Dreams of Post-Pandemic Dressing

Recently, I’ve had two articles pop up into my news feed, both on dressing in the “post-pandemic era” (The Guardian, The Kit). It got me thinking about how the eventual resumption of a less-distanced life would affect how I’ve been using my wardrobe over the past year. Looking back at my meticulous record of outfits, the way I’ve been dressing has been largely consistent with my pre-pandemic days. Maybe I got a little lazier and spent more time loungewear, but I didn’t see a dramatic shift in what I was wearing. However, there are certainly a number of items in my wardrobe that didn’t get as much wear-time when life was confined to my 500 sq. ft. apartment. 

At present, my city is in a lockdown state (again), but the ramping up of vaccinations does leave me hopeful that we might see a soft “return to normal” in the latter half of this year. In picturing this future state, I can definitely think of a few things that I’m excited to wear more of, many of which are inextricably tied to non-pandemic-friendly activities I look forward to doing again. Without further ado, here are 6 things I can’t wait to be wearing:

1. Fancy Clothes

This one is fairly obvious. There are only so many times you can wear a lace sheath dress to eat beef carpaccio from a takeout box, in an effort to create a “date-night at home” situation (once, precisely). Through editing my wardrobe over the years, I’ve significantly pared down the number of unnecessary special-occasion outfits I’d been hoarding, but I’ve kept a few pieces that I love, which have been sitting sadly in my closet for the last year. I’m well aware that I’m the kind of person who would rather spend a Friday evening wormed up in bed doing crosswords than painting the town any kind of colour, but even as an introvert, I am craving the pleasure of dressing up – of picking out a special outfit for a special occasion.

I’m thinking of my slinky lilac slip; my sophisticated little black dress; my wool mini skirt that I like to wear with expensive Wolford tights and booties for going out in the winter; my assortment of heels: the classic black leather sandals, the sweet velvet kitten heels, and the outrageously fun silver strappy sandals I purchased for my micro-wedding last fall. These items are yearning for the opening of restaurants and bars, for live music and shows, for parties and celebrations. Sure, I can say “screw it” and start wearing these fancy pieces to the grocery store, but sometimes I feel like the context that you’re in becomes part of your outfit, just like what you wear can feed into an overall experience. In the post-pandemic future, I’d like to find an occasion, at least once or twice a month, to get dressed up in my finest. It could be something small, like a post-work cocktail at a neighbourhood bar, or free, like an art show opening. For me, the post-pandemic future will be about planning my social life around the clothes I want to wear.

2. Business Clothes

This one surprised me a little since I work in a field where a uniform of t-shirts and hoodies is perfectly acceptable most of the time. I never felt like I had separate “work clothes” from my casual wardrobe, but evidently there are some pieces that I tend to wear more often in professional settings. This subset of my closet includes items like my navy blazer, grey wool dress, navy shirt dresses, black dress pants, and some of my silk tops – mixed with other pieces I wear on a day-to-day basis. I’ve been making an effort to get properly dressed for “work” these days, i.e. dressing my entire body, not just my top half. I’ve been wearing my nice knits, silk tops, and casual trousers (all as comfortable as a sweatsuit in my opinion), but some of those aforementioned pieces are simply not practical for working from home all day. The blazer, shirt dresses, and dress pants are all dark in colour and made from fabrics that seem to be magnetized to attract cat hair. My Victor and Rolf grey dress is one of my most treasured pieces, but it’s more suited to professional events, like a conference, where I get to be on my feet than sitting all day at my kitchen table.

Sometimes I romanticize fields of work, like law, where people get to wear beautiful, tailored clothes all the time. I do get a taste of this when I have important client meetings or host workshops and want to look a little more put-together. In those cases, I’ll reach for these more business-y pieces, putting on outfits that I know will boost my confidence and perhaps even change my demeanour. While I appreciate being able to attend work meetings and events these days without the lengthy commutes, part of me looks forward to having in-person meetings again. I miss getting to suit up in my professional armour, and the coffee and pastries, of course.

3. Dancing Shoes

One hobby that I’ve had to completely put on pause during this time is swing dancing. I got into it about five years ago and fell in love with the music, the settings (from basement jazz bars to gazebos in the park), the community, and the fashion (three-piece suits, 40’s dresses, vintage hairdos). It was fun learning a new skill and discovering a way to go out dancing that wasn’t bumping and grinding at the club. There’s a pretty well-established swing “scene” in my city and I would go to dancing events often, as well as take classes. Swing was also a gateway that led me to trying other styles of dance like blues, jive, and salsa.

Of course, the pandemic put an end to all that. I still dance around the living room with my husband on occasion, but the best part of swing was going to socials and dancing with different partners – something that is definitely not appropriate right now. Thus, my Keds sneakers and ballroom heels have been sitting in the closet, anxiously awaiting the return of lively, dance-filled evenings. In the words of KC and the Sunshine band, “I want to put on my, my, my boogie shoes”.

4. Lipstick

I’ve never been a makeup person – I have barely a handful of beautifying products in my medicine cabinet – but I do love the look of a bold-coloured lip. While I didn’t wear lipstick very often, every once in a while, I’d find myself in the mood to channel my inner Linda Rodin. I have three lipsticks: a matte bright red, a bold fuchsia, and a deep berry. As you can tell, when I wear lip colour I prefer to go for punchy, saturated colours over that “my lips but better” nonsense. Whether it’s a special occasion or a regular old Tuesday, I enjoy sprucing up my usually neutral attire with a pop of colour.

While donning masks these days, wearing lipstick isn’t very practical. Masks are obviously effective for slowing the spread of infectious disease and I think they’ll be here to stay as a useful flu-season accessory long after COVID. Still, I can’t wait for the day when I can free my lips and paint them to my heart’s content.

5. Swimwear

This is another category of attire that’s inseparable from the activities that go with it: seaside vacations, beach hangouts, and taking advantage of our friends’ hot tub. Living in central Canada, I have a very small (and not very exciting) collection of swimwear that consists of two black bottoms, a black halter top, and a striped bandeau. I wasn’t getting a ton of use out of them even before the pandemic, but with the lockdowns, this quickly dropped to zero. The first thing my husband and I are planning to do once we get our vaccine is to plan a trip to see his family on the coast. Once we get there, I’ll be looking to spend as much time in my bikinis as possible.

6. Outfits that Require Effort

The last thing – which isn’t really a thing – I’m looking forward to wearing is outfits that require more effort and creativity than throwing on the nearest clean top and the pair of pants I’ve worn for three days straight. I’m talking about layering, tucking things in, wearing pieces that are more finicky, accessorizing, and paying attention to other style details. These are the types of outfits that I might photograph myself in for this blog, but seldom wear in real life nowadays. There’s not much point in putting that level of effort into getting dressed when my world is confined to a few familiar blocks. When my daily outings are either going to get groceries or going for a ten minute coffee break in between virtual meetings. These are the types of outfits that you wear to be seen by other people: colleagues, friends, strangers in the trendy part of town.

I can’t say that I haven’t enjoyed the ease of not having to care about what I wear and the freedom to decide if I want to stay in pyjamas all day. But as someone who enjoys tinkering with personal style, I do miss that creative, stimulating part of choosing my outfit for the day. In a world where I get to spend actual time outside of my apartment, not just short trips for essentials, I definitely see myself being more experimental with my wardrobe – sporting outfits that allow me to express the part of my style that’s been in hibernation for way too long.

Small and large, I think the pandemic has resulted in style revelations for us all. Whether it’s figuring out what we actually like to wear when no one’s watching, or dreaming up fantasy outfits to show off to other people when the time comes, it’s been an opportunity to reflect on (and redefine, if necessary) our relationship with what we wear and how we dress.

What are you excited to wear in a post-pandemic world?

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