I’ve spent about half my quarantine time in a Banana (when it was still good) button-down that signals I’m well-adjusted to Zoom life, paired with hastily-thrown-on cotton panties I pray will never make a cameo. This Winnie the Pooh approach to dressing isn’t novel anymore. Clothing sales went down and are expected to stay that way because we’re busy surviving Covid-19.
For some of us with the privilege to work from home or the means to spend, it can still feel wrong to shop for non-essentials. So we throw ourselves into weightier things like protecting our communities, becoming more engaged citizens, preserving what’s left of our mental health, or repotting some plants. All this, while the world feels like it’s closing in on our safe spaces.
Conversely, we’re also coping by stress shopping. There were undoubtedly enough sales at the outset of Rona to encourage this behavior. So, on one hand, we’ve got people going, “I can’t even think about fashion” and on the other, “I’ll use ALL.THE.FREE.TIME to stock up on $45 cashmere sweaters before Everlane goes bust.”
What we’re missing is the, “I wonder how the people who make my clothes are doing right now?” Spoiler, it’s not good. Or, “I bet there’s a more thoughtful way to use my free time for fashion.”
Breakdown of fashion media
For instance, you could use it to educate yourself and break away from the trend cycle that’s been served to you in a seasonless soup since you started dressing. It’s a good time to do this, not only because we can self-censor better, but because old guard media is dying and with it goes the rule of the few by fashion’s cognoscenti.
At this point, Vogue has shifted to a digital-first world that largely reduces journalists’ work to bylines with more pictures than words. Take this piece about Donatella’s spring RTW collection for example. It regurgitates the designer’s words about her designs instead of delivering any valuable critique or analysis. And this was written by someone with a reputation as a literary editor and critic. He graduated from the London College of Fashion, one of the most prestigious schools in the game, and cut his teeth at I-D magazine. I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that he’s not loving the work opportunities right now.
But this breakdown of the traditional fashion reporting also puts more responsibility on us to seek out credible experts. When we can’t turn to one source for fashion reporting anymore, it could confuse our wardrobes.
Fashion is sick too
You might be thinking, what’s the media got to do with your style? Especially if you don’t shop high-end or give a shit about reading runway analysis. It’s a pernicious symptom in a larger fashion ecosystem that’s been making it sick well before Covid-19.
With the breakdown of reputable journalism, we’ve slowly been inculcated to a throwaway culture. Today, we over-consume something that should be treated more like an art, or at least valued for longevity, and it’s creating grave social and environmental problems.
This problem reaches far beyond fast fashion at this point. Even if we’re doing all the things — shopping less or secondhand, indie or quality — none of it will matter if we’re buying the wrong clothes. If our clothes are scintillating but, ultimately, confusing because they shackle our image to something unattainable and fail to give us hope in this difficult world.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fashion therapy [not shopping for oxytocin but how fashion impacts our psyche]. There are only a handful of people practicing in this field. I wonder why it hasn’t caught on like art therapy. Why aren’t more LPs, LPCs, and PsyDs integrating this into their practices? Or maybe they are and I haven’t discovered them yet. If this is you, let’s talk.
Some good news
There is a treatment for the ills in fashion. With the structural power breakdown and the time we have during quarantine, we have immense power to re-engage on our own terms. We can find content creators we identify with, filter out toxic noise, break down cultural tropes that confine us, and finally find clothes that serve us.
We’re familiar with breaking things down and rebuilding them. We already omnichannel our lives. We’re shopping and getting information in more places than ever before. I promise you can do it in your wardrobe intentionally.
Come back by next week for a more upbeat post and I’ll show you how in a 12 Step Program to End Fashion Victimhood and Remake Your Style During Rona.
In the meantime, tell me…how have your clothing habits changed during Covid-19? How have you been coping?