Putting on clothes has always been the primary vehicle for the expression of my identity—but only because of the dialogue it begets with other people’s eyeballs. I’m consistently eager to put thought into an outfit when I know it’s going to be seen by someone who will understand what I’m trying to say with it. Without that, though, I’m lazier than a squid on dry land, content to swaddle myself in my favorite Mets T-shirt and tattered sweatpants.
Indulging in this laziness has always felt like a luxury–a little reprieve from the impulse to wear things that actually mean something. But when, last week, I found myself staring down the barrel of doing so for an indefinite period, I wondered if what used to feel like a luxury would start to feel like an erosion of my sense of self. So I preemptively intervened, pitching a story wherein I would attempt to put effort into getting dressed every day for a week while quarantining at home and chronicle the experience in real time. Below, my outfit diary and all the accompanying thought spirals it (unsurprisingly) engendered.
Today is my third day of not going to the office and, as fortune would have it, the first day when I actually get excited about the prospect of getting dressed just to sit at my kitchen table. All because Carrie Bradshaw poked her head up from the graveyard of defunct TV shows, tapped me on the shoulder, and basically said, “Hey! Try this!” This being gym shorts styled with a short-sleeve white cotton blouse–simple ingredients I already know I have in my closet. I put them on and I don’t feel like I truly nailed my WFH style (a little more midriff next time, perhaps?), but I do feel glad that I tried. I take a photo and post it to Instagram, just for fun.
Then I sit down at my kitchen table with a bowl of yogurt and a big spoonful of peanut butter and attempt to make eye contact with the back of Austin’s head. He is facing his two computer monitors in another part of the room, typing furiously. Maybe if I stare long enough he will turn around and tell me that he has a little bit of free time and would I like to have a conversation about our thoughts and feelings and, I don’t know, the pleasing symmetry of my face while we sip caffeinated beverages and ease into the day? No dice.
I work work work and work some more. I can’t decide if I’m more productive working from home or less. I definitely look at my phone more often, but I also have fewer distractions and therefore can work for longer stretches uninterrupted, so I’m fairly certain it evens out. I have approximately 1,000,000 Google Hangouts with my colleagues and no one mentions the fact that I am wearing a real shirt that is not pajama-adjacent for the first time this week. I’m mildly offended, but I miss them too much to mention it.
At the end of the day I take off the shirt and put on a sports bra and feel a sense of accomplishment that I am already wearing gym shorts, and therefore this is an honest-to-goodness work-to-workout-out ensemble. I do a quick workout video in my bedroom, but I sort of cheat during the hard parts because no one is there to tell me not to.
I have to take a photo of my outfit today for Amalie because she’s rounding up our team’s #goingnowherebutfuckitimgettingdressed contributions, so the pressure is on, as they say in this biz. I stand in front of my closet with my hands on my hips like a sitcom mom. I want my outfit to “pop” but all of my “pop” clothes aren’t really things I would want to wear around my apartment all day and nowhere else. Every single pair of pants with a button and a zipper feels wrong. Every dress feels too fancy or too summery. I have a eureka moment when I realize my super cozy sweater pants that I bought long ago at a Rosie Assoulin sample sale perfectly coordinate with my favorite Tory Sport sweater and my striped Entireworld socks. If only I had infinite pairs of patterned sweater pants and corresponding knitwear/socks, I would hack comfortable home clothes that “pop” for eternity. Pop pop pop.
Austin comments on the fact that I’m wearing quote-on-quote real clothes and lest he suspect I’m dressing up just for his personal amusement, I assure him it’s only because I have to take a photo for work.
Pants with buttons and zippers still feel wrong, so I pull on a pair of legging trousers. When I finish getting dressed, thanks to the addition of an oversized button-down layered over a striped T-shirt and pearls, I am devastated to discover that this is definitely an outfit that would look so much better with shoes. Ballet flats, perhaps. Or rhinestone-encrusted pumps (which I don’t own but now think I probably should). Given that in non-sequestered times I usually have the opposite problem–i.e. a penchant for coming up with outfits that are inevitably ruined as soon as I need to put on shoes–this feels like a particularly rich betrayal. I’ve never been more annoyed at my feet for resembling two hunks of dough, no rhinestones in sight.
I try to psych myself up on the fact that it’s finally Friday, but reading the news about so many New York hospitals running out of protective gear and digesting the uncertainty over how long we will be living like this leaves me feeling more anxious than anything else. I stop reading the news and start scouring the internet for personal essays, which I’ve been craving more and more during this time. Reading about someone else’s interior world seems to function as a quasi-buffer for the jumble of thoughts that have been ricocheting around relentlessly in my own.
After I finish work, I go on a walk. I’m still wearing the same outfit, and as I walk in circles around my neighborhood, I reach up to play with the pearls around my neck. I realize it’s the first accessory I’ve worn all week–strange to think about, since I normally wear jewelry every day.
I wake up alone in bed and sleepily register that Austin must already be working. I scroll through Instagram until my wrists start to hurt, but at that point I have already come across my outfit inspiration for the day, courtesy of a follower who tagged me in their #stickofbutter ensemble. I go to my closet and put on my favorite yellow sweatshirt from Entireworld. I used to have matching sweatpants, but I can’t find them anywhere, which is a little spooky but mainly annoying. I put on pale yellow vintage Dries van Noten pants that I bought on The RealReal ages ago instead. I really like this outfit. It’s super comfortable and definitely conducive to a lazy Saturday that will inevitably be spent indoors while still looking somewhat intentional.
After I’m finished getting dressed, I peer outside my kitchen window and see people lining up six feet apart to enter the weekly farmer’s market that–to my surprise–is still open, despite everything going on. I’m comforted that customers are respecting the social-distancing rule, and that the local farmers, bakers, and butchers who routinely populate the market’s booths are able to continue selling, at least for now.
I really don’t feel like wearing actual clothes today, so I change out of the T-shirt and boxer shorts I slept in and put on “fancy” pajamas–a matching floral set from Tanya Taylor. If I was going to put more effort into actually styling myself, I would also put on an oversized navy cardigan, my pearl necklace, and indoor loafers, but the effort of changing at all maxes out my emotional quota on this particular morning.
I receive an invitation to my own wedding in the mail–I sent it to myself just for fun, so I could have the experience of opening it. When I do, it feels bittersweet. One of my best friends just had to postpone her wedding from the first weekend in May, and even though mine isn’t until late June, I’m worried I’ll have to do the same.
I spend hours making chicken and rice soup with garlicky chili oil from scratch while Austin works. I don’t love cooking, but I’ve been doing it quite a lot over the past couple of weeks for obvious reasons. I also don’t love that the task of feeding us has consistently fallen on me, but I recognize this particular division of labor is objectively what makes the most sense for us right now given our respective working hours.
I’m stirring the garlic, still dressed in my fancy pajamas, when I receive a text message from a friend saying some really nice things about my writing–out-of-the-blue in the best kind of way. I read it multiple times and almost burn the garlic.
I wear the fancy pajamas to bed, another transitional outfit victory.
I’m not sure what comes over me, but today I accidentally dress like a creepy Nordic doll you might find in a grandmother’s attic (I concurrently muster the courage to wear pants with a zipper–finally). The silk scarf in my hair is slippery, and I can already tell I’m going to remove it after I take a mirror selfie. Its purpose is fleeting but straightforward: to mask the fact that I haven’t washed my hair in over a week.
With the scarf gone, the rest of the outfit suddenly feels kind of pointless. I gradually peel myself out of it and into other things over the course of the day, exchanging the trousers for sweatpants and the sweater for a fleece. I look like a slob, but at least I’m comfortable and no longer distracted by the literal and figurative friction of an outfit that isn’t quite landing.
I open up my mail and one of the things I receive is a “juror qualification questionnaire” from the city of New York. I’ve never served on a jury before, and I wonder what it would be like to do so when most of the city is shuttered.
Later, Austin sits across from me at the kitchen table to eat a bowl of leftover chicken and rice soup for lunch. It’s piping hot because I heated it up for him on the stove. Each time he bends over to blow on the spoon, he reflexively places his other hand over his heart like he’s holding something there.
It took me seven whole days to come up with an outfit that actually feels like it encapsulates my WFH style. I’ve accepted the fact that real pants are definitely not part of that equation, so I’ll be living in jogger-type silhouettes like these for the foreseeable future. A graphic T-shirt is perfect because it retains all the properties of… a T-shirt… while still looking somewhat “designed.” I probably won’t wear the jacket all day, but putting it on for a little bit has a grounding effect. The only blight upon this look is my hair, which I still haven’t washed, and I don’t think the ponytail is helping.
I write some copy for Man Repeller’s new text service, Thoughtline. Then I remember I haven’t brushed my teeth yet today, so I go do that and then sit back down at my kitchen table and for 10 seconds I wonder if I subconsciously forgot to brush my teeth when I woke up just so I would have an excuse to go on an excursion later in the day. An excuse to walk from one room of my apartment to another? I’m losing it.
When I’m back at my “desk,” I open up the WordPress link to a story I’m writing about celebrity antics during quarantine, but I keep getting distracted by the feeling of the graphic photo on my T-shirt rubbing up against my braless skin. I realize I have a choice: I can put on a bra, or I can change into a different shirt. I opt for the latter.
I lie in bed later that night, reflecting on what it was like to try putting thought into my homebound outfits for the past seven days, and come to the conclusion that although it was an interesting experiment, I’d ultimately rather just wear plaid flannel lounge pants and an oversized sweatshirt on repeat. I’m about to start psychoanalyzing whether that impulse conflicts with certain self-identified characteristics about myself that I have historically cherished–a deep curiosity about the ways in which style and self intersect, a longstanding appreciation for the creative outlet of getting dressed, a dogged desire to comb through photos of Claire Waight Keller’s old Chloe collections for hours–when I feel my inbox ping with an incoming message.
It’s a calendar invite from Gyan reminding me–and a handful of other team members–that tomorrow is the first day we need to submit a photo for the second round of (Out of) Office Apropos (first batch is here if you missed it). In other words, at least one more day of putting thought into my homebound style is ahead of me. I suppose it’s just as the saying goes–when you make plans (to wear plaid flannel lounge pants and an oversized sweatshirt on repeat), God (or at the very least, our editorial calendar) laughs.
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