Somehow, it’s 2022. While I’m not entirely sure when that happened, I think it’s safe to say that a lot has changed in recent times. And in many ways, me too. When I look back over the past couple of years, they look like one of those film montages where a character undergoes a major transition in a short amount of time, with extensive wardrobe changes. There have been weeks that they have only seen yoga pants. Days when a nightgown found new life by dressing up as a dress. Boundary-pushing dresses that I proudly sported in public, with a contrasting patterned face mask.
In all of this, the biggest lesson I’ve learned about life is the same one I’ve learned about fashion: all bets are closed. As we settle into 2022, there are many things we don’t know about how this year will turn out. But when it comes to dressing up, I know one thing. It will be for me.
In the last few days, I’ve started practicing emotionally prescriptive dressing, fashion as an antidote. Every morning, I take stock of how I feel, like in one of those mood questionnaires made up of assorted smiley faces. So I choose pieces that not only reflect my current state of mind, but that can also help shape my personal landscape.
I need a hug? Then I look for something that has meaning: my well-worn college sweatshirt, my mom’s watch, the necklace a friend gave me. Personal talismans are more important than ever, to help me feel close to people, places and experiences that I may not be physically close to.
Do I desperately need a smile? (Or a vacation? Or, say, the ability to teleport?) Then it’s time to employ some sartorial optimism. Bright colours. Weird socks. The embroidered T-shirt with a fuzzy and meaningless character.
For those days when I just can’t, I rely on two facts: tailored pajamas are great tops. And every day is a special occasion if you decide it is.
As I write this, I am wearing a totally impractical cocktail ring because it makes typing more fun. It doesn’t matter if I haven’t set foot outside today or that no one else will see it. Again, back to my mantra of the year: dressing up is purely for me.
Where following trends once felt loaded with pressure, now they feel like welcome sources of inspiration when viewed through a take-it-or-leave-it goal. While I may not have the height for certain silhouettes nor the budget to recreate Alessandro Michele’s Gucci Love Parade (you can dream!), I delight in adapting what works for me. Recently, this meant shopping out of my closet, pulling out caramel-colored faux fur, wide lapel blazers, a bum bag that had been stowed away for years, suddenly given a new lease of life. Even though I’m just going down the block, these pieces add a touch of cinematic verve, to remind us that we are, as always, the protagonists of the story unfolding in our lives.
In the interest of full disclosure, yoga pants still make pretty regular appearances, even though my relationship with them has changed. Where once they wanted to “give up” on pants, now they are more like friends who are invested in my well-being. I rely on them to provide a gentle nudge which is always helpful to move or stretch or take a walk whenever I can.
Annie Dillard wrote: “The way you spend your days is, of course, how you spend your life”. And I would extend it to how we dress too. Are we comfortable? Are we authentic? Are we true to ourselves? This is all that really matters.
Another big lesson I’m bringing this year is how much the little things matter. 2020 was bolstered by favorite TV shows, comfort foods, and calling with loved ones, while 2021 was all about walking, hugging, and feeling the sun on my face. As it turns out, little flashes of heat can go a long way. The same goes for our wardrobes. I’ve found that the little things – accessories, nail polish, lingerie that no one else knows are there – infuse not only my clothes, but my days as well, with little glimpses of joy. I have come to believe that it is our duty to extract joy wherever we can find it, in the best times and also (especially) in the difficult ones.
I often think back to that iconic scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s where Holly Golightly sleeps in her bed, the cat perched on top of her. Wear a robin egg blue sleep mask adorned with gold tinsel eyelashes and lavender tassel earplugs that sway back and forth. It is fascinating, ridiculous and surprising. This, in a nutshell, is the kind of energy I’m talking about.
When it comes to dressing up this year, I believe fashion is all we need it to be. A place of lightness and experimentation, intimacy and grandeur, sometimes all together. Style can also be a means of change. A friend recently shared how refreshing it was to see an executive at his job swap his starched buttons for hoodies (and later relax his management style as well). Another friend, who still works from home, started wearing her best clothes for Zoom calls. The old rules don’t apply. All that matters is how you feel.
When Emerson wrote “Trust yourself: every heart vibrates at that iron rope,” he was not at all talking about making fashion choices during an ongoing pandemic. But the sentiment is true. In a rapidly changing and largely unpredictable landscape, the only constant is you. So I say, dress for that person. You can’t go wrong.