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Giving “All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go” a New Spin

Fashion Beauty Runway - Giving All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go a New Spin - Ali Pazani Unsplash

We’re all staying home. Well, at least mostly! Only leaving the house to pick up the occasional groceries and essentials means we’re all wearing more relaxed clothes. But not all the time. And not everyone.

Interestingly, according to market research group NPD, only 10% of people get dressed up in the morning for working from home (WFH) and then change into something roomier, later on, when the laptop is slapped shut. So now we have our collections of leggings, athleisure and sweats to choose from when piloting a career from the kitchen table. 

Comfortable? For sure. Uplifting? Um, maybe not. 

And that’s where the magic of fashion, with its pretty ruffles, beautiful sherbet shades, and purely poetic balloon sleeves, is needed the most. Because the role of clothing is not only to prosaically dress, but also to add an element of beauty to our now socially distanced, and sometimes scary, lives. 

Back in March 2020, Rachel Syme, a fashion and style writer for the New Yorker, launched the hashtag #distancebutmakeitfashion in a tweet saying: “[…] please take something amazing out from the back of your closet that you never wear and prepare to put it on and show it to the world on sunday.” 

How has that translated IRL? 

Carrie MacPherson dressed up for dinner at home

Street Protests Get in the Action

Even during some of the Black Lives Matter protests that took place all over the world, thousands of participants were proudly wearing their Sunday Best. Some men wore suits in jewel tones, bright silk bow ties, crisp starched white shirts, and dress shoes. While women could be seen adorned with cocktail dresses, tulle and taffeta skirts, sweetheart neckline tops and three-quarter sleeve designer blouses. At some of the marches, the organizers had specified to wear dress attire. 

Pretty and elegant, as a sharp contrast to the tough, aggressive Storm Trooper-style cops and law enforcement groups. 

In a way, wearing dressy clothes for protesting racially biased violence in the now-dangerous streets of the United States harkens back to decades before the civil rights movement even began, since there is a long tradition of dressing up on Sundays in the African-American community. 

Large scale social and fashion changes never happen in a vacuum. There is usually a convergence of influences being woven together to create a new style or visual identity. This is what we are presently witnessing, with so many people dressing up to stay at home during this season of Covid-19, that it’s creating a new reality for all of us. 

Marjorie Roux starts her WFH day in style

Office Life on Hold

In this shifting paradigm, career life certainly feels—and looks!—completely different. Empty office towers in desolate downtown cores across the world mean there is much less need to wear sensible chinos and button-down shirts — albeit with rolled-up sleeves à la Justin Trudeau. 

When you would walk into the offices of L’Oréal Canada, mecca of upcoming major consumer beauty trends, you were immediately drawn to everyone’s creative and very personal style of dress. If frilly pastel blouses paired with chic joggers and high-heel chunky booties, colourful slim suits, Liberty-inspired flower print shirts, and Stan Smiths—the 2020 equivalent of the casual shoe—used to rule the halls of luxury beauty, WFH has brought down personal style to its most basic components. 

The only remnant of the era of suits and corporate clothing is now the Zoom Shirt, that’s “kept on the back of your desk chair to quickly be presentable for video conferences,” according to the Urban Dictionary. While the footwear ‘du jour’ is now slides with white socks (yes, even Justin Bieber is in on this). Or Yeezy’s Foam Runners, a futuristic, aerodynamic Croc. But worn sockless.

If Dress Down Fridays had already taken a good, hard swing, at the corporate uniform, Covid-19 literally obliterated it. Case in point: the downfall of Brooks Brothers, the oldest men’s clothier in the U.S. and the go-to of moneyed Wall Street high rollers, who just filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2020. 

Elegance and focus are entrepreneur Marjorie Roux’s key words

The New Normal

“Even before Covid, I liked to dress up a bit when starting my work day,” indicates Marjorie Roux, Founder and President of Matinée Studio, a communications studio, who runs her business from home. “It makes me happy and I like wearing different textures, which feel good.” This summer, she started focusing on dressing up for work even more, when she suddenly realized she had skipped an entire season, missing out on events and fun activities with friends because of the lockdown. “I was looking forward to wearing items that I had bought, because spring and summer are always so short-lived in Montreal.” 

Was it always that way for her? “At the beginning of the pandemic, I was a bit like everyone else and I did give in to the whole idea of sweatpants and T-shirt.” But never without perfume! “Gentlewoman from Juliette Has a Gun.” 

A vintage housecoat adds a touch of glam to Carrie MacPherson’s tea for two

Celebrating Life!

“When the lockdown happened, I wore leggings and the same hoodie for a month. But not dressing up got me depressed,” says Content Creator and Web Editor Carrie MacPherson who, just a few months ago, was event-hopping in her chic dresses and designer suits most nights of the week. She started dressing up to stay at home when she took the ‘Take out your trash in a fancy gown’ challenge. “It was the only time I got to go out the door.” 

As a way to shake off the monotony associated with staying at home 24/7 and, even perhaps, to quell the anxiety of quarantining to shield from a virus that is gaining more and more ground by the week, dressing up for in-home dining is now a real thing. And a new fashion current with a lot of fuel to spark delight, once again, into our lives. 

“I’m now trying to bring back the glamour of having really fancy dinners at home with fine china, silverware, Champagne buckets and linen napkins, for just my boyfriend and I.” And for those grand dinners for two, Carrie usually wears a pretty housecoat, or a vintage kimono “something Hollywood-style from the forties or fifties because that whole era was much more glam.” 

But the high heels will have to patiently wait in the closet. For now. As it seems the sale of cocktail shoes and crystal-embellished sandals with sculptural kick-flare heels have flattened since we’ve gotten used to maintaining the comfort factor with flats. But maybe they’ll peek out from under more voluminous dresses in time for Christmas. We’ll let you know for Winter 2021. Stay tuned! … 

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