not claiming that this is a hot take; the new phenomenon of ‘top-half’ dressing in an era of Zoom, the pronounced decline in the cosmetics industry (estimated by McKinsey to be down 20-30% in 2020) due to mask wearing, and the ‘fashionisation’ of these, previously surgical, masks into designer pieces all hark at the same desire (or is it desperation?) to keep pretences up.

The friends who used to pore over The Tab’s ‘Best Dressed in Cambridge’ and take ‘King’s Parade’ a bit too literally as they swanned down the street, bedecked in their finery, might well be the same people huddled up at home in a simulation of human hibernation. In response, the market has echoed these trends. Men’s formalwear sales reduced by a shocking 89% from April-June 2019, to April-June 2020. The three-piece suit, usually cognate to authority, seems to lose its magical aura when seen over a pixelated screen, with a soundtrack of humdrum home life on in the background. On the other hand, athleisure and loungewear sales have rocketed. The sale of sportswear on ASOS grew by 50%, while John Lewis’ slipper sales rose by 200%. In my family alone, three pairs were exchanged over Christmas. Whether that says more about my family or the current fashion climate, I’ll let you decide.

“Bridget Jones or Brigitte Bardot – just do what makes you happy”

What I therefore find so interesting is when and where this defeatist mood is conquered, perhaps revealing the true stalwarts of the fashion scene. Upon questioning one of my best-dressed friends, he described his current look as a ‘90s, Japanese, Parisian, anti-fashion moment’. Let me be clear that his ‘anti-fashion’ is not my ‘anti-fashion’. While mine is my dressing gown, his is ‘deconstructed layers’, ‘lots of black’, and, admittedly, ‘transcendent of seasonal clothing’ due to the standstill the pandemic has bound us in. Although he also conceded that comfort was having its moment, he stressed that ‘comfort’ does NOT have to be a synonym for ‘boring’. Recently added to his basket have been a YSL leopard hoodie, and a pair of JNCO jeans which reach an almost intimidating 50 inches around the base – providing the solace required to get through a third lockdown, without compromising his inimitable style. Dress, to some, is instinctive.


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What I have come to realise in this lockdown is that, to be frank, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The first group I referred to earlier have been branded as shallow or superficial by some, whether directly or indirectly. “Who has time for such frivolities in this day and age?!” you hear their critics shriek. The second group too are disparaged – told to “pull themselves together” and “get on with it”, or asked (most frequently by men) whether they are “feeling alright” because they “look a bit ill”. You simply can’t win.

For now, I’ll stick to what I call ‘shapeless-chic’, emphasis on the ‘shapeless’. However, this has not stopped my browsing of dresses I can’t afford, for a May Week which probably won’t even happen, while sat at my desk in a pair of white leather boots, attempting to break them in for those glorious walks in the sunshine upon my return to university. Bridget Jones or Brigitte Bardot – just do what makes you happy.