“Is fashion important? Well, my dear, you have to get dressed.”- Carrie Donovan
Recently, there was a man who told me that people aren’t going out and therefore style and my tips are not relevant. As you can imagine, that didn’t ring true with me. If people aren’t going out, then who are all those people waiting in line to get into stores? And who are all those people waiting in the checkout line in front of me at my local grocery stores? And who are all those people I see on the streets just going for a walk or taking their children out to play?
But the real question is whether or not style is relevant.
I decided to try something. I borrowed a hoodie and pajama pants from my husband, pulled an old skirt over the pants, put on socks and sneakers, and went out on two errands in that getup. Even at home, everyone thought I looked ridiculous. My husband, who normally can’t offer an opinion on what I wear, actually did a double take. Then he went back to his usual sweet-talking self. My kids were a little more honest about how strange I looked.
(Just FYI, I did do my regular daily hygiene and I made sure my unmentionables were in place. Even for the sake of making an important point, there are some lines I won’t cross.)
I went out twice to a total of three stores. No one really paid attention. No surprise there. Even under normal circumstances, grocery stores and other stores are not usually social places. People don’t go to these places to see, be seen, and meet other people. They go to get what they need. If they do run into people they know, they might socialize for a few minutes but that’s it. Now, if people run into other people they know, they stop only long enough to say hello if they stop at all. Normally, even I don’t pay close attention to what people are wearing unless I plan to use something for my writing. One thing I did notice was that no one recognized me. No surprise there either- I wasn’t wearing any of my trademark items. One of the stores has an employee (I don’t know her exact job) who usually greets me with a smile and hello even now. This time, she just went about her job (politely- there was no lack of manners) without recognizing me.
But I did notice something else. I was the only one in all of these stores to be dressed this way. If this had been more of a social scene, I would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone else was wearing some form of real clothes. Some were dressed more casually than others but while there were a few tiny faux pas here and there, there were no glaring mistakes. I saw a few women wearing hoodies but they balanced them with fitted bottoms. Many of the women were wearing clothes that would’ve looked fine at work, complete with shaytls (and nice ones at that).
The second thing I noticed was about me. Even at home, I wasn’t feeling right in those pajama items. At one point, I was waddling around instead of my usual gait. I don’t usually waddle unless I’m feeling sick. Were those pajama pieces comfortable? Well, they gave me plenty of room to move and I didn’t feel constricted. But I rarely feel constricted in my real clothes anyway. Those pajamas only made me feel heavy and tired. I was able to walk to and from the stores with my usual brisk pace but it took a lot more effort.
As soon as I got home from my final errand, I changed into real clothes. Just a denim skirt, plain top, pretty wrap, and earrings. I wasn’t any less physically comfortable- I had plenty of room to move- but I felt so much better. And I went out again for some fresh air but I needed less effort to maintain my brisk pace.
It’s true that a lot of people appreciate not having to get dressed if they’re just staying home. I get the need for comfort especially at home. But who says that style means sacrificing comfort? In fact, one of the signs of a poor fit is discomfort. If an item of clothing is bothering you then it’s likely not good for you, either because of the fit or something else. I myself will not wear anything that doesn’t feel comfortable even when I’m dressed up fancy.
So is style relevant during a crisis? There are a lot of people who think it is. Groups such as “Look Good, Feel Better” aren’t around for nothing. Whether it’s a personal crisis such as illness or a larger crisis like this pandemic, style can be a very healthy way to take some control.
While I won’t sacrifice comfort, I do find that real clothing and style are a coping mechanism for me. This time is a stressful time. Anything I can do that make me feel better can help. Putting on real clothes reminds me that I’m still a dignified human being. And getting creative with my wardrobe and finding “new” outfits that work is just plain fun.
Is style relevant? I think it is. So do all the people who take that extra few minutes to put on real clothes before they go out on errands. So do all the people who take the extra few minutes to put on real clothes even just to stay home. Looking good can help anyone feel better. So I’m taking full advantage.
May Hashem grant a Refuah Shleimah to those who are sick, continued good health to the rest of us, Parnassah to all, and may He bring us all Home very soon.